Andrzej Romer ’49

19 September 2018

Class: 1949

Major: Government

Residence: Brussels B

Deceased: July 8, 2018

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  • 2018-09-20 14:55:08
    Kayla McGrady

    Obituary from daughter Anna L. Romer: ROMER, Andrzej Tadeusz (1921, Cytowiany, Lithuania-2018, Brussels, Belgium) graduated from Carleton in June 1949 Andrzej immigrated to the US in August 1948, with an acceptance to Carleton College and $200 in his pocket (exact amount unknown). He was a Polish Lithuanian 27-year-old, a stateless refugee due to WW2, living then in England. He had a baccalaureat from a Polish gymnasium (private university prep high school)in Poniewiez/Panevezys (Polish name/Lithuanian name of the town) in Lithuania which he graduated from in June 1940.The very next day the Soviet troops marched into Lithuania putting an end to its neutrality and marking the start of the war for him. He was not able to enter the University of Vilnius as planned "application rejected on the grounds of improper social origin" i.e. privileged class. So instead, he was able to study at the Institute of Commerce at Siaulais for a year, until they became aware of his social origin there and kicked him out. Wartime led to a very different existence with changing fronts, he worked for the Soviet department of Communications, because it was federal agency, so they wouldn't know of his social origins in Moscow. He learned all sorts of survival skills in that position, and then a year later, in June 1941 his parents along with some 200,000 others were deported to deep into the Soviet Union. Within a week, the fronts changed and the Germans occupied Lithuania. His wartime survival included working for the Polish resistance, working for a fish distribution center where he could trade fish for anything, becoming an adept forger of documents, which allowed him to move westward toward the end of the war as the Soviet front approached, to avoid being "liberated" by the Soviets. When he ended up in England, the US was his first choice but the quota system would lead to a ten year wait, so he did some research and discovered that farmers were a priority and if you could pass the farming exam, you could immigrate soon. Having grown up on a self sufficient estate, he studied and passed the interview and got an immigration farming visa, even as he simultaneously applied to and was accepted by Carleton College and Columbia University. He chose Carleton, figuring that New York would be swamped with refugees, just as England was. When he arrived at Carleton at the start of the 1948 -1949 school year, he went to the admissions office where he met with a Mr. Kleinfelter "who very kindly asked me about my past, interests and how I heard about Carleton. And the truth came out, they thought I was of the rich foreigners and had money , and they learned that all I possessed at teh time was just 200USD! " Andrzej was told to take a walk and come back in three hours-- when he returned he was told that the Mr. Kleinfelter had been to President Larry Gould to discuss his case and Andrzej was told that they admired his courage to come all the way from Europe with a one way ticket and no money. They proposed an arrangement: they would keep his 200 USD to go toward his tuition, and if Andrzej was able to make satisfactory grades, he would earn a tuition waiver. They gave him a job working in the kitchen three hours a day, an hour at each meal time, to earn his board, and found him a room with an elderly lady in town who needed a lodger to buy her groceries and shovel the snow in winter. He entered as a junior, because of his European education. "My year at Carleton was wonderful. After so many hard war years in Europe, for the first time I felt I was living in a free country, among young and friendly people. I didn't have to worry about tomorrow and I was studying! I had to work hard. Getting up every day at 5 am and working practically non-stop until 8am was not easy and there were days I would fall asleep in the first class. Nonetheless the results were satisfactory. ...Toward the end of May, I received an invitation to tea with President Gould. This in itself was an honor. President Gould said he had been observing me [Andrzej was one of only 4 European students in a student body of 1500] and was very satisfied with my work and progress. He proposed another full year at Carleton, but with a full scholarship now, or if I preferred, they would let me graduate two weeks later. Being already some six years behind in my life career I immediately chose the second alternative. As an unexpected bonus, President Gould arranged for me the admission to the Graduate School at the University of Michigan, including a tuition scholarship. Thank you, Carleton!" [These are direct quotations from his journals.] These unexpected events, the personal care and caring that many people at Carleton showed my father led him to a long and interesting life. He met his first wife and mother of his three children, Nancy Hewlett, when they were both graduate students at the University of Michigan, where he got a masters in Political Science. They married in 1952. They lived first in western Pennsylvania where he was working at a small machine shop, and their first child was born there. He loved driving and discovering this new country and in 1954 became a citizen. Andrzej was ambitious and always interested in politics, international relations, people and the world. He found work in New England at Precision Methods and Machines, later T. Sendzimir, Co. in the mid 1950s. Andrzej became vice president of this engineering firm run by Tadeusz Sendzimir who invented new processes that transformed the steel rolling mill industry. Andrzej worked in several companies in this field, eventually moving back to Europe in 1970, after divorce, to restart a life in Brussels, Belgium, where he lived to the end of his life. He remarried Renia Czarnocka in 1971 and worked for Waterbury Farrell, its Belgian affiliate until his retirement. He was a citizen of the world, traveling to brass and steel mills the world over to consult and advise. He described his most satisfying days as in retirement, when he re-established his mother, Zofia Dembowska ROMER's reputation as a painter in post Soviet Eastern Europe. In 1989 and then the early 1990s, he revisited Lithuania, and made contact with museum curators, found his mother's paintings which had been deposited with museums for safekeeping during the war, and worked with local curators and art historians to organize retrospective exhibitions of her work-- first in Kaunas and Vilnius, in Lithuania and Warsaw, Poland. Eventually, he also organized exhibits in Rapperswill, Switzerland and Cairo, Egypt. He also worked to edit, both of his parents' journals and to published them as books, in Polish with illustrations, a real gift to his family. He also worked with the Polish historian Ewa Palasz-Rutkowska, sharing his original research for the doctorate which he never completed, to publish a historical review, in Polish(History of the Polish-Japanese Relationship 1904-1945): Pałasz-Rutkowska E., Romer A. T. Historia stosunków polsko-japońskich 1904–1945. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo TRIO, 2009 (first edition: Warszawa: Bellona, 1996). They also published a journal article in English together: Pałasz-Rutkowska E., Romer A. T. Polish-Japanese Co-operation during World War II. Japan Forum, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1995, 285–317. Both his former wife, Nancy and his second wife Renia died in 2013. Andrzej was an engaging extrovert who drew people of all ages into his orbit, who loved to travel, loved history, reading and story telling. He is cherished and mourned by his three children and six grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews spread around the globe.

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