CWRU Links

ROMANIANS

ROMANIANS. Among the new Southern and East European immigrants coming to Cleveland in the late 1800s were an increasing number of ethnic Romanians, most from the province of Transylvania, at that time part of Austria-Hungary. Other Cleveland Romanians came from the province of Bucovina on the Polish and Russian borders, also part of Austria-Hungary before World War I. There were also a number of JEWS from the Old Kingdom of Romania. The first Romanians in any significant numbers came to Cleveland as solitary immigrants, usually at the urging of Hungarian, Saxon, Swabian, and Jewish acquaintances from back home, who had emigrated earlier. The flow of Romanian immigrants grew steadily and continued unabated until the outbreak of World War I. By that time, there were about 12,000 ethnic Romanians in Cleveland, overwhelmingly of peasant stock who found immigration an alternative to the restrictive social, political, and economic possibilities in their homeland. Romanians settled near their places of employment, so they could walk to and from work. The largest concentration was on the west side, between W. 45th and W. 65th streets, immediately north and south of Detroit Ave., where they gradually replaced the Irish and Germans. Most worked in nearby commercial and industrial businesses, such as WESTINGHOUSE, GENERAL ELECTRIC, AMERICAN SHIPBUILDING, Hill Clutch, Walker Mfg., the ore docks, stockyards, meat-packing houses, and knitting mills. A sizable group also located in the E. 65th-St. Clair area prior to and after World War I. There were also pockets of Romanians farther east in COLLINWOOD, in the Buckeye Rd. section among the HUNGARIANS, in BEDFORD, and in the eastern part of LAKEWOOD. Nearby, Lorain had its own Romanian community, which was in contact with the Romanians of Cleveland. Even though most Romanians were farmers from small villages, few settled in rural areas since they had no capital to buy land or farming tools. Eventually, when they had some money, a few did buy farms nearby.

In the early years of Romanian immigration, fraternal, cultural, and social clubs, small businesses, and other organizations were established in each neighborhood. None of the neighborhoods, except that on the west side, was large, stable, or strong enough to become self-sufficient and maintain such enterprises for any length of time. Many isolated Romanians traveled to the larger and better-organized neighborhoods on the west side to attend church services and other important Romanian functions. Many eventually moved to the west side, and their former neighborhood communities gradually died out. By World War II, most Romanians lived on the west side. Initially, most of the Romanians were males who had no intention of remaining. They ranged in age from their late teens to about 40 and lived in boarding houses run by enterprising Romanian families from the same districts as the boarders. Since most intended to return home, they made no serious effort to learn English. Those who had steady jobs and foresaw their future in this country started bringing over their families. Others went back to marry and returned with their brides to Cleveland. Before World War I, permanent settlement in Cleveland appeared the choice of only a minority of the immigrants.

After the war, when the provinces of Transylvania and Bucovina became part of Greater Romania, nearly half of the immigrant population returned to their native land. In the 1920s, only about 6,000 Romanians were left in Cleveland. After the Quota Act of 1921 and subsequent restrictive immigration legislation, few Romanians were able to get visas for this country. At the same time, some Cleveland Romanians moved to other American cities during the postwar boom. Those who remained organized parishes and other Romanian organizations on a more permanent basis. By 1940 there were only 4,000 Clevelanders who identified themselves as Romanians and participated, even sporadically, in Romanian-organized activities. Following World War II, beginning ca. 1948, about 2,000 Romanians arrived in Cleveland, mostly political refugees, displaced persons, and expatriates. Unlike their predecessors, many were intellectuals, professionals, and skilled tradespeople who had fled Romania primarily because of their disagreement with the Communist regime installed there after World War II. They came not only from the province of Transylvania, but from all parts of Romania and elsewhere. A considerable number of Romanians from the Yugoslav province of Banat also settled in Cleveland during this post-World War II period. The compact west side Romanian community started to break up after World War II, when the American-born offspring moved farther west to the suburbs. The old neighborhood was slowly resettled by Appalachians, Hispanics, and, more recently, Arabic and Asiatic peoples. At the same time, some of the newly arrived Romanian immigrants settled in this area. Only a few old-time Romanians, mostly elderly people, remained in the original neighborhood by the 1980s.

