My readers may not know that I hold dual citizenship, and was born and spent my first 19 years of life in Oradea – a beautiful city at the foot of the pittoresque Carpathian Apuseni mountains and in the western part of Transylvania – the legendary land of Dracula’s castle.
Today’s blog is not about electronics or making stuff, but about what in great part shaped me and perhaps dear reader – what made some things great and significant for you as well. Maybe you’re not a history enthusiast, but maybe you’re a woman engineer, or perhaps you stepped foot in an airplane that took off on its own, used a fountain pen, or depend on insulin, or maybe you just own a LowPowerLab product that has bettered your life in some way – you might be surprised to find out which nation gave the world their inventors.
What’s the big deal?
Today – December 1st 2018 – marks a special anniversary for me as a Romanian diasporan. Exactly 100 years ago, a centuries long ambition and dream was fulfilled, the Great Union was decreed and the Romanian Kingdom became what was then the largest territory that was ever united within its borders and under its name. It integrated present day’s Moldova, and several other smaller Romanian speaking territories, that are today part of Ukraine and Bulgaria.
It then took it’s first steps towards a sovereign democratic nation with a new 1923 constitution sponsored by King Ferdinand I that was deemed the most fundamentally democratic constitution in Europe at that time.
In the greater European context, the end of World War I also marked the end of four empires (Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, German and Tsarist) and created a spectacular reconfiguration of borders in which a few other nations were reborn (Poland) or created altogether (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia).
Since then, a tumultuous century marked several major dramatic events that shaped Romania into what it is today.
- the conclusion of The Second World War and the soviet occupation triggered the massive territorial losses that can be seen in the map above, and the end to Romania’s constitutional monarchy.
- the 50+ years of communist rule that followed remains a dark period with profound impacts in every aspect of life, culture and faith. The socialist atheist state attempted to rewrite history, reshape its subjects into “a new type of man“, and imprisoned, tortured and murdered many of those who were perceived as political opponents or dared publicly object to their dialectical materialist agenda – including some of the key personalities that organized this very Great Union event we’re commemorating today:
- Iuliu Maniu – a great man and political personality of the communist opposition
- cardinal Iuliu Hossu – Greek Catholic bishop, and the man who officially read the Union’s declaration this day in 1918. In 1948 he refused a forced merger with the corrupted Orthodox Church which bent to the will of the red terror. He paid with his freedom and died in captivity. Interesting fact: he is related to me – my paternal grandfather’s sister was married to his brother Traian Hossu. Among many others, Alexandru Rusu, also a Greek Catholic bishop, and my great grandfather’s brother, also died in prison for the same opposition to become instruments of the stalinist deep state.
- 1989 brought a sweeping change across the eastern block and the bloodiest revolution behind the Iron Curtain – it toppled the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu and marked Romania’s first steps back towards democracy in modern time. I was just 5 years old at the time.
- with great expectation joined the NATO alliance in 2004, and in 2007 the European Union.
What’s a Romanian guy doing in the USA?
I ended up coming to America as a student in 2003, my F1-visa dubbing me an “non-resident alien”, a far cry from a proud patriot of the only Eastern European nation with Latin origins, but at least not an invader on a boat or migrant caravan seeking wellfare. Being an international student meant I had to be enrolled full time and pay out-of-state tuition (think 2X+). I covered that and my personal expenses doing occasional construction helper jobs like remodeling, digging plumbing trenches in Arizona’s 115°F hot summers, and laying tile in estates around Phoenix metro – perhaps not my parent’s dream job who had other aspirations for my university years – but all this to avoid being a burden to my beloved aunt (and only relative), who offered me free housing this entire period. By dramatic turning of events and nothing short of a divine miracle, my family was granted a rare type of immigrant visa in 2006 and I was narrowly qualified in that transition just before turning 21, receiving a Green Card which was a huge relief to my financial burdens as a foreign student. I was now a “permanent resident alien”, a clear upgrade from my previous status and a mere 5-year wait for the final upgrade to citizenship. I was now able to find my first programmer job at a real company, making at least double hourly while sitting in an air conditioned office, another miracle for me. The rest is history – I achieved my goal and graduated from ASU without student loans or debt, married to another Romanian immigrant, became the father of two wonderful boys, and last but not least created LowPowerLab and lots of happy customers along the way. Looking back at the footsteps of my immigrant journey, God was good to me and held my hand all all these years, carried me when I couldn’t walk.
Will I ever move back to the country that gave me (and you) so much?
I can’t say yes, but I sure can’t say no either. When I was 19, it was easy to pack everything I owned (not much – mostly clothes, books, small personal effects) in my 2 free allowed suitcases, take my personal $200 savings and hop a plane to a new place with better prospects – if all failed I could return to my previously well planned endeavor to become an engineer in my own country. Things look a bit different now – if not larger suitcases, it would take a lot more effort and arrangements to move a whole family to a new system and way of life and start everything from scratch – at least not without a major reason.
I wrote this up because it’s a centenary that won’t happen again in my lifetime, and thus an excuse to break and pay some tribute to history, brag about my heritage and share a bit of how I got where I am. If you’ve read this far, I thank you and I hope my story and my native country’s history inspired you and made you a bit richer in some small way. I will leave you with a few pretty images that present Romania and some of her humble achievements on this special anniversary, and the sounds of its unique language (which unfortunately were left untranslated by the creator), and hence perhaps one day you may want to uncover Romania on your own, just as Rick Steves or Peter Hurley did recently.