The Romanian-American Freedom Alliance is a non-profit organization established in Colorado in 1990 after the collapse of the Communist regime in Romania. Its mission is both humanitarian and educational. RAFA’s principal goal is to help children and needy families in Romania, as well as to provide medical supplies and equipment to Romanian hospitals. An annual Romanian Festival in downtown Boulder raises the funds for these efforts. In addition, the festival showcases various aspects of Romanian culture to the local population through folk dances, ethnic foods and artifacts.
The Romanian-American Freedom Alliance was founded in the summer of 1990 as an immediate result of the revolutionary upheaval in Romania in December 1989. Several dozen of Colorado’s Romanian-Americans gathered at the State Capitol in Denver on December 30, 1989, to demonstrate in support of the revolution and to mourn those who had been killed during the Communist dictatorship. With the opening of Romania’s borders and newly found freedoms for its citizens, these Romanian-Americans were eager to help at last their battered native country.
On a snowy day the following February, Dana Gall, Irina Frangopol, and Ingrid Fotino met at Dr. Iulia Gorelik’s home to discuss starting a charitable organization. A series of meetings followed in which the first officers were elected (from the Blagaila, Drosu, Forsea, Fotino and Stan families). In the fall of 1990, Ingrid Fotino had completed the formal incorporation process and they were ready to start officially as a tax-exempt organization with a twofold purpose: to help needy families in Romania (because of the death of a parent, severe illness, fire, handicaps, old age) and children in orphanages; and to educate the local public about Romanian culture and history.
The first donations for families in Romania were in the form of food collected from grocery stores and cloths (about 10,000 lbs when packed) and transported (for free) by an independent American initiative.
The budget for the first year was $1,000, collected from the very generous contributions of the Romanians assembled at Father Joseph’s Holy Transfiguration of Christ church and from the bake sale organized by Magda Blagaila. Since then, RAFA has distributed on average $1,000 a year, taken personally by members to the recipients. A notable exception was in 1993 when RAFA brought a teenage amputee, Dan Statescu, to Colorado for medical care, where he was fitted with a prosthesis, free of charge, thanks to a generous group of doctors led by Dr. Bertram Goldberg.
For the first few years, RAFA’s funds came from membership dues ($15 per family from about 20-30 families) and from donations at picnics held throughout the year. These picnics have now been replaced by the major annual fundraiser, the Romanian Festival on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, begun in 1994. In addition to fundraising, the festival serves to educate the local population about Romanian culture, through food, dances, folk art and books about the national heritage and treasures. It is a joyful event that allows the Romanians to express themselves as a rich culture, crimped no more by the isolation that existed when travel out of Romania was almost inexistent and communication was severely limited.