About the Film

A Thousand Dollars and Back” is a documentary film based on oral history interviews conducted in 2013 by members of Heritage Organization of Romanian Americans in Minnesota (HORA) and Romanian Genealogy Society. The interview transcripts are permanently housed at the Dakota County Historical Society in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. The film tells the story of early Romanian immigration to the communities of South Saint Paul and Saint Paul, Minnesota from the early 1900s until the advent of World War II through excerpts of interviews with children and grandchildren of the early immigrants. Most Romanian immigrants to Minnesota came from the Banat and Transylvania regions of what was then Austria-Hungary. Many settled in industrial areas of the Midwest and followed connections with friends and family, before finally making permanent homes in the Saint Paul area. Here they established a prolific community with two Romanian Orthodox Churches (St. Mary’s in Saint Paul in 1913, and St. Stefan’s in South Saint Paul in 1924.) The following interviewees are featured in the film, which is narrated by Don Shelby:

  • Mary Ann “Ann” Popa Bongard, who was born in the U.S. to Romanian parents from Feldioara, Transylvania, but was taken by her mother to live in Romania until she was seven years old when they returned to live in Saint Paul;
  • Eugene Evasku, whose paternal grandparents (Ivascu) came from Sannicolau Mare in 1906-08 and maternal grandparents came in 1914-15;
  • Vasile “Wes” Jura, whose maternal grandparents came from Sannicolau Mare in 1912, returned to Romania in about 1930, and whose family could not return to the U.S. until 1970;
  • Ella Choban Motu, the wife of a priest, whose parents came from Sannicolau Mare and Nerau in 1913 and 1912, respectively, and married in Chicago before moving to South Saint Paul;
  • Ann Logajan Murphy, whose father left Igris in 1907 and mother left Volcani in 1912, finally settling in Saint Paul where they married;
  • John Omorean, whose paternal grandparents left Petrovasila in present-day Serbia in 1928 and settled in Canada before their son John moved to Saint Paul;
  • John Sarafolean, whose paternal grandfather came from Sannicolau Mare around 1909 to work at Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, later sending for his wife and children and moving to Wisconsin and finally South Saint Paul;
  • Joseph Stoi, whose father Timo Stoyanov arrived in the U.S. before 1920 when he enlisted in the Army. His grandfather August Sekosan came from Nagy Torak in present-day Serbia in 1914; and
  • Phillip Toconita, whose paternal grandfather came from Sannicolau Mare around 1911 and worked for the Northern Pacific Railway Company in Saint Paul.

The documentary premiered on September 27, 2014 and you can read more about the event and sponsoring organizations on these pages. Copies of the DVD and Blu-ray disc are also available for purchase.

E-mail questions or comments to romanianimmigration@gmail.com.

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