Romanians embrace American life in Nebraska 

For some people, making a big move means moving across town, or perhaps even to another state.

But Dorin Vaipan's big move meant packing up his worldly possessions and moving halfway around the world from Romania to Hastings.

Vaipan and his family made the nearly 6,000-mile trip in 2003 not for money, he said, but because they wanted to become Americans. It was a family decision made by Vaipan, his wife, Simona, and their two high school-age sons.

"They really understood, like pioneers, if you come here and start over on the other side of the globe, you better be ready before you leave," he said.

Today Vaipan serves as the administrator of Perkins Pavilion and Villa Assisted Living for Good Samaritan Village. He and his family are living the American life all the way.

"We gave up a lot to do this," Vaipan said of moving to America. "That said, we embraced the change and we really wanted to do it."

And that started almost the moment the family stepped off the plane.

Case in point: To prepare for their first Thanksgiving in America, Vaipan asked his new friends and co-workers for advice about the festivities, including how to buy and cook the turkey.

"When they saw that I was so concerned, they said, 'Dorin, just get one with a pop-up button that will tell you when it's ready,'" he said with a laugh. "I said, 'Really, you have a turkey with a pop-up button? No kidding.'"

Vaipan's sons, who started as a freshman and senior at Hastings High School in 2003, have since graduated and both earned mechanical engineering degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Vaipan was born in 1960 in the Transylvanian region of Romania to a radiologist and a high school math teacher. As someone who loved mathematics, Vaipan said, going into medicine just made sense for him.

"The challenging part was, how do you deal with suffering, the emotional part, the pain?" he said. "There is no formula for that."

So after years of schooling, Vaipan became a medical doctor with a dream of becoming a hospital administrator. While being a hospital administrator in the U.S. doesn't require a medical degree, Vaipan said, people expect it in Romania.

He started out in family medicine and became an emergency room officer before earning a master's degree in health management.

It was Vaipan's knowledge of conversational English, much of which he learned from watching American movies, that made him a high-demand doctor, translating medical terminology for patients and doctors.

"It was active translating in the ER or the operating room and being able to assist with surgeries. That was a very active, hands-on type of translation," he said.

As the issue of public health became more important, Vaipan decided again to expand his knowledge, earning a masters degree in public health in the Netherlands. But upon returning to his homeland, Vaipan said politics had changed and his colleagues weren't interested in having him around.

Vaipan said he turned to God for direction in his life. "I start praying and said, 'God, show me a way to serve you.'"

A short time later, Vaipan said, he received a call from someone he had met in the Netherlands who had been invited to speak at a conference in the U.S. about the future of public health. The organizers also were interested in having Vaipan come and speak about the future of public health in eastern Europe.

So in June 2002, Vaipan traveled to the University of South Dakota and spoke before 500 administrators, managers and corporate office staff with the Good Samaritan Society. He was so impressed by Good Samaritan and the services it offered across the country that he asked whether he could apply for a job. He interviewed while still in South Dakota, then returned home to discuss his idea with the family.

"I said, 'It's a different language, but you speak English. You have to fight for yourself. I cannot go to school on your behalf. You have to go to school. You have to do your homework.

"'Do you want to embark on this road?' And they all said, 'Yes.'"

In the months before the move, the Vaipans sold their apartment, their car and many of their possessions to prepare for the trip.

In order to save space in their suitcases, the Vaipans got off the plane at Omaha's Eppley Airfield on a hot summer day wearing shorts, T-shirts and their winter coats.

Vaipan said he believes his family's success here has been because they have wholeheartedly embraced their desire to be Americans.

"We are not foreigners that just moved abroad," he said. "We moved here because we wanted to be Americans."


Information from: Hastings Tribune;

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