In 1914, Avram Dragan moved from Romania to Cleveland, Ohio, where his sponsor lived. He came to America with only thirty dollars and a proficiency in English–within five years he became a naturalized citizen. Avram Dragan had a considerable advantage over most of the immigrants who came to America with only five dollars and limited understanding of English.
Elizabeth Dragan, Saveta to her loved ones, arrived in New York via Ellis Island, in February 1921, on the USS Chicago with her two female companions. In serendipitous coincidence, Elizabeth was sponsored by the same family that had sponsored Avram. At the time sponsors were required to send letters as proof of sponsorship that they would house and support new immigrants into the country until they could do so for themselves. Joseph Bota and his family sponsored both Elizabeth, Avram, and many others from the Hunedoara section of Transylvania. Betty Dragan calls them heroes for their support and generosity.
The three young women were a highly unusual trio because at the time single women did not travel together alone to a new life without a husband, brother, or father waiting for them in America. The arrival of three single Romanian women spread quickly through the community and within days Avram and Elizabeth met at the Bota household. The young couple immediately fell in love and within six months they were married.
They settled in. Avram purchased a truck and began a moving company. He did well and started buying properties for cash. He eventually bought the largest house and considerable property back in his home village in Romania. He visited the village with his wife in 1928. However, after WWII the property was seized by the communist government and was lost permanently to the Dragans.
Elizabeth Dragan acquired a job working in a bakery. According to her daughter, “this job taught her how to be a wonderful baker the rest of her life.” Whenever the local priest had dignitaries, like the Archbishop, in town, he would have Elizabeth prepare the meals, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.
After despairing that they would never have a child, Elizabeth gave birth in 1938, after seventeen years of marriage. The Romanian Orthodox Church and Romanian newspapers heralded the birth of Elizabeth Ann, Betty Dragan, a miracle. Betty recalls thinking she was adopted until she saw the photo of her mother very pregnant with her. She laughs now saying, “I never knew I was never adopted.”
This exhibit was donated by Betty Dragan in hopes of preserving her parents’ memory and that all may enjoy the unique story of immigrant life in 1920’s.