Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec at the Celebration of 143 Years of U.S. – Romania Relations

U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec delivers remarks at the Celebration of 143 Years of U.S. – Romania Relations. October 19, 2023, Sinaia, Romania. Photo: Daniel Angelescu / Casa Regală

October 19, 2023

Your Majesty,

Your Royal Highnesses,

Minister Odobescu,

Minister Bucura – Oprescu,

State Secretaries,

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the U.S. Mission to Romania, I want to thank Your Majesty and Your Royal Highnesses for your invitation to celebrate, together with our Romanian invitees, 143 years of U.S.- Romanian diplomatic history. Celebrating is one thing. But celebrating at Castelul Peleş, where our common past still echoes to this day, is a singular privilege. I doubt any of us will soon forget your hospitality or this magnificent setting.

Şi sunt foarte recunoscătoare doamnei ministru al afacerilor externe şi doamnei ministru al muncii și solidarității sociale și invitaților noștri că şi-au făcut timp să ni se alăture aici, având în vedere responsabilităţile pe care le implică funcţiile dumnealor zi de zi, chiar minut cu minut. După cum și doctorul recomandă, este bine să avem șansa să respirăm aer curat de munte, din când în când.

You may be interested to know that Eugene Schuyler, our first envoy to Romania, had lunch with King Carol in these very halls in September 1881, even before Peleş Castle was formally inaugurated. He returned on a number of occasions, including the following year to present to the King, at the nearby Foişor hunting lodge, his official credentials as U.S. Minister to Romania.

Since Schuyler was not just a diplomat, but also an acclaimed author, it was natural that he fell in with Romania’s literati. That very much included Queen Elisabeta, herself a poet, whose pen name was Carmen Sylva. I know Carmen Sylva’s artistic spirit still animates this house. When they first met in 1881, Schuyler was impressed by the Queen’s directness and amiability; they spent a long time discussing literature. She had read Schuyler’s book about his travels in Turkestan, and he her poetry. Through the Queen, Schuyler gained entree into an intellectual circle that included the critic Titu Maiorescu — a future Prime Minister and Foreign Minister — as well as the poet Mihai Eminescu.

Although Schuyler often complained to his wife about Bucharest’s high rents, muddy streets and backbiting politicians, he was, from the beginning, a supporter of a strong and independent Romania. He was frustrated by his difficulty in arranging for a congratulatory letter from President Garfield to be delivered in time for the new King’s coronation — eventually having to settle for a brief telegram on the eve of the ceremony. Schuyler did locate a large American flag to fly from the second floor of Casa Capşa, the home of the first U.S. mission to Romania, when the official procession down Calea Victoriei carried the King and Queen’s crowns to the coronation ceremony. The atmosphere, Schuyler wrote, was “very gay…the decorations exceedingly pretty.” The U.S.-Romanian relationship was off to a fine start.

Another frequent visitor to Sinaia was U.S. Minister to Romania Charles Vopicka. In those years, the royal court would relocate in the summer to Sinaia. So, in turn, would the diplomatic corps. Vopicka, a Czech immigrant and wealthy supporter of President Wilson, had a distinct fondness for the Hotel Caraiman — which is still operating today. Vopicka was, in the eyes of some, a nouveau-riche businessman unsuited for the formalities of that era’s diplomacy. But without Vopicka’s insistent advocacy for the Romanian cause, and his determination to see out the war alongside the King and Queen in Iaşi – at times in dire circumstances — the U.S. might not have sided so readily with Romania at the postwar Paris Peace Conference.

Like many others, Vopicka was thoroughly captivated by Queen Marie, whom he described in his memoirs as “an angel to the wounded soldiers, the orphans, the needy and the suffering people…[who] discussed politics with the King and the ministers, and many times gave advice which brought great benefit to her country.” As you can see, Romania has long benefited from the leadership of strong and intelligent women.

I would also like to make mention of another remarkable figure, one very dear to our hosts. King Mihai played a multitude of roles, encountered many challenges, yet stood firm in his duty always. His bravery in 1944, in facing down Marshall Antonescu and turning wartime Romania back towards the Allies, is only the most famous example. Burton Berry, the senior U.S. diplomat based in postwar Bucharest, observed that even as Moscow tightened its grip on Romania, “the prestige of the King was higher than it had ever been, probably because he has become a symbol to his people of Romanian sovereignty.” In exile, King Mihai’s determination to see Romania overcome communism and rejoin the community of free nations remained unwavering. He never lost faith in the cause of Romania. And in the King’s meetings with U.S. Presidents from Truman to George W. Bush, he never failed to inspire.

Your Majesty, even today you are busy inspiring Romanians to connect to the rest of the world through commerce and culture, promoting closer ties for Romania in every corner of the globe. You remind Romania and its traditional partners, like the United States, of our common commitment to freedom, the rule of law, the rights of the individual, the dignity of women and men. Perhaps there were times when we did not fully live up to our shared ideals. But you and we never gave up on them, or on each other.

Astăzi, parteneriatul nostru strategic este mai puternic ca niciodată. Aşa cum doamna ministru Odobescu poate să confirme, avem mereu consultări asupra celor mai importante probleme ale momentului. România este un membru de încredere al NATO, asigurând securitatea flancului sud-estic al Alianţei. În condiţiile războiului din Ucraina la graniţa României, mii de militari americani, bărbaţi şi femei, sunt aici alături de colegii lor români. Împreună, cele două ţări ale noastre lucrează cu vecinii României pentru a păstra liniile de aprovizionare deschise şi pentru a menţine tranzitul cerealelor ucrainene, astfel ca milioane de oameni departe de zona de război să nu îndure foamete. Între timp, România a primit cu braţele deschise refugiaţi din Ucraina, cu ceai și cozonac. România a stat alături de Moldova în momentele grele şi i-a susţinut activ aspiraţiile europene.

Totodată, ţările noastre au dezvoltat relaţii din ce în ce mai strânse şi din alte perspective. Schimburile comerciale bilaterale s-au triplat doar în ultimii cincisprezece ani; numărul companiilor americane care operează în România s-a dublat, până aproape de o mie. Oameni de ştiinţă, profesori şi cercetători români au obţinut poziţii importante la universităţi din Statele Unite; specialişti americani se implică în proiecte de inovare şi independenţă energetică aici, în România.

In short, it is a breathtaking time, with both challenges and opportunities for our continuing common endeavor: the U.S.-Romanian bilateral relationship. We are well past the good beginning that Eugene Schuyler and King Carol forged 143 years ago. I know today’s generation of Romanians and Americans, and the generations that follow, have many more brilliant chapters to contribute to this enduring partnership.

Once again, thank you, Your Majesty and Your Royal Highnesses, for hosting us here today.

Vă mulțumesc!