We have suffered several tragic losses recently: two veteran members of the Society Farsarotul from New York -- George Gecca and Christy (Kiciu) Balamaci -- and one of our longtime Directors from Bridgeport -- Constantine (Cociu) Jombur, who was also a very active leader in the Society Perivolea. With their passing, we have lost an extraordinary wealth of knowledge about our community; their dedication, their wisdom, and their enthusiasm are simply irreplaceable. Between them, they experienced the history of our people over the last century, from the twilight of the Ottoman Empire to the devastation of World War II, including our great odysseys to Romania and America. This editor was privileged to know all three men; my only consolation is in the wonderful memories they left behind. I remember having fun with lali Kiciu on those rare occasions when my father took me along to meetings of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers' Union in downtown hotels. I remember George Gecca coming to our apartment on my father's name day -- which happened to be my name day as well -- and laughing, singing, and telling jokes in his own inimitable way. I remember lali Cociu preparing the delicious lamb kebap every year at the Society Perivolea picnic; all Pirvuliatsi love their native village, but lali Cociu loved Perivoli more than anyone I know. We already miss the three of them terribly. Dumnidza s'la liearta.
We welcome with great pleasure the following new members:
We have a new address for all correspondence: The Society Farsarotul, 799 Silver Lane, P.O. Box 753, Trumbull, CT 06611. Please note this change in your own records.
The first recording in our language has emerged from Yugoslavia, and we were privileged to receive a copy from our compatriot Naum Colakovski, who leads the very active Vlach Association of Australia. The cassette is entitled simply, "Vlach Popular Music," performed by Risto Pulevski and the Krushevo 1903 Orchestra (the Vlach village of Krushevo, currently in Yugoslavia, was the scene of a famous uprising against the Ottoman Turks in 1903 -- the rebellion was crushed savagely, but it is still remembered not only in Krushevo but throughout Yugoslavia). The songs include Pilistera munti analtu (The Tall Mountain Peristeri), Mita Capidanlu (Captain Jim), and Dispartsarea ali surarli (The Parting of the Sisters). These are all traditional songs, and though there is nothing particularly striking about their performance on this cassette, the very appearance of the cassette is a good sign for our people in Yugoslavia.
The Society Farsarotul gratefully acknowledges the following donations made to our scholarship fund:
--Lucia Krista, in memory of her brother, Nick Balamaci
--Gina Lity, in memory of Vasil Lity.
In 1984, Native Americans held their first Gathering of Nations, which they call a powwow. Only 3,000 people attended. But the Native Americans have continued to hold these festivals every year since then, and in 1990, the seventh annual Gathering of Nations drew 30,000 people from throughout America. This celebration of pride and culture features dance, song, arts and craft sales, awards and prizes, and even religious ceremonies. The New York Times reported the experiences of a 26-year-old Cree woman who attended the powwow; we quote here from the Times to show the similarity between the Indian experience in America and the Arumanian experience in the Balkans:
"When we were young we were told to hide our Indian roots." She remembers the day 16 years ago when her family moved to Yakima, a city where most of the inhabitants are whites, from her birthplace in the village of Debden, Saskatchewan, where most inhabitants are Indians.
"I was sitting at the table and I asked my mother in Cree to pass me the butter," she said. "She reached across the table and popped me in the mouth, and she said, `Don't you ever talk that way. These people won't understand you. They will make fun of you.'"
But the days when Indians sought that kind of cultural assimilation are gone, [she] said. "Now we are assuming another identity," she said. "We are finding some pride in our culture and our religion. Now our songs and our dances are being taught to our children with respect, unlike 30 or 40 years ago."
Note: In the same year that Native Americans started their Gathering of Nations (1984), the Vlachs in Greece began holding annual festivals celebrating Vlach culture.
Many years ago, we were very happy to discover a New York City-based organization that was dedicated to learning and preserving traditional music and dance in America. Way back then, this nonprofit group was called the Balkan Arts Center; they have since expanded their repertory and interests to include ethnic groups outside of the Balkans, and they now call themselves the Ethnic Folk Arts Center. It is an amazing experience to walk into a studio in New York in 1991 and meet people who not only know exactly who the Vlachs are but who know our music and dance far better than we do. Contact them at 131 Varick St., Room 907, New York, NY 10013; phone (212) 691-9510.
Elizabeth Perkins, grand-niece of our own Steve Tegu, continues her successful career in Hollywood. Following up her acclaimed performance with Tom Hanks in "Big," she appeared in the Barry Levinson film "Avalon" and can now be seen opposite Kevin Bacon in "He Said, She Said."
The Society Farsarotul is offering a new Financial Award for scholars and professionals engaged in serious study of our people or of Eastern European Latinity in general. There is an announcement in this issue -- please read it and pass it along to anyone who may be interested.
This Editor was honored recently when he was invited by Princeton University's Program in Hellenic Studies to present a paper on the Vlachs at a conference entitled, "Class, Ideology and Identity in Modern Greece: Comparative Perspectives." Soon after the conference was announced (along with the title of my paper, "Ethnic Group or Nation? Thoughts on Vlach Identity"), the Greek nationalist newspaper published in America, Ethnikos Keryx (National Herald) came out with a strong editorial against my paper -- without even having seen it! Despite the National Herald's warnings of "hidden dangers," the conference came off well.
The Society Farsarotul's 87th Anniversary Dinner Dance was held on November 10, 1990 at Liedle's in Stratford, CT. A good time was had by more than 150 people who attended. The food was spectacular, and everyone enjoyed the video presentation of the drama "Golfu," which Bill Balamaci provided and kept running throughout the evening. There was, as always, a lot of traditional music and dancing, but once again we were weak on American music and dance. We will rectify this by hiring a band with a strong American repertory next time.
Our administration changed recently. After four years, Bill Balamaci has stepped down from the Presidency. More than anyone else, Bill deserves credit for the revival of the Society Farsarotul, which had almost ceased to function when he took it over. His vision and his enthusiasm drove the Society forward, changing it to adapt to the changing American environment. We are fortunate to have the benefit of his wisdom and experience in his new position as Treasurer. We thank him for his dedication and hard work.