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Man Who Harbored Romanian Refugee Shares Her Remarkable True Story

In 1989, a revolution in Bucharest resulted in the public execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife. The bloodthirsty populace was after anyone with the Ceausescu name, including the dictator’s daughter-in-law, Iordana, and her young son, Dani. With the help of world-famous racecar driver Catalin Tutunaru, Iordana and Dani manage to escape and eventually find their way to the other side of the world, where they wind up in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, on the doorstep of publisher and novelist Colin Sargent.

“As the founding editor and publisher of Portland Magazine, I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years,” Sargent recounted during an author Q&A. “The cool thing about Maine is, you never know who’ll wind up here.”

Sargent would go on to protect Iordana’s and her son’s secret for several years, all the while learning their remarkable history. He conducted hundreds of hours of unique interviews, read newspaper accounts from the time, watched Iordana’s favorite movies and listened to her favorite music — all to construct the framework for his powerful book based on Iordana’s life, Red Hands.

Told in Iordana’s own voice, Red Hands is a true-life tale that spins readers into the pleasures, excesses and horrors of late 20th-century Europe, and follows her as she falls in love with, marries and becomes estranged from, the Romanian dictator’s son.

“As much as Iordana must tell her tale, she finds the telling excruciating,” Sargent recalled. “She feels shame as she recounts the speedboats, designer wardrobes, exclusive access to Western culture via television and a private home theatre, and the mansions and gardens with staff enough to have a caretaker for her pet lamb.”

But all of that material excess comes at a cost. Nicolae Ceausescu mismanages Romania’s money, plunging the country into crippling debt and chaos. Babies are torn from their parents and relocated to education/work farms. Countless citizens do not survive. Those who do are in a rage and plot to storm the city.

Meanwhile, Iordana’s marriage crumbles, and when the Ceausescu dictatorship is overthrown by starving citizens with nothing to lose, Iordana must find a way — against all odds — to keep herself and her young son alive.

Kirkus Reviews calls Red Hands, “Poignant, frightening, packed with historical nuggets — a cautionary tale for contemporary times.”

Sargent agrees and hopes that’s the takeaway for readers. “We’re learning in so many ways that there is no ‘them,’” he added. “This story is about all of us. We’re all susceptible to falling under the spell of a cult of personality.”

About the Author

Colin W. Sargent, Ph.D., is the founding editor and publisher of Portland Magazine as well as a novelist, playwright and poet. He teaches writing at The College of William and Mary. In addition to Red Hands, he is the author of The Boston Castrato and Museum of Human Beings. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he has an MFA from Stonecoast and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in the UK.

Red Hands

Publisher: Barbican Press

ISBN-10: ‎ 190995439X

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1909954397

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