They were ensconced in very comfortable life styles. However, there came harrowing experiences for the clergy and populace of Romania in general, in the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and of the treaty signed.
For a period, there was ruling dominance of the Hungarian; to wit, it was only the Hungarian language which was to be taught and spoken in schools, in public, in print.
This all as brief background to years of youth which my parents had. To unfold, now, the story of my parents' lives, and their blessing of a life lived in America.
My parents were married on September 8, 1929 in the town of Arad, Romania; Banat region of western Romania as are their natal communes of Pesac and Valcani.
My father did fulfill his dream of priesthood and made his way through seminary by giving violin lessons; he loved music; he enjoyed music. In November, 1929, studies all having been accomplished at the Theological Seminary of Arad, my father was ordained into the Holy Priesthood, thus fulfilling his calling from years past.
Not long after, the Bishop from Arad summoned my father, telling him that he had received a letter from a parish in Chicago, Illinois... America!!!. that wished to have a priest, young and preferably married, come to serve as their 'paroh'. The letter head was impressive and proper; it also had a pen and ink drawing of a grand church.
The trip was to be "All expenses paid!"
This was as a dream to consider... and it did not have obligation to be 'forever'. They accepted. I still have and treasure a few photographs taken on the ship that carried them to America.
As all European immigrants in that day, they began their life in America at Ellis Island, New York. The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor! Passed through, they were soon aboard a train and on the last leg of this very long journey. On to Chicago!!!
Those days, train stations had their own aura and mystique; the steam locomotives hissing so loudly alongside the passenger traffic platforms, the din of everything and so much scurry. I cannot begin to imagine the feelings my parents had as the train slowed and they finally arrived... looking out the train window. Excited? Anxious? They came down the steps of the train, and there!!! 'There' was a large group of Romanian young people, in "costume nationale", applauding and cheering them, calling out greetings in words and then in song! "Bine ati sosit, Domnule Parinte si Doamna Preoteasa." Welcome.
Now to the highly anticipated moment, with the entourage, of going to and seeing this Chicago USA church on Webster Avenue: Falling Asleep of the Ever-Virgin Mary. "Sfanta Maria". There was surely a moment of surprise to see that the church before them was not as depicted on that letterhead to the Arad Bishop. It was explained that it was a 'wished of goal' to achieve such a church some day! But, it was a beautiful little church, indeed more modest. The property consisted of two generous yards and a parish house. The house had not been recently lived in, but it was made to received my parents; it was their home now. They had much to think and absorb; it had to be a 'take a deep breath' moment.
My mother quickly learned cooking and cleaning and housekeeping. Quickly, and by generosity and help of parishioners, the house became a comfortable home for my parents, and just few years later for me. The front bedroom off the living room was to become the parish office!
Quickly, the parishioners were met, learned, became known. Each with a their story. They were all immigrants; a few professional and skilled; all hard working and industrious. Meet Mr. Mosescu, a middle aged gent, worked at the pickle factory. He did not know how to read or to write. But he was a bright man, and a most decent man. A few years down the road of time, my father having helped him with citizenship and I don't know what other matters, Mr. Mosescu was so appreciative and so loved my father. I remember that on a close before Christmas day, he came over and hand delivered a card to Daddy which he bought. 'Those days', the most beautiful and expensive cards had 'satin covered puffiness' showing through the card cutout. He signed the card (Daddy taught him) in the manner in which he memorized drawing the letters of his name. The cut-out was heart shaped and designed for a "My Dearest Darling". It was simply the most beautiful card he saw to buy. Yes; it was very moving to my father. Very. This was but one of the precious flock.
In the decade of 1930's, preceding World War ll, came the Great Depression. It was severe and cities all around the world were hard hit. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. The parish survived and gradually recovered from the toll and slowly began to flourish.
Too soon, a looming threat clouding Poland; and then, Poland was sieged. Hitler had mad obsessions and appetite! The Balkans in line as next? Thoughts to return to Romania had now greatly diminished. Worry of loved ones "cei din tara"; foreboding fears of what was next to come.
And so, Chicago came to be as home for my parents. They loved America; they learned the language, and they were needed! America was not only beloved, but there were fulfillments for my father. He gradually became known and gained nice prestige; he was loved, respected and appreciated by greatly all of his parishioners.
