marți, 21 octombrie 2014

The migration of Transylvanians to America (1900-1914)

I recently read the book Romanian peasants’ uprising in Ocna Sibiului against land consolidation in the spring of 1914”, in which I discovered some interesting facts about the emigration of Romanian peasants from southern Transylvania (including my great-grandfather) in the early twentieth century to America.

Some relevant paragraphs are presented here to you:

"The number of temporary Romanian peasant emigrants from Transylvania to America, from the end of XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, was so big that they constituted a social phenomenon of remarkable importance to recorded history."

"Conversations of Romanian peasants on Sundays and holidays, gathering, forming groups in front of their houses in the years immediately following World War I had two major themes: memories of the war and stories from America. For in each group there were 2-4 people, depending on the size of the group, who had been to the New World once or twice."

(About my grant-grandfather): "Once the possibility became clear that one could earn more money in America, Lazar LUCA decided quickly. He had to wait only until he raised the amount needed to pay the train and the boat ticket. And so, in 1903, he left for the first time. The second time he left in 1909. For the first time, he remained in America for two years and a half, the second time three years. To raise as much money in possible in as little time possible, he took the hardest jobs. He worked in factories as industrial worker, but was engaged in construction works leading cement to conveyors most of the time. The latter was the highest paid job for unskilled workers and working time was extended by four additional hours over the normal eight".

(About my grant-grandfather): "After the first trip to America, upon his return to Ocna Sibiului, he bought a yard including an old house covered with straw, and built instead a brick building covered with tiles with three large rooms. This building is still in use today. He built a brick barn and bought a few plots of fertile land. After his second return, in 1912, he bought other parcels of land and reached a sustainable life as a peasant."

"The number of Romanians in America at that time was estimated at one hundred thousand. Almost all were peasants. Unmarried Romanians did not get married in America, because their intention was to return home as soon as possible after gathering a comfortable amount of money. And actually, most of them were already married in Romania."

"The wages of migrants moved between 20 and 40 cents per hour, adding up to about $ 2 to $ 4 per day. Payment was made every two weeks, usually on Saturdays."

"There are many cases when the money was handed over for shipment to small agencies, and sometimes these ghost companies disappeared after collecting larger amounts. Many immigrants, therefore, brought the money they raised home personally."

"It is no exaggeration to say that by 1912 Romanian immigrants in America sent home almost 8 million dollars."

Dan LUCA / Brussels

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