The formal organization of Romanian life in Cleveland closely followed the pattern of other ethnic groups. In the earliest period, before adequate safety regulations, there were numerous industrial accidents and no hospitalization plans, workmen's compensation, social security, or other governmental welfare programs to meet emergencies, so each ethnic group organized fraternal and mutual-benefit societies to aid contributing members in case of illness or death. In 1902 42 Romanian Clevelanders founded the Carpatina Society. Similar fraternal and cultural societies were soon organized in other sections of Cleveland having a Romanian population. With the breakup of some of the neighborhoods, the societies joined the larger and stronger Carpatina Society. The society built a hall, offices, and facilities in 1917 at 1303 W. 58th St., which became the center of many Romanian activities. The society sponsored a youth organization, sports teams, ladies' auxiliaries, and other groups. With the change of the neighborhood, the hall was sold in 1973; 24 acres were purchased in WESTLAKE with the view of constructing new facilities. In the meantime, meetings and activities continued to be held in existing Romanian church halls.

Shortly after organizing mutual-benefit societies, Romanians founded parishes and built modest churches, parish houses, educational classrooms, social rooms, and other facilities. The Romanian parishes not only carried out religious services and programs but also planned nonreligious cultural and social activities to help preserve and perpetuate Old World traditions. The majority of Cleveland Romanians belonged to the Orthodox Christian church. Most others were BYZANTINE RITE CATHOLICS, known also as Greek Catholics or Uniates. There were also a number of Romanian Baptists, and recently, in the 1970s and 1980s, other smaller Protestant groups, such as Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Adventists, and JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES became active in the community. Initially, Romanians belonging to the Orthodox church attended services in other ethnic Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant churches. In 1904 they organized ST. MARY'S, the first Romanian Orthodox church in America. The metropolitan of Transylvania sent Fr. Moise Balea in 1905, who held services in rented quarters until a church was built in 1907 at 6201 Detroit Ave. In 1960 the church moved to 3256 Warren Rd. In 1936 a faction broke away from St. Mary's to found the Buna Vestire parish on W. 57th St. The parish later moved to ROCKY RIVER. Two Byzantine Rite Romanian churches were established in Cleveland. The oldest parish, ST. HELENA'S, was founded in 1905 and is still active. The other remaining Byzantine church is Most Holy Trinity, located in Chesterland. Six Romanian Baptists in 1911 established a parish, and in 1922 built a church at 1416 W. 57th St. Their numbers increased considerably after World War II with an influx of many coreligionists from Romania.

Cleveland is the national headquarters of the majority of Romanian mutual-benefit societies in America and Canada. The 2 existing national organizations merged into the Union & League of Romanian Societies in 1928 and in 1930 built a headquarters at 5703 Detroit Ave. The building was sold in 1984, and another was purchased in N. OLMSTED. Cleveland has also been a center for preserving Romanian culture. The local societies and churches have regularly sponsored cultural events such as lectures, plays, folk dancing, and art exhibits. There were always a number of Romanian folk dance groups. The Sezatoare group was founded in 1959 and remained active in 1995. Another group, the Miorita, was associated largely with the post-World War II emigres. THEODORE ANDRICA, former nationalities editor of the CLEVELAND PRESS for over 40 years, founded the Cultural Assn. of Americans of Romanian Descent in 1940, with branches in several cities, publishing the New Pioneer to disseminate information and deal with general cultural subjects of interest. A number of Romanian newspapers with national circulations were published in Cleveland, including Romanul, Solia, Unirea, Foia Poporului, and America, the official organ of the Union and League, which has appeared uninterruptedly since 1906. Though the Cleveland Romanian community has lost its physical cohesiveness, the sizable influx of postwar emigres and the strong position of the Orthodox church, particularly St. Mary's, have helped the community maintain a variety of traditional programs, and build a Transylvanian-style church, with a museum, library, and other facilities.

Fr. Vasile Hategan