Not to get too deep, but what is life without hope? And hope without inspiration? Good stories often spark inspiration, but the best stories are the ones that are true. Real people who do amazing things is the best kind of inspiration that there is out there. So today we are giving you a list of some of the most inspirational Romanian figures in history. Whether or not you yourself are Romanian, we hope that these people and their stories might jumpstart your motivation!

1. Elie Wiesel (1928 – 2016)

Elie Wiesel was a Jewish man, born in a small town in the county Maramures, in the northern tip of Romania. At a young age, he was deported to Aushwitz along with the rest of his family, only months before the war was to end. Somehow, Elie survived. He went on to write the best-selling book, The Night, which you may have read too. If you have not read this book, it is a must, Elie truly has a way with words and this is a beautiful and saddening piece of literature.

2. Ioan Cantacuzino (1863 – 1934)

Ioan Cantacuzino was a renowned Romanian physician and bacteriologist. He rounded out his career by becoming a professor at the Romanian School of Medicine and Pharmacy and was a member of the Romanian Academy. He even went on to found the Ioan Cantacuzino Institute. What he is most famous for, however, is working on the anti-cholera vaccine that stopped the atrocious cholera epidemics that were destroying the Romanian army in the early 1900s during the Balkan War.

3. George Enescu (1881 – 1955)

George Enescu was a child musical prodigy. He began his studies at the ripe age of seven at the University of Vienne. He was a composer, a conductor, a pianist, and a violinist – can you imagine having all those roles? After the University of Vienne, he continued his education in Paris and by the early 1900s he was known throughout the world as one of the most promising young musicians. He is considered by many to be Romania’s best musician ever.

4. Nadia Comaneci (1961 – present)

Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci received international fame at the age of 14, when she was the first person ever in the history of Olympic gymnastics to receive a perfect 10. It was 1976 and she was competing at the Montreal Olympics. Throughout her career, Nadia won a total of nine Olympic medals and four world championships. She performed flawlessly and inspired so many young gymnasts all around the world.

5. Emil Racovita (1868 – 1947)

Emil Racovita was the first biologist ever to study artic life. He was the first scientist to collect botanical and zoological samples from anywhere beyond the Antarctic Circle. He actually started his university education by studying law in Paris, but he decided that that was not the path that he wanted to pursue.

Instead, he continued studying and ended up getting a PhD in science (specifically, his degree was in “the cephalous lobe and the encephalon of polychaetous annelids”). Once he earned his doctorate, he and a group of scientists boarded the ship Belgica and set off on their journey. The expedition took over a year.

6. Angela Gheorghiu (1954 – present)

Angela Gheorghiu is a world-renown soprano singer. She debuted professionally in 1990 and the world cannot get enough of her voice! Angela is presently one of Romania’s best-known cultural ambassadors.

She has performed in the likes of London’s Royal Opera House, the Metropolitan Opera of New York and the Vienna State Opera. She has also won plenty of awards, such as the respected Victoires de la Musique Classique and the European Cultural Award. Look her up on youtube if you have not yet heard her voice!

7. Alexandra Nechita (1985 – present)

Alexandra Nechita is a super young and extraordinarily talented artist. She was born in Romania to Romanian parents, but she grew up in southern California. She started drawing with pen and ink when she was just two years old. Soon, she moved onto water colors and by the time she was eight years old she had her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles.

By the time she was ten years old, she was taken to Paris to work at the Mourlot Studios. While there, she became the youngest artist to sign with the International Art Publishers. She specializes in cubism and because of her style she has been nicknamed the “Petite Picasso”. And because of her great success, she has dedicated herself to philanthropy as well.

8. Ion Tiriac (1939 – present)

Ion Tiriac is a modern legend. He was a professional tennis player, a professional ice hockey player, and after he was done with sports, he became a businessman. He was a top player on the ATP Tour, he won a grand slam title and the 1970 French Open in men’s doubles.

And actually before all of his tennis success, he played ice hockey, playing as a defenseman in the Romanian national team at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Austria. Once he retired from playing sports, he began coaching he most tennis players around the world. In 2013, he was selected as contributor into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

He also became a businessman in (what was formerly West) Germany. When communism collapsed in Romania, he started many businesses and invested in others back home. He founded Banca Tiriac, which was notable because it was the first privately-owned bank in Romania after communism fell. He invested across industries, from insurance to retrial, from auto dealerships to airlines.

In TIriac is now in his 80s, but in 2007 he was the first Romanian ever to make Forbes’ List of Billionaires. He was the 840th richest person in the world at the time. What a career this man had!