The Valerian D. Trifa Romanian American Heritage Center was the brainchild of the late Archbishop Valerian. His intention was to encourage cooperation between the numerous institutions, parishes, diocesan centers, and individuals of Romanian origin. The Center would be an independent corporate institution, a safe place where the official records, publications (newspapers, pamphlets, etc.), personal papers (documents and correspondence, etc.), and life stories of the Romanian immigrants and their descendants could be stored and documented. It would be a place where researchers, authors, and historians could study the life of those who came here from across the ocean for over a hundred years. So many other nationalities had similar institutions, but not the Romanians, so he established this unique institution for us.
Our pioneers put down roots in North America, helped to settle the Canadian prairies, worked in the coal mines and steel mills, the auto and tire industries, the slaughterhouses of the Midwest, etc. They helped support their families “back home.” Most came with the intention of returning, and many did. But those who remained became proud citizens of their adopted countries. When war came, they were proud patriots of America and Canada, many of whom fought and died on the battlefields of foreign lands and oceans as loyal soldiers and seamen, just as their grandparents had done in the “old country” for the sake of Romania.
Those who established their lives and businesses here, built churches, organized societies, etc., have been integral to the life of the United States and Canada. But their stories need to be shared and not forgotten, as already has happened for generations.
So often we hear… “We somehow remember having an uncle, I think, who had some sort of business somewhere around Chicago. I think. Why, here’s a little picture of him from around 1920, but we don’t know anything else about him, where he came from, when he came, etc.” “Yes, our parish was founded over a hundred years ago, but somehow all the records have been lost.” “I have a couple of pictures with a group of ladies in beautiful Romanian costumes, but I don’t know who they are, when it was taken, or why.” That’s why Archbishop Valerian established the Heritage Center; so we would recognize our proud heritage, preserve our history in North America, and share it with others.
So, the Heritage Center exists. It has a wonderful building with an apartment for the on-campus Archivist. It has all existed for many years already, and with more than ample and appropriate storage space, it is always ready to receive materials that are valuable to our Romanian immigration’s cultural, literary, and historic place in North America… unwanted papers or personal letters found in your attic written by “Tusa Ludovica”… parish/institutional archives, registers, etc…. and so much more.
The Center is not a museum. It is a house of archives, kept safe for researchers and future generations. And for this noble purpose, the Center is due the support of us as individuals and groups. Of course, any financial support will be put to good use. Our children and grandchildren, future historians, university researchers, etc., will be grateful that you helped preserve who the Romanians of North America are, and from where and why they came.
V. Rev. Fr. Laurence Lazar