Martisor winner from Romanian sister city shares experiences from Rockford visit

Martisor contest winner Diana Matei at a Rockford RiverHawks baseball game. Photo provided

Editor’s note: For the past couple of years, the Romanian Sister City Committee under the direction of Ramona Cornea, Ph.D.,  has coordinated a spring event called Martisor with the Romanian Sister City of Cluj-Napoca. Martisor is a traditional Romanian celebration of the coming of spring.

Cluj-Napoca is a city in Transylvania with a population of approximately 380,000. It has been a sister city of Rockford through Sister Cities International since 2005.

This year’s Rockford Martisor event was at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford in February. Winners of the event—two sophomores from Cluj-Napoca high schools, Diana Matei and Todor Oltean—were rewarded with a trip to Rockford in July.

What follows is the English translation of an article by Diana Matei that was printed in Romanian Meridian newspaper about her experiences in Rockford. For more photos of Matei and Oltean’s visit to Rockford and the United States, visit

The visit to the United States of America, Rockford, Ill.

July 2010

By Diana Matei
Winner of the Martisor Contest

What I have experienced there, on the other side of the world, was unforgettable, and I was left with memories that I will cherish forever. I have always dreamed about travelling to the United States because of the American movies which illustrate another world, a new world. This is the reason why I want to thank the ones who came up with the idea of the sister cities (Cluj-Napoca and Rockford), and especially to those who thought of organizing the “Martisor” contest, which makes known this Romanian tradition. Through all these, I have gained an entertaining, interactive and educational experience.

I had the great honor to meet only good-natured, kind and lovable people there in USA, and Ms. Ramona Cornea, the one who received and hosted us in her house, is an extraordinary woman, and I will always think about her with love and respect. Every day we were visiting memorable places, and we were learning new things.

The other winner, Tudor Oltean, and I visited a lot of places, like: art museums, the village and the tomb of the great American president, Abraham Lincoln, two typical American campuses, William Charles landfield, the Starved Rock, the biggest aquarium in the world, a Japanese garden (Anderson Gardens), golf and baseball games, a typical American wedding, a non-profit organization that helps the young children, two capitols, a fire station, malls and American restaurants, different cities and monuments, the famous Windy City, Chicago, three states (Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa), and last, but not least, the Sister Cities Garden in Rockford. We also sailed on the Mississippi River and on Lake Michigan.

I have compared Romania with the United States and, in my opinion, Romanians should improve their behavior and their line of thought. What I really love about America is the optimism, confidence, calmness and the kindness of the people; things which are essential to fight, to survive in any situation. Unfortunately, these qualities are missing from some Romanian people perhaps because of several adverse periods from the past in Romania.

Consequently, I can call this trip to America a life experience, an experience which has helped me a lot, because both parents and friends noted me as a more ambitious and calm person who looks at the future with more confidence since I have come back from Rockford. These are some very important things that everyone needs to learn about, and I was lucky to have this opportunity of learning a lot about life on the other side of the planet.

Therefore, congratulations to those who organized the “Martisor” contest, for the opportunity for the students to visit another “world” through art and creativity. I’d like to thank Ms. Ramona Cornea, the Rockford Mayor Mr. [Larry] Morrissey, Mr. Chuck Howard, Mr. Greg Hansen, Mr. Kerry Knodle, Ms. Monica Simionescu, Ms. Ana-Maria Soleanicov and to all those who supported the activity of the Sister Cities Program. Thank you a lot, and please forgive me if I have some English errors in my essay.

Sept. 4, 2010, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

From the Sept. 8-14, 2010 issue

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