My grandmother and father, just after arriving at Ellis Island, 1914
My father, originally named Dimitru Fritea, arrived in New York in 1914 with his mother. They were escaping Romania and the turbulence of pre-World War I political unrest. They were looking to begin a new life. My father had four older siblings, and my grandmother planned to send for them when she raised enough money.
Unfortunately, three years later would find my father an orphan. His mother died during the Spanish Flu epidemic and my father was taken in by his junior high school track coach at the age of 12. My father, then called “Don Fridae” eventually made it to Miami of Ohio on a track scholarship, and, (of all things) became an English Grammar teacher.
In 1974, I had the amazing opportunity to made a trip into Communist Romania. We were given only a two-week visa. That trip into one of the most restrictive countries at the time became my first major writing project. For me, it was a trans-formative experience and I wrote about it in a short book I called “Pilgrim Notes.” You can read that memoir here:
As a part of this trip, I will revisit many of the people I met in 1974 and try to get an idea of how things have changed and, perhaps, how I have changed in my perceptions since then.