Ion Augustin Nicolae Ratiu, born in Turda, Transylvania, on June 6, 1917, was the son of Augustin Ratiu, a successful lawyer, mayor, county prefect and great-grandnephew of Dr. Ioan Ratiu, the leader of the Romanian National Party. A promising law student, Ion Ratiu seemed destined for an academic career, but in 1938 he was commissioned as top cadet at the Artillery Military Academy in Craiova, and in April 1940 he joined Romania’s Foreign Service. He was sent to London as a chancellor at the Romanian Legation. The decision to align Romania with the Axis powers later in 1940 appalled Ion Ratiu, who resigned his post and obtained political asylum in Britain. He won a scholarship to study economics at St. John’s College, Cambridge. In 1945 Ion Ratiu married Elisabeth Pilkington in London.
Exiled in London after the communist takeover of Romania in 1946, Ion Ratiu threw himself into the struggle against communism, becoming a regular contributor to the Romanian Service of the BBC, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. In 1957 his book “Policy for the West” was published, radically challenging contemporary western views of the nature of communism. He then went into shipping and later into real estate, where he accumulated considerable wealth. In 1975, the year he published another work, "Contemporary Romania", Ion Ratiu decided to devote all his energy to the pursuit of a free Romania. Mr. Ratiu led the British-Romanian Association from 1965 to 1985 and played a key role in the setting up of the World Union of Free Romanians, of which he was elected president in 1984. After the fall of Ceausescu, he continued for some years to subsidize the monthly "Free Romanian", distributed outside Romania, which he had launched in 1985.
Ion Ratiu returned to Romania in 1990 to run for the presidency. Although he became member of the Romanian Parliament, and served as both Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies as well as Romania’s roving ambassador to NATO, his failure to win the presidency was a grave disappointment to many. Sympathizers continue to refer to him as “the best president Romania never had.”
Ion Ratiu died in London surrounded by his family after a short illness, and in accordance with his wishes, was buried in January 2000 in his home town of Turda. His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people.