Romania’s oldest living Saxon celebrates her 100th birthday in style

Sofia Folberth,
Sofia Folberth,

Two days after she turned 100, Sofia Folberth went to church, made a speech, and had 150 guests at her birthday lunch which took place on a blistering hot Saturday in Romania’s Transylvania region.


The bright-eyed and tonic centenarian enjoyed a schnapps, a glass of rose and locally-sourced chicken and mamaliga or polenta before going for a walk.

“She has a lot of vitality; she enjoys the life she’s lived” said Daniel Orban, a Hungarian Reformed priest who sat next to her at lunch.

Dressed in ethnic Saxon costume, Mrs Folberth chatted happily with guests and family in German and Romanian in a dining room built in the walls of the fortified church in the village of Crit.

The small village which lies in the heart of Romania is home to the Saxon community who were invited by a Hungarian king to settle and defend the sparsely populated Transylvania  800 years ago.

Relatives from Germany, local priests, residents and members of the ethnic German community and others came to celebrate Romania’s oldest living Saxon— who was in fine form.

Secret asked her what her secret was.

“If you whine, nobody will help you,” she told, sipping a glass of wine.  “I eat anything. During the war (editors’ note: World War II), I learned that all food is good.”

“My father told me, if someone asks you to play with them, go even if it’s awful. It’s the same with food:  even if it’s not good, eat it anyway.”

Romanian writer and journalist Ruxandra Hurezean who’s written two books with Ms Folberth about her life and the Saxon community in Crit said she admired the resilience and organizational skills of Romania’s small German community which arrived in the 1200s.


“It’s amazing how these peasants who pulled potatoes out of the ground and miked cows wrote so well and rigorously about the life in their community,” she told

“Sofia has faith and she has motivation, a reason for living. She’s not that strict about what she eats. It’s not her body, but her mind that has kept her alive.”

“She generous, she did a lot for her community and she’s really intelligent,” she added.

A few years ago, the two women sifted through local documents of what happened every year that were recorded by disciplined community leaders from 1615 to 1992. The textbooks were copied and have been turned into digital form, not only a record of history, but also Sofia Folberth’s lasting legacy to her community and Romanian history.


Sofia Folberth was born just after World War I ended into the Saxon community which suffered terrible losses during World War II. After the war ended, tens of thousands were deported to the Soviet Union.

The deportation was conducted on Soviet order in 1945 and  uprooted 60,000 to 75,000 of Romania’s Germans or Saxons. At least 3,000 of the deportees died before release.

The deportation was part of the Soviet plan for German war reparations in the form of forced labor.

Most of the survivors returned to Romania between late 1945 and 1952.

Ethnic Germans

After World War II, Germany introduced a policy of welcoming populations of German extraction from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Between 1950 and 1989, about 242,000 ethnic Germans left Romania, many of which were ‘sold’ for hard currency.

After the 1989 revolution, another 200,000 emigrated, including Sofia Folberth who never properly left, returning to Transylvania every summer.

“She came when the storks arrived and left when it got cold,” Ms Hurezean said.

There are just four families left in Crit, which  has a population of about 600, and a single family in the village of Fiser. However, many return in the summer months as was in evidence on Saturday.

The local Haferland festival, created by entrepreneur Michael Schmidt and German rock star Peter Maffay,  now in its tenth year, has managed revive traditions and the community has also been helped by investment from the European Union.

People like Sofia Folberth have also generated wider interest in the region.

“A few years ago, Sofia was at a party and she threw down her stick and started to dance,” said Gheorghe Blaga, 76, who’s Romanian but admires the Saxons „who are good at managing money, organized and very punctual.”

Late Saturday evening  the ‘lunch’ party was still going strong. Mrs Folberth was one of the last on the dance floor before retiring about midnight. She was chatting happily with friends and family at breakfast the next morning in the bright sunshine.

It seems dance and good company are also the key to a long life.

Left to right, Sofia Folberth, Daniel Orban, Michael Schmidt, at Crit.
Left to right, Sofia Folberth, Daniel Orban, Michael Schmidt, at Crit..
Birthday lunch for Sofia Folberth at Crit.
Birthday lunch for Sofia Folberth at Crit.


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