The year 2002, rich in activities and developments, has proven the strength and swift ability of our 76 year old Society to effectively respond to the challenges presented by the recent changes in the Romanian diaspora of America.
The executive committee, empowered by the General Assembly to lead the organization, developed an unprecedented body of volunteer work in accomplishing its various tasks. The Society grew stronger and stronger, as members bonded together in one single voice, one solitary heartbeat. The unanimous votes noted at all board meetings of 2002 stand as one vivid example of the unity of our Society, a strong statement to the Romanian-American diaspora that we are here to stay for another 76 years!
2002 started with the celebration of the Romanian Unification Day (24th of January) exemplarily organized at the Glendale Hilton Hotel, under the auspices of His Excellency Sorin Dumitru Ducaru, the Ambassador of Romania in US, and his wife, Mrs. Carmen Ducaru. Our distinguished guests included Armand Scala, the Chairman of the Congress of Romanian Americans in Washington, D.C. as well as many ethnic community leaders from Southern California. Councilman Tom La Bonge’s representative presented the Society with a congratulatory plaque. After the function I have had the distinct privilege to address the Romanians in the homeland, answering a live interview taken by phone by Romania One, the main Romanian radio station.
The General Assembly meeting of January 27th validated the decision of the November 4th, 2001, General Assembly Meeting to not associate with the newly formed Union and League of Romanian Societies. A Constitution and By-Laws Committee was formed and at the February Special General Assembly Meeting we approved a revised Constitution and By-Laws, changing our organization from a mutual benefit corporation to a public benefit corporation. We have redefined the qualifications of our membership and established new membership dues.
In March I have had the opportunity to represent Viitorul Roman Society at the 10th Annual Assembly of the Congress of Romanian Americans (CORA) in Washington, D.C. The three-day meeting provided ample opportunities to present our organization to over two dozen dignitaries, participants or key note speakers, such as Bruce Jackson (President US Committee on NATO), Walter Andrusyszyn (White House Representative, Director for European and Eurasian Affairs – National Security Council), John Withers, II (Director for Europe, North Central European Affairs, US Department of State), Paula Feeny ( Director of the Office of European Countries Affairs, AID), Paul Goble (Senior Advisor to the Director of Voice of America), Charles King, PhD (Georgetown University), Mark Mayer (President) and Jay McCrensky of the Romanian American Chamber of Commerce, James Rosapepe (the former US Ambassador to Romania) Sorin Dumitru Ducaru (the current Ambassador of Romania to the US), etc.
On the 16th of March, responding to the invitation of Martin Butora, Ambassador of Slovakia, Przemyslaw Grudzinski, Ambassador of Poland and Sorin Ducaru, Ambassador of Romania, I have represented Viitorul Roman Society at the Joint Meeting of Leaders of Ethnic Communities of New Democracies, hosted by the Slovak Embassy in Washington. At this meeting, where all ambassadors of the ten countries aspiring to join NATO were present, alongside members of the US Congress and a numerous mass media, a Joint Statement of the Representatives of Ethnic Communities on the Enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was co-authored by myself, Saulis Kuprys, Chairman of the Lithuanian American Council, and Rosemary Wisnosky, of the Slovak American Cultural Association of the Midwest and approved by the over one hundred participants.
Viitorul Roman celebrated on June 1st, the 150th anniversary of Romania’s great Ion Luca Caragiale with a theatrical play presentation, “The Next Door Neighbor” at UCLA, performed by the famous actors of the Romanian National Theatre who’s trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, including their accommodations and fees, were entirely supported by our society.
In July Viitorul Roman applied for service marks registered in California and the United States. The California Service Mark was granted in October.
As always, the annual Society Banquet was held in November, this time at “Dunarea” restaurant in Orange County, where the entire facility was full to capacity and the event lasted till four o’clock in the morning, enjoying the presence of Hon. Catalin Ghenea, the new Romanian Consul in Los Angeles with his wife. The event was marked by the presence of the legendary Romanian singer Maria Ciobanu.
