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 throughout the year. Over the years these picnics have morphed into charitable events hosted by Mr. Adrian Ionescu at his residence in Lakewood. Other non-charitable events, organized by RAFA and its volunteers are held at various locations in the Denver and Boulder areas during times of the year that coincide with traditional Romanian national holydays such as Romania’s national day on December 1st or the “Martisor” day on March 1st. Our organization’s signature event is the Romanian festival. Starting in 1994, this festival has been held for more than 20 years on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. The location of the festival will change starting this year to a more central location in Lakewood’s Belmar Plaza. 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.
Lucky to be born in Brasov, one of the oldest cities in Transylvania,(Romania) that is surrounded by natural beauty and millennial history, I always wanted to impart the affection and devotion for my people. I did this in Romania for 6 years as a history teacher, I continued to teach and present our culture in the New World as I moved to Denver, close to the Rocky Mountains, along with my wonderful family, who always joined me. RAFA member for 19 years, during which time I was board director and later president of the alliance, I tried to present Americans in Colorado and Romanian-American youth a view of Romanian history and culture both through yearly events organized by RAFA (Romanian American Freedom Alliance) : the Romanian Festival, the National Day of Romania - December 1st, Monarchy Day - 10th May, Union Day - 24th January. Our Literary Circle "Mircea Eliade" with invited guest writers, created opportunities to practice and preserve the Romanian language and introduce the Romanian literature to those interested.
I have called Colorado my second home for the last almost 20 years. Time flew by and before my husband and I knew it, we were blessed with two wonderful boys and a comfortable place to call home. When not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends in beautiful outdoor Colorado. But the nostalgia of that “home sweet home” feeling comes from this small county called Alba, in the heart of Transylvania, surrounded by the Apuseni Mountains. Although I have lived and worked in Colorado for half of my life and I have experienced first-hand the processes of assimilation into the American culture putting a mark on who I am as an individual, I have always worked very purposefully on preserving and enriching my cultural identity as a Romanian. Being part of RAFA is one way to strengthen this identity. Volunteering for various RAFA community events and activities gives me an opportunity to stay connected with my Romanian heritage as well as an opportunity to give back to the Romanian community back home.
My name is Magda and I consider Colorado my second home. I have lived here for the last 14 years. I come from a modest family from Pitesti, Romania. I have always considered that through what we are, we could better our lives in order to better the lives of those less fortunate. When I first heard of RAFA, about five years ago, I did not hesitate to get involved and to dedicate a part of my time to support the efforts of this small organization to help others back in my country of origin. It makes me so happy when we, Romanians in the diaspora, get together in the name of a noble cause-to help others and I hope we can continue these efforts long term.
My name is Natalia Maxim. My husband and I are proud parents of three: Paula, Luca, Paisia. Life brought me here from Rep. of Moldova (a small country with big problems but with people that have big hearts). I was born and raised in Soroca, in the North part of the country. In 2007, I moved to US and shortly after that my husband and I made Colorado our home. In the Fall of 2009, I had my first interaction with RAFA at the Romanian Festival in Boulder. I was impressed with the people that were involved in the organization of the event, their dedication and their stories. I did not expect to find a cause so much aligned with my beliefs so far from home, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, so it was absolutely natural for me to join RAFA at that time. Later on I had the privilege to be elected one of the directors. Yes, we are a small organization, but we are reaching a large group of people. This confirms one more time that not the size of a group is what counts but the size of their hearts and the persistence in their beliefs. The smiles, the hugs, the happiness, the hope that I see and feel when helping those in need through RAFA are the greatest rewards and blessings I could ask for.
I was born and raised in a small village in Buzau county, in the historical Romanian region of Muntenia. I come from family of school teachers who have instilled in me a love for being true to myself and for ,conserving my core values such as altruism, honesty and perseverance, no matter where I end up in life. RAFA’s mission and efforts align perfectly with my values and beliefs. I went to school in Bucharest and graduated with a degree in physical education. Currently, I work in the tree service trade. Staying active, involved and helping others is a set of action steps that I take not only in my day to day work life, but also around my two lovely granddaughters as well as the folk group that I am part of, which focuses on dances from the Balkans.
I was born in Ramnicu-Valcea, Romania, an area with a beautiful mountain scenery. I landed in the US via Minneapolis in 2002, but the cold and the bleak of Minnesota winters drove me away and into sunny Colorado, where I have been living since 2004. I got her CPA certification in 2013, and I am currently an auditor for a municipality in Metro Denver area. I am raising two teenage kids in Boulder, Colorado. When I get a break from the parenting routine, I enjoy life at leisure with the occasional traveling, reading, hiking, volunteering.