Tracing my Romanian roots Episode 01 – Jeremy Barcan

The Romanian people have suffered a lot over time, and history has shown that not only wars can lead to mass migration, but also religious or political disputes.


The wars

Before the First World War, because of the precarious economic situation in Romania at that time, in 1913, 120.000 Romanians left to America, and in 1920 the share of emigration had reached about 168.000 people. With the outline of the new borders after the First World War, many Magyar Romanians migrated to Hungary, and between 1926-1936, over 70.000 citizens left Romania, and mostly to the American Continent.


The population of Israelite religion, living in the eastern part of Hungary, which after the First World War was to be ceded to Romania, numbered 182.489 souls, according to the dates since 1910, and 192.833 souls, according to the dates in 1930. 


In the interwar period, Romania had, by size, the third Jewish community in Europe, after Poland and the USSR. The historical episodes carried out in the following years have radically impacted the existence of this national minority, a minority that has contributed to Romania's economic, institutional, and cultural modernization. In 1930, Romania had been home to 756.000 Jews. By Antonescu’s decision to cease deportations, the Romanian regime is responsible for systematically murdering at least 250.000 of the Romanian Jewish population, and the end of the war only about 375.000 remained, surviving the horrors of the war.   


Following the massive emigration after the Holocaust and with the establishment of the Israeli state, the Jewish population continued to diminish, and thus, the people of northern and southern Transylvania, which after the war numbered about 80.000 souls, would halve until 1952. Nowadays, the Transylvanian Jewry counts only a few thousand souls.


The communist era

After the Second World War, the total population of Romania was almost totally increased during the communist period, to decrease again, exponentially, with the events of December 1989, due to the changes that have affected the political system in Romania, changes that led to the emergence of new regulations, which favored the free movement of person, when over 60.000 youngsters left Romania.


The communist regime, established in Romania after the war, guaranteed by the Constitution the emancipation of all ethnic groups. In reality, the antisemitism, which was usually forbidden by law - has taken on new forms, and most Jewish people were removed from their functions.


Between 1959 and 1989, the Romanian state sold almost 200,000 ethnic Jews, for whom Israel paid significant amounts in foreign currency, agricultural products, but also various other benefits.


The fate of the ethnic Germans in Communist Romania was also sealed. When the communist regime in Bucharest noticed that many of them wanted to return to Germany, it realized that in this context, it is possible to flourish a profitable business. During the communist dictatorship in Romania, over 225.000 German citizens settled in the RFG. The Regime received redemption from the federal government, and the amounts became known after declassifying bilateral agreements between the two states.


Returning home

Our ancestors have sacrificed for children and grandchildren, who emigrated in the hope that they will know better times and many of them left with only their clothes or a single suitcase but have always kept Romania in their hearts.


Although Romanians who went abroad naturally felt the need to recreate their native lands in the adoptive countries in the most faithful way possible, over the years, many people decided to start searching for their roots.


Today, many returns to commemorate the memory of their families or to visit the grandchildren and the rest of the relatives remaining in Romania, but also to find the family's native places. Their emotional stories warmed our hearts and made us want to embark on this adventure together, to find their old homes and places of birth of their ancestors.


The first one is Jeremy’s, one of our wonderful guests who came back to visit the birthplace of his family.


“My name is Jeremy Barcan, and I have recently visited Romania, focusing primarily on the city of Iasi, the capital of the region of Moldova, in the northeast part of Romania. I was born in Israel to Romanian parents and later emigrated to the United States, where I live in California.

My mother and her father were born in Iasi, which had a prominent Jewish history until World War II. Many Jewish artists and writers came from Iasi, and the Jewish community thrived there. As a child, I heard so many stories about Iasi that I felt compelled to pay it a visit.

I had tears in my eyes because I felt as if I was reliving my mother and grandfather's Romanian history with all the sights and sounds they described to me in my childhood. By immersing myself in this experience, I fulfilled one of my dreams and reconnected with my family's past.”


Like Jeremy, many of our guests have shared their wonderful stories and are looking forward to coming back to Romania to learn more about their family’s past.


We are happy every time we hear a new story, and we are excited to follow in the footsteps of the past and trace our guests' roots!


See you in episode two!


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