The Society inaugurated its official web site in December, www.viitorulroman.com, where a complete history of the society, calendar of events, a photo gallery and important links to useful information (such as Social Security, Immigration, Job Search, important Romanian cultural sites, etc.) are richly provided, courtesy of the significant contribution made by our member, Mr. Robert Sarbu.
As widely acknowledged by the Romanian American community, the members of the Executive Board made extensive efforts to preempt the hostility of a dissident group to acquire the name, books and assets of our corporation and then prosecute them to the full extent of the law. The Istrate-Stroe family, with the help of a couple of friends, formed an eight-member “executive board” who assumed our Society’s name, misrepresented themselves as our Society’s governing board and “voted” to associate Viitorul Roman with the Union and League of Romanian Societies. In return, the National organization has repeatedly requested us to hand over our books and assets to the dissident group. Boundless efforts have been made to communicate with these individuals, for several months. I have personally asked everybody with long time ties to this family to spare no efforts in persuading them to not secede and bring our organization to a battle of survival at great financial and emotional expenses. Even though, unfortunately, all tries have been unsuccessful, I would like to thank all those who have spent numerous hours on this effort, such as Stela and Jon Cepoi, Miron Bonca, Marian Sarbu, Victor and Ionela Kloes, Valentina Diran, Teodora Dragomir, Marius Badea and Viorel Petrescu. In June I have traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, and during my three day stay I have had numerous meetings in person and by phone with several other societies’ Presidents from US and Canada, U&L Executive Board members, including the President and Vice President of U&L. On several other occasions I have talked to His Grace Archbishop Nathaniel (both in LA and Washington), Armand Scala, CORA President, Sorin Ducaru, the Ambassador of Romania in US, the Romanian Honorary Consuls Dobrea (Ohio), Serban (Michigan) and Roberts (Nevada), community leaders from Southern California, mass media , etc., to all whom I have presented our impasse and who have shown their kind support and brainstormed for resolve. I would also like to thank Fathers Alecse and Carpiniseanu of Los Angeles for their kind words of wisdom and support. We were therefore forced to seek expensive legal advise, and our counsels have tried to contact the dissident group, at no avail. Their intransigence has determined the society’s executive board to ultimately pursue a litigation law suit brought against this group. Several court appearances were made in September, October and November which secured us an injunction against the defendants. We will have a lawsuit management meeting on January 30th at the California Supreme Court in LA and then a demurrer hearing scheduled for March 17, 2003. The echoes of this litigation resounded in US, Canada and Romania and I would personally like to humbly present my heartfelt gratitude to the publisher of Meridianul Romanesc, Dr. Marius Badea, for his extensive efforts and donations made on our behalf in the past eight months. We can only hope and pray that this senseless court battle will soon end.
The society’s efforts to promote the Romanian culture and heritage in Los Angeles have elevated Viitorul Roman’s image to the highest visibility levels. After my last year’s live interview and presentation on Romania nationwide television station (OTV), followed by the January live interview on the main national radio station, many publications reported on our organization such as Clipa, Formula AS, Meridianul Romanesc, New York Magazine, The New America, Lumea Libera and Universul. And, as mentioned above, the new web site has opened our society to the entire world. Our members helped the local parishes organizing various fund raisers and they are active members on the Construction Committee of a new Romanian Orthodox church. We are constantly receiving congratulatory messages from various people or organizations. This past year, in a letter sent by The Uniformed Firefighters Association Widows’ and Children’s Fund of New York, President Stephen Cassidy wrote: “The September 11th tragedy affected the entire world […] We lost 343 of our brothers[…] I can assure you that firefighters never forget their fallen brothers and your contribution (i.e. $2000) assists us in that worthy effort”.
Consequently, our membership grew by twenty six new members this year alone, for a total of 116 paid members, approximately one-third of which are under 30 year old, ensuring renewed hopes for a lengthy, perpetual future of our society.
As I end today my second and last consecutive term as president of Viitorul Roman, I want to thank my incredible board of directors, the entire society membership and the Romanian American community of Southern California for the relentless trust and support everyone has bestowed on me and wish the new executive board we shall elect today the same love and sustain I have been humbled with for the past three years!
President of Viitorul Roman Cultural and Aid Society.
Los Angeles, 26th of January, 2003.