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Romanians in America

From "History of the 'United Romanian Society'; Istoria Societatii 'Unirea Romanilor'"

Table of Contents

The 1990 Census of the United States listed 365,544 individuals who declared themselves of Romanian ancestry. They reside in every state of the union and are the twentieth largest of the seventy one European ethnic groups recognized in America.

The first Romanian recorded in America was Father Samuil Damian, a Romanian Orthodox priest from Transylvania who travelled in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia in 1748 and corresponded with Benjamin Franklin regarding electricity, before settling in Charleston, South Carolina.

During the American Civil War, several Romanians fought valiently on the Union side. George Pomutz, 15th Iowa Regiment, was elevated to the rank of Brigadier General and captain Nicholas Dunca, 18th Volunteers of New York was killed in action at the Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia. Seaman Constantin Theodorescu was killed while serving aboard the battleship "Maine" when it sunk in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898.

A gradual immigration of Romanians commenced in 1880 and increased at the turn of the twentieth century, totaling a hundred thouand by the beginning of World War I. The majority of immigrants came from Transylvania, Banat, and Bucovina, territories under Austro-Hungarian rule, where political ethnic and religious persecution, combined with precarious social and economic conditions, forced Romanians to leave their homes in search of relief in the new world. Spread throughout the continent, the highest concentrations were in New York, New Jersey, and the cities of the Midwest, where the immigrants found employment in the factories, the mines and on the railroads.

Through the decades, they founded and supported more than one hundred churches, over three hundred benefical and cultural societies, qs well as over one hundred and twenty newspapers and periodicals. "The American Newspaper", the official organ of the Union and League of Romanian Societies of America, founded in 1906, has the longest continuous appearance in the Romanian community. Over 15,000 Romanians served in the American and Canadian Armies during both world wars, in Korea and Vietnam, where hundreds died and many distinguished themselves in battle.

The second wave of Romanian immigrants, numbering approximately ten thousand, arrived between 1948 and 1953, as a consequence of the "Displaced Persons Act" and settled in the same areas as the first immigrants. The third group, consisting mainly of political refugees, arrived after the signing of the Helsinki Agreement in 1974, and settled in the cities of the west, southwest and south.

Approximately eighty percent of Michigan's 24,823 Romanian-Americans reside in Metropolitan Detroit, where they have established churches and fraternal societies which sponsor a variety of ethno-cultural and folklore activities.

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