The “Romanian Patriotic Mission”, which was sent by the Great General Headquarters of the Romanian army to the United States, in April 1917, in order to convince the authorities in Washington of the need to organize a Legion from the Romanians residing in the United States failed in its main objective. However, this did not mean that the unofficial Romanian delegation, comprised of priests Vasile Lucaciu, Ioan Moța and lieutenant Vasile Stoica, ceased its activity in the United States.
In 1917 and 1918, the “Romanian Patriotic Mission” carried out an intense activity in the United States, in support of the union of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania, which further inspired the activities of the Romanians living there. The Romanian delegation established links with the largest Romanian communities in the United States, namely those in New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Trenton, Detroit and Cincinnati.
Vasile Lucaciu wrote that “We visited almost all the important centres inhabited by Romanians on US territory and everywhere we went there was great enthusiasm”.
The mission also organized popular gatherings in Cleveland, Youngstown, Trenton, Boston, Baltimore, and Chicago, where the number of Romanians was higher. On every occasion, the oratorical talent of Vasile Lucaciu captivated the audience, showing exceptional energy for his old age. Through his speeches, Vasile Lucaciu determined a significant number of Romanians to enlist in the American army to support the Romanian cause.
Vasile Lucaciu said, in September 1917, in front of the Romanians gathered in Michigan that “The clock has sounded and we must understand the calling of the times. So far we’ve suffered and spoke out against our oppressors. They did not listen to us. Now is the time for the people themselves to seek their own justice and national rights.”
The activities of the Romanians living in the United States concerning the union of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania intensified in 1918, with the establishment of the first Romanian Legation in the United States, led by the Plenipotentiary Minister Constantin Angelescu. During a meeting in Indiana Harbor, when he was asked what prompted Romania to enter the war on the side of the Entente, Angelescu replied: “The fight for the unification and for the four million Romanians about to be denationalized.”
In this context, a meeting of Orthodox Romanians was organised in Youngstown (March 9-10, 1918), where it was decided to establish a Romanian Orthodox Episcopate in the United States, which would be under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Ungro-Vlahia in Bucharest.
“National League of Romanians in America”
The activity carried out by the “Romanian Patriotic Mission” in the United States led to the publication of numerous brochures, maps, articles, books on the history of Romania, to support the achievement of national unity of all Romanians. As a result of these efforts, in 1918 several associations and organizations were established in the US, in order to support the Romanian cause. The most important association of this kind was the “National League of Romanians in America”, founded in June 1918, in Washington, at the initiative of Vasile Stoica. In addition to this association, other local organizations, such as the “National Committee”, headed by Vasile Lucaciu’s son, Epaminonda Lucaciu, a priest in Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, or the “War Aid Association”, led by Paul Negulescu, who also published the bilingual magazine “Romania”, were also set up.
The “Mid-European Union”, an organization established in the US in September 1918 to negotiate territorial disputes between the different nationalities of Austria-Hungary, also gave a helping hand to the Romanian cause. The organization was headed by Thomas Masaryk and had as members two representatives of each nationality from Austria-Hungary, the Romanian side being represented by Nicolae Lupu and Vasile Stoica.
Mihai-Octavian Groza, Proiecte privind crearea Legiunii Române din America și propaganda în favoarea unirii Transilvaniei cu Regatul României (1917-1918) [Plans concerning the creation of the Romanian Legion in America and the propaganda in favour for the unification of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania], in the “Sentenția” magazine, no. IV, Târgu Jiu, 2013.
Major-general (r) dr. Mihail E. Ionescu (coordinator), Românii în Marele Război. Anul 1917. Documente, impresii, mărturii [Romanians in the Great War. The year of 1917. Documents, impressions, testimonies], Military Publishing House, Bucharest, 2018.
Gelu Neamțu, În America pentru unirea Transilvaniei cu România [In America for the union of Transylvania with Romania], SC Dagerom Impex SRL Publishing House, Cluj-Napoca, 1997.
Translated by Laurențiu Dumitru Dologa