December 7, 1941, and America was attacked and at war. Slowly the letters of "Greetings" were received by all the young men of the parish to serve our country. There were almost no exceptions. And there were those so dreaded by me 'Going away' parties. Upon moment of good byes to each of them, Daddy bestowed a prayerful blessing, and gave a pocket size New Testament and a small cross. There were hugs and handshakes that would not stop and tears. So many tears.
After 'basic training' was completed, all these valiant were transported to far away places and came to be actively engaged on the war fronts. They were soldiers and sailors and marines and airmen and they were everywhere; all the ' theatres of war'.
It was with a different 'air' those very many Sundays in church. The mothers with sons unheard from for long periods were gray with worry. I remember Mrs. Chipei taking a newspaper clipping from her purse after Liturgy. There was a picture showing long lines of G.I.'s walking on each side of a road somewhere in Europe and she pointed to one that she was so sure was her George. I have never forgotten that. And there came... there came... the awful sadness and dread of grievous letterers. "Regret to inform... in the service of country... killed in action."
Silver haired Mrs. Grama. A gold star mother now. She never stopped crying. "Johnny al meu." There were seven all total that gave supreme sacrifice. God rest them.
To me, there are so very many people to remember with dearness and great affection... A most faithful and adoring of God man... and who so esteemed my father as priest was a cantor: Nicolae Sebesian. He and Mrs. Sebesian had a son Wally who was an aviator in WW ll and was shot down. "Missing in action." Desperate days of worry. Finally the relief of encouraging news, Wally alive, taken by the Germans and had lost an arm but he was given good medical care. He soon came back home. I remember Wally coming to church when he returned, the one sleeve of his uniform folded and pinned up, and he went to take seat. I know that I wanted to look but maybe not; I was uncomfortable; and I know everyone held their breath as did I. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the priest (and I just never thought him as 'Daddy' when he was vested and serving...) made the called for announcements and when it was of welcoming visitors, it was as even the walls of that little church were joining in the tears of happiness and welcome and thanksgiving to have Wally returned safely. This was repeated so many times with all the many others. God bless them . Each a hero for always.
In memory of these brave who gave and lost their young lives, it was decided to have a large granite memorial made and placed in one of the church yards, on a knoll, names engraved with service, date and battle/place of death. Each Memorial Day thereafter, after Liturgy, all gathered onto the lawn where this war memorial was. A parastas was served in those outdoors there, flowers for each placed beneath their names, and the row of still military sharp and snappish Amvets (returned American Veterans) with shouted commands, gave gun salutes for each. Memory eternal be theirs.
I have precious remembrances of the parishioners. I give honor and respects to the many who were as gold in their love of church and God, their energies, in their attitudes, in being tireless and giving. Finest people. I dearly and fondly remember...
Nicolae Muntean. Wife Lucretia. Mr. Muntean was an artisan furniture builder. What great generosity. He designed, built, made and gifted the 'Vatra' Episcopate residence many pieces. I can only recall a splendid large dining table and carved chairs, but many other beautifully crafted things. A huge desk. The Bishop's throne for the Chicago church. He designed a 'Mormantul Domnului'... holy sepulcher ... with purple velvet draping and designed the embroidery to be done in gold thread. My mother was talented in fine needle work and she completed this with special joy. Many things by Mr. Munteans' hands.
Mr. Muntean was an admirer of Rt Rev Bishop Policarp Morusca, newly ordained in Romania for the young Episcopate and came to America in early 1930's. I remember a great festive evening, as a reception and with many invited in attending, hosted at Muntean's home for the Bishop. There was more than one table that was heavy as could be with wonderful things to eat. When the Bishop set eyes on this feast of wonderful eatables, he exclaimed when he saw a particular dish, most modest, but it was ... mamaliga cu brinza! Mrs. Muntean was so surprised and so thrilled. Thereafter, it was sure to be on the table for him. I don't know my age at that period of time... maybe 4 or so. Everyone adored this humble and kindly Bishop... They were in rapt attention to his every word as they sat around him. It is memorable. Wonderful memory to me. I must confess that he posed one difficulty to me, to this young child, because of his eyes. They were so intensely blue and piercing. Description defies. Today's term: laser!!! It is obvious even in photographs of him.
Are the names of these so many good people, parishioners, mentioned anywhere?
Anywhere at all???