Romanian-Americans, a hundred years ago

For a long time I intended to write a review of the study of Fr. Remus Grama, Romanians-Americans and the Great Union of 1918 / Romanian-Americans and the Great Union of 1918, published in the same year The Centenary of the Great Union. The truth is that I only managed to purchase this bilingual volume more than a year after it was printed. And since I also tangentially researched the subject, I decided to review it in a specialized periodical. The reason that made me address a wider audience came as a result of questions that have been asked in recent days. One of them came from a very experienced Romanian diplomat who was interested in how I managed, during the negotiations I conducted for Romania, to obtain the support of Romanians in America and Europe. The second question was, in fact, a report that sent me to a site that is dedicated to news about Romanians who are now in several European countries and who published an investigation into their attitude towards their country of origin and what my interlocutor called “the Romanian spirit”. I do not want to I share the answers I gave to those who asked me the above questions, because I do not think that my personal experience is of general interest. Instead, I believe that the historical experience of the Romanian-American community a century ago deserves to be known and incorporated into national history and Romanian-American relations.

Father Dr. Remus Grama pastors at the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral “Saint Mary” in Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest Romanian Orthodox parish founded in the United States. In 2005 he obtained his doctorate at the Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, presenting a thesis on a very delicate topic, namely the reconciliation of the two Romanian dioceses on the American continent which, during the Cold War, had a troubled history. He published several studies on the subject, on the life of some prelates who served the Romanian-American Orthodox communities and on Romanian culture. Approaching the subject of the contribution of the Romanian-Americans to the achievement of the Great Union of 1918, Fr. Dr. Remus Grama summarized the result of several writings from America and Romania that researched the period of the First World War and the history of the Romanian-American community of that period. At the same time, he saw not only well-known systematic documentary collections of the representative organizations of this community, but also the archives of several Romanian Orthodox parishes on American soil that had a more intense activity aimed at supporting the ideal of Romanian national unity. Therefore, the paper we are referring to is a very useful tool for knowing the history of the Romanian-American community, but also for an important component of the process of completing the state unity of Romanians. At the same time, the experience of the establishment of Romanian immigrants from America, at the beginning of the century, is presented. twentieth century, in an ethnic community able to assert not only its cultural and national identity in the ethnic crucible of the American nation, but also to support its interest and social, political and economic affirmation in the “New World”. Last but not least, the reader of this documented study can find out about the way in which the older or newer Romanian immigrants who arrived in America related to the place where they came from and to the values ​​of the culture of the nation they had left.

As I said, interesting is the association that Fr. Dr. Remus Grama makes between the process of defining the identity of the Romanian-American community and the national ideal of Romanians in the Old Kingdom and the provinces with a majority Romanian population in the neighboring empires of Romania. Romanian immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were very attentive to the events on the European continent, with the outbreak of the First World War. They were also the most harassed in America by Hungarian influence and consular agencies representing the Empire across the Atlantic. After Romania entered the war, together with the Entente, in 1916, the national consciousness of the Romanian immigrants became even more active, resonating with the aspirations of the Romanians at home. At the same time, the Romanian-Americans were more assertive in showing their specific characteristics and desires in the picture of the manifestation of the ethnic groups that were preparing to integrate in the American nation. Thus, the struggle of Romanians at home to achieve the ideal of perfecting national-state unity proved to be a strong leaven for Romanian-Americans, usually scattered in various small communities in the mid-northern United States, to specify more clearly the identity and political level, not only socio-cultural.

The book of Fr. Dr. Remus Grama intended to pay homage to the contribution of the Romanian-American community to the fulfillment of the strong Romanian ideal of the Great Union. And this participation in supporting the Romanian national ideal had a special significance after the United States entered the war against the Central Powers and especially after the influential assertion by American President Woodrow Wilson of the principle of national self-determination, and later his trip to Paris for the Conference. de Pace (1919-1920), with the aim of convincing the European states to build an international democratic system, having as basic actors the nation states. Against such a circumstantial background, Fr. Dr. Remus Grama noted some stages-events of the involvement of Romanian-Americans in the double historical process of defining their identity as an American ethnic group and, at the same time, for supporting the Romanian national ideal. Of these, we mention the most significant:1) the creation of the Romanian National Committee in America (1916), 2) the establishment within the American Army of units composed of Romanian-American volunteers (1917), 3) the massive participation in the activities of the Red Cross, with substantial involvement in Romania (1917- 1918); 4) the extraordinarily efficient support given to the Patriotic Mission led by Vasile Stoica in America (1917-1918); 5) the establishment of the Romanian National League (1917); 6) the Great Assembly of the Romanian Orthodox in America (Youngstown, March 9-10 1918) and Chrysostom 7) the steps taken by the White House and the leaders of the main Great Powers at the Peace Conference for them to recognize the plebiscite decisions in Chisinau, Chernivtsi and Alba Iulia to unite the Romanians into one national state. Using bibliography from the newer era, the author of this volume describes these stages-events, but also others, such as the relationship of Romanian-American organizations with associations and leaders of Slovak, Czech, Serbian, Polish immigrants, etc. who, in the United States of America, also campaigned for the application of the principle of national self-determination in favor of the respective nations of Central Europe. By balancing information and historical interpretations, Fr. Dr. Remus Grama managed to give a convincing picture of the Romanian-American community’s effort to succeed the Romanian nation since the end of World War I, the main leaders of Romanian organizations in America deserving to be included. they among the Generation of the Great Union, receiving the appreciations and gratitude of the Romanian nation.

