Living the dream

The Romanian community in Cleveland is large. The recent census indicates that there are nearly 20.000 Romanians in the metropolitan area of Cleveland where the population is about 2 million. But in the last 15 years not a lot of young people decided to settle in Cleveland so the community is growing old. They chose other cities like Chicago and New York.

The Romanian community in Cleveland is the oldest in the US. The first Romanians that settled in Cleveland in the late 1800s were solitary immigrants in search of work in the steel factories. Then and now the Romanians found in America an alternative to the restrictive social, political, and economic possibilities in their homeland.

The first Orthodox Church in America was build in 1906 on the west side of town where there was a high concentration of Romanians. The church has always been a center for the community. Besides religion not a lot of traditions have been kept in the community.

“We didn’t have a really steady culture that would resist to the power of the American culture. The first generation that comes to America keeps the traditions, but the second and third generation get’s lost in the American ocean”, says Alin Rosca, the Romanian counsel.

The community is diverse. Romanians work in very different fields from cleaning businesses to funeral homes, from managers and doctors to drivers.

Most of the times young Romanians work two-three jobs, sometimes illegally, in order to gather up money to go to school because their college degrees are not recognized in the US.

Whether they came in the late 1800’s in search for a job, or trying to escape the communism regime, or just because this was the chance of their life, all the Romanian emigrants want to live “the dream”. That can mean anything from making a fortune to getting a free education, but as Alin Rosca says:

“America means a new beginning. You get the chance to reinvent yourself in the terms that you pick. You can see how much you worth and discover your limits.”

Living The Dream Photo Book

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Romanians gathered at St Mary’s Orthodox church in Cleveland on Easter night for the midnight service.
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Alin Barbolovici looks at his hometown Cleveland. Alin moved here from Romania when he was in high school. He dreams of moving in a much warmer place.
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Nelu Talpa is the member of one of the largest Romanian families spread through out the US. He came to America in the 70’s. “I didn’t know English when I came here and I only learned it to get my citizenship and to get around, but besides that I don’t need it”, says Talpa.
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Madalina Bucurescu - Berbec, 3 is an only child and usually the family members grant most of her wishes. Her mother bought her new batteries for the toy car.
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Paul Popa got his green card at the beginning of February, 2011. “I lived here illegally for three years. That’s how much I wanted America. I managed to maintain a house and two cars”, he said. Popa has a child back in Romania that he hopes to bring to America.
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Father Remus Grama baptized Leah Salman and is giving her back to her mother. The sacred act of baptism symbolizes the washing of the original sin with which we are all born. Leah’s father, Daniel, came to America when he was 12 years old. He met his wife Andrea on a dating website. In order for them to get married she had to convert to the orthodox faith.
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The actors are rehearsing the play “13 Most American Dreams” that premiered in May 2012. The play included nudity. The priest at St. Mary is very upset that the plays rehearsed in the old church building are experimental and hopes that some day they will have the money to buy back the building.
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Paul Popa smokes a cigarette on the back patio of a strip club where he spends Friday night with his friends. Last year after he moved out of the house, he was sharing with his ex-girlfriend; he started a relationship with a Romanian girl that was only visiting Cleveland. They fell in love and she is moving to the States to be with him.
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Diana Savin waits for her boyfriend and their roommate to get ready to go visit friends. Savin broke up with her boyfriend, Paul Popa, in June 2011 and she was forced to move out of the house.
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Lucretia Stoica was born in the US in 1922 and has been a career woman all her life. “I had a wonderful life because I had the luck to have the same job for 42 years that I loved immensely”, said Stoica. Since she doesn’t have any living relatives, she recently threw away all her photos, believing there were no longer of value to anyone. In May 2011 her accomplishments as the executive director of International Services Center were celebrated as she entered Cleveland Hall of Fame.
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Jimmy Craciun is one of the decedents of the first Romanian families in Cleveland. He is considered a historian of the Romanian community in Cleveland. “I see it as a sense of duty”, says Craciun. He is also a human rights activist who cares about what happens in Romania. In 1974 he smuggled bibles into Romania when the communist government prohibited printing bibles.
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Yana Katsevich Rosca is getting ready to feed her baby boy, Aidan. Yana is Russian and she married a Romanian man, gaining access to a community that prefers to stay rather shut to other cultures.
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Roxana Bucurescu-Berbec is enjoying a quiet moment. With her husband gone most of the time she is a full-time mom for her three year old, Madalina and also attending nursing school.
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Raluca Turbatu, 29 moved to Cleveland at the beginning of the year and she is still figuring out what products she should get from the variety of choices the supermarkets offer. “I left a good paying job n Bucharest because I fell in love with Paul last summer during my holydays. I miss my friends and family and sometimes is very hard because I have to start all over again, but I don’t regret it”, says Raluca.
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Although Cleveland has a big parade for St Patrickís Day, the Romanians prefer not to go uptown, but to gather up at somebody’s house to grill out and spend time with each other.
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Every Friday night a group of young Romanians gather to play basketball at Cuyahoga Community College, before going out for beers. “We stay out pretty late and when we are at the bar we make bets to see which one of the girlfriends or wives is the first one to call,” says Paul Popa with a smirk on his face.
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Paul Popa and Alin Barbolovici are finishing their beers in a bar’s parking lot. The Ohio law doesn’t allow bars to stay open after 2am.
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Dancers get ready and practice before going on stage of the Romanian festival. The festival is a tradition for the community and takes place every summer in August at St Mary Orthodox Church. For the seventh annual Romanian festival more than 4000 cabbage rolls were made. A large number of Americans come to enjoy the food and the music.
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Diana Savin is hurrying to move her new car so she wouldnít get a ticket for illegal parking.
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Fabian Barbolovici has owned his own pizza restaurant for 15 years and he only hires Romanians. It’s his way of giving back to the community and he says it makes it easier to communicate in one language in the working environment. “A lot of engineers, doctors and artists have worked here in this pizza place at first”, says Barbolovici.
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Alin Barbolovici is going home after a long night out with the guys. “This is the first weekend back in Cleveland in a long time and is nice to catch up with my friends,” says Barbolovici. At that time he was working as a truck driver.
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George Feher worked as an engineer for NASA. He now lives only with his wife after both their children moved away to different cities of the US.