Romania is a typical European village, typically Transylvanian and
thoroughly immersed in the history of their rich and troubled country.
occupied present day Romania long before the Roman Legions subjugated
them. The 300-year long Roman occupation resulted in a new nationality,
the Romanians. After the 1st Century AD Roman Legions withdrew in
the face of repeated assaults from the east, and the people they
left behind climbed into the safety of the Carpathians only to repopulate
the surrounding plains some three hundred years later. (For a more
extensive history of Romania click here.)
Bran-Believed to have
been occupied by Vlad Tepes.
For many years
the Turks dominated the southern two-thirds of Romania, Wallachia
and Moldavia. To the north the rising Hungarian crown dominated
Transylvania. For hundreds of years Romanian princes paid tribute
to Istanbul and suffered repeated raids by the Sultan's armies and
brigands. A notable exception was Prince Vlad Tepes who defied the
Turks and defended the passes into Transylvania. His reputation
comes down to us within the exaggerated figure of Dracula. (In fact,
Dracula's castles, homes and other haunts are all within a short
drive of Vurpar.) As the Austro-Hungarian Empire began to push the
Turks back from Europe. Romania was increasingly a battle ground.
German and Hungarian settlers were sent to guard the passes, populate
cities and make Transylvania one of Europe's eastern bastions. In
the mid-1800s the Russians began pushing the Turks south and again
Romania became a battle ground.
In 1859, just
after the Crimean War, Romanian princes, led by Ion Cuza,
surprised Europe by declaring Romania a nation through the union
Wallachia and Moldavia. Russia and Turkey were too busy fighting
effectively. In 1878, Russia forces, allied with Romania beat a
in Bulgaria and were at the gates of Constantinople where England
forced Russia to pull back. In the following treaty Russia annexed
Bessarabia (now Moldova) in "compensation" for having
to withdraw from
Turkish territory. In 1912-13, the Romanian crown took part in defeating
Turkey in the First Balkan War just before World War I. At the end
Romania profited greatly by recovering Bessarabia from Russia and
World War II
was an unmitigated disaster for Romania! Leading up to the war,
the country was torn between indigenous fascists, nationalists,
communists, royalists and liberals.The
great historian and politician Nicolae Iorga was assassinated by
the Iron Guard and the government was torn whether to ally with
Hitler to the west or
Stalin to the east. Just before the war, Hitler and Stalin collaborated
to reshape Romania to the benefit of Fascist Hungary and the Soviet
Union. When war broke out Romanian troops joined the Wehrmacht in
attacking the Stalinist Soviet Union.
Michael moved Romania to the Allied sides near the end of the war
as Soviet armies approached. Stalin annexed Bessarabia again and
grabbed a large area in Romania's north, Bucovina, so the Soviets
could have a direct tank route to Hungary. Romania also lost hundreds
of thousands or dead, and her freedom.
took power in late 1944. They imposed collectivization on the farmers
and industrialization on the cities. Millions were displaced. After
45-years of communist dictatorship the country was near collapse.
Romanians rose up in violent
revolution at Christmas 1989 and overthrew the communists and
executed the dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.
When that fighting
finally ended and the country was opened to inspection the world
discovered in Romania some of the globe's worst pollution, a countryside
laying fallow and cities in advanced decay. Ten years later, Romania
has a democratic
government attempting to join NATO and the European Economic
Community. The transition from Communism to a market economy has
created many hardships for older Romanians and many frustrations
for the young. Romania's population is in decline through a receding
life expectancy and increased emigration.
The greatest needs lies in the countryside that has yet to benefit
from the infusion of western systems and capital. In fact, the countryside
is now in worse condition than during Communism. Vurpar, a village
in southern Transylvania near Sibiu,
is a microcosm. The school is neglected,
the health clinic has neither equipment
nor supplies, fields lie fallow from lack of tools,
industry is at a standstill and the economy
has reverted to something akin to the 1800s.
within the former domain of the fabled Dracula and about 40 miles
from his fabled castle, was once a productive community of Romanians
and Germans. Most of the Germans have left. The remaining Romanian
population still sends its kids to school, still works its flocks
and maintains its village systems, but seems to be regressing in
many aspects. A little help goes a long way. A project
is underway to repair and "modernize" the school. Another
project will attempt to assist the
clinic. A school snack program
was recently begun which resulted in a dramatic increase in the
number of children attending school. A mini-loan program is under
development and a project to stimulate a crafts industry has begun.
Club eyeglass project will bring some 5,000 pairs of glasses
to help people see! Many more helping-hand projects are planned.
Perhaps you can join of our efforts.
donations payable to:
St. Mary's Romanian Orthodox Church,
% Jim Sack
South Harrison Street,
Fort Wayne, IN 46807.
a tax deductible donation!