I emphasize an important aspect not only for the history of the event that took place a century ago, but also for contemporary times:the Romanian-American community carried out, especially between 1917-1919, a particularly efficient lobby in favor of Romania. In America, lobbying meant more information and influence that citizens, businesses, etc. they added it to the institutional and decisional level resulting from the processes of representative democracy. The Romanian-Americans set out to inform the President of the United States of America and the American Congress of the aspirations of Romanians outside the Romanian state, as well as of the Romanian state itself, given that almost nothing was known about the Kingdom of Romania and the Romanian nation in America. But in order to achieve this lobby, the Romanian-American community had to define itself in the American space. The book of Fr. Dr. Remus Grama depicts exactly this evolution of Romanian-Americans from a structure of small local communities not involved in common actions to that of a distinct ethnic community on the American continent. And the context of this community association was also energized by the attachment of Romanian-Americans to the home ideal of the Romanian nation. This was a strong impetus for their voluntary enlistment in the American Army, which was to fight on the European front, and in the Red Cross, which had expanded its operations in Romania, their establishment as organizations to express the options of the entire Romanian-American community. (eg the Romanian National Committee of America), continued with unifying ecclesiastical approaches (See the famous Hrisov, from March 1918, which gave the symbolic message of the union of the Romanians from the provinces of the Central-Eastern European Empires with the Romanian state). As a result of this identity construction of the Romanian-American community, convincingly described by Eugen Raica, Alex. Nemoianu in History of the United Romanian Society(1995, p. 36), convincing lobbying activities were possible that contributed to President Wilson’s decision, announced by the State Department on November 5, 1918, to recognize the right of Romanians in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to self-determination and to support their desire to unite with Romania. And to these impulses must be added the action of the government and King Ferdinand to open the Romanian Legation in the capital of the United States of America, but especially the intelligent initiative of sending to America the Romanian Patriotic Mission led by the exceptional Vasile Stoica.

The precedent of this lobby of the Romanian-American community in favor of Romania (1917-1919) shows how important was the existence of a Romanian national ideal and country project (Romanian-Americans also called Greater Romania and “New Romania”) that not only unify aspirations, but also to mobilize wills to get involved in a constructive action. At the same time, how significant was the trust of Romanian-Americans, as well as those of their places of origin, in the Romanian political leaders of the time and in those of the Romanian state (Iuliu Maniu was recognized as a leader of Romanians and by Transylvanian Romanians in America , and Queen Maria was a personality almost revered by all Romanian-Americans). Being a moment of self-definition of identity, Romanian-Americans understood that that process did not mean a closure in itself, but, on the contrary, an openness and cooperation with similar social actors, a continuous negotiation with partners in American society. I don’t know if Fr. Dr. Remus Grama intended to pass on to us this lesson of lobbying in America, coming from the century-old history of the Romanian-American community, but I point it out as a reflection that deserves to be taken into account by political leaders. Romania today and tomorrow.

The book by Dr. Remus Grama, Romanians-Americans and the Great Union of 1918 / Romanian-Americans and the Great Union of 1918, was published by the author not only out of a personal spiritual and intellectual impulse, which deserves appreciation, but also as a reminder for today’s Romanian-Americans of a historical approach of their forerunners of which they must be proud, because acting in order to achieve the national ideal of the Romanians, they also carried out a wide struggle for their own freedom, which they aspired to when they decided to emigrate to America. And I consider that Fr. Dr. Remus Grama deserves the gratitude and thanks of the Romanians in the country, both for the historiographical arguments he brought for the inclusion in the Generation of the Great Union and of the Romanian-Americans who for years dedicated themselves to achieving the ideal of unity. national-Romanian states, but also for the wise suggestions addressed to the contemporary Romanian nation and its leaders. For for Father Dr. Remus Grama the old saying still appliesHistory teacher.

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