The wife of a Romanian defector, troubled about her own future, collapsed at National Airport Monday moments before she and the couples' 3-year-old son were to begin the long journey back to Eastern Europe.
The latest episode in an unusual chain of events that began with her diplomat-husband's request for asylum last week at Fort Belvoir left the woman under guard last night at an Arlington hospital near Shirley Highway.
State Department officials, who confirmed details of the incident yesterday, were alerted after a physician at the hospital's emergency room, Dr. David Corcoran, son of a prominent Washington Lawyer Thomas Corcoran, recognized the woman.
The woman was admitted "for her own protection," hospital officials said, after six men wearing Soviet-style fur hats followed her to the hospital and attempted to leave with her son -- an action that was thwarted by Arlington police who were called to the scene.
The men later acknowledged to American officials that they were connected to the Romanian embassy here.
At one point, officials of the National Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, concerned about the woman's safety, placed the hospital's assitant director of public information, Robert Moorman, in the emergency room diguised as a patient in a wheelchair to keep the woman under observation, according to several witnesses.
"It was like a Sean Connery movie with all those guys in fur ear flaps running around," said one witness, referring to Connery's role as the fictional spy James Bond.
State Department spokesman Thomas B. Reston identified the woman yesterday as Christina Horodinca, wife of Nicolae Horodinca, the third secretary at the Romanian embassy. Horodinca defected Feb. 24 by driving himself, his wife and son to Fort Belvior and surrendering to military police.
Horodinca is being kept in protective custody in the Washington area while his request for asylum is considered, Reston said.
Reston said Cristina Horodinca had told State Department officials before going to the airport that she wanted to return to Romania. Reston said he knew of no reason for her apparent change of heart.
"We want to make sure that anything that happens to her happens because of her own choosing," Reston said.
As a result, two armed guards from the Immigration and Naturalization Service are stationed on a 24-hour basis outside the door of her private hospital room. Reston and Cristina Horodinca has not requested asylum in the United States.
"It is our policy to respect the wishes of individuals who choose not to leave," Reston said. "Her husband informed us last week that he would not interfere with her desires."
Cristina Horodinca, descirbed as being in her mid-30s, did not return a telephone call to the hospital room she is sharing with her son.
Late yesterday, Romanian Ambassador Nicolae Ionescu met with her at the hospital in an attempt to persuade her to return to her homeland, and official said. Ionescu refused last night to discuss the meeting.
Dr. Richard A. Schwartz, a staff physician at the 140-bed hospital, who is treating Horodinca, declined comment. Frana Tumminia, a State Department specialist in Romanian affairs who consulted with her yesterday, also declined comment.
Horodinca was treated Monday at National Orthopaedic for fainting and dizzyness, ailments that usually permit the patients to be treated and released immediately, hospital officials said.
She was brought from the airport by ambulance and was followed by the six men in the brown sedan, witnesses said. The men apparently had accompanied her to the airport.
As she lay nervously in the emergency room with the six companions nearby, she said she wanted to talk to her husband before she left the country and persuade him to keep their small son here.
Dr. Corcoran, head of the hospital's emergency room, then looked down at the woman and asked, "Is your husband Nicolae?" officials said Corcoran apparently knew the Horodincas socially.
Startled hospital officials then decided to admit the woman "for her own protection" and notified local and federal agencies.
Before she was moved, however, the six Romanians, one of them wearing what a witness called a military-style uniform, tried to take her son out of the hospital. They were stopped by uniformed Arlington police officers who had arrived moments earlier.
Officials said yesterday they did not know why Horodinca had originally given the last name of Besteliu when she was admitted. Ion Besteliu is a high-ranking official at the Romanian embassy.
Nicolae Horodinca was decribed by sources as a generalist on the embassy staff. One source said his wife and son had recently returned from a visit to Romania. The family lived in an apartment complex in Alexandria.