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Princess kept from homeland

Published Oct. 13, 2005

Ill health has ended a 98-year-old Romanian princess' dream of returning to her homeland despite the efforts of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian airmen she helped during World War II. Catherine Caradja was placed in a nursing home here earlier this week just before she was to leave for Romania, said Dorothy Britt, who, with her husband, Richard, has cared for the elderly princess while she prepared for her trip.

"I guess we just waited too long," Mrs. Britt told an Austin newspaper, saying the princess had lost awareness of her surroundings, but was resting comfortably.

A spokeswoman for the Comfort Garden Nursing Center told Reuters on Friday that the princess was doing just fine but was unable to travel.

Richard Britt was one of many airmen aided by Caradja when their planes were shot down by German gunners during raids on oilfields near Ploesti, Romania.

Caradja has called Britt "my Dickie Boy" ever since she dragged him from his B-24 bomber when it crashlanded in a dry river bed near her home on Aug. 1, 1943.

Britt so admired the woman that he wrote a book called The Princess and the POW about her World War II work.

His feelings were shared by about 100 U.S. and Canadian airmen who honored the woman they called the "Angel of Ploesti" at a banquet May 18 in San Antonio. Caradja was in poor health then, but still lucid enough to weep and smile with her "boys," as she calls them.

They said she brought them much-needed blankets, clothing and food when they were imprisoned by the Germans.

Caradja is the descendant of an ancient Romanian aristocratic family with royal connections. In 1951, the Communist government seized her family's lands, so she fled to Paris and moved four years later to the United States.

Throughout the 1960s, the princess was a regular contributor to Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America and became known as a tireless, outspoken anti-communist.

Caradja was supposed to fly on Thursday to Paris, where her daughter, Alexandra Caradja, was to take her to Bucharest. There the government has promised her land, an apartment and a small pension.