Diplomatic twist strands teen, a Romanian-Texan, in Germany

January 28, 1993|By Fort Worth Star-Telegram

SOUTHLAKE, Texas -- Three years ago, Romanian violinist Carmen Rosu-Nicolescu, 15, came to a summer music camp in the United States and defected, transforming what was to be a brief visit into an indefinite stay.

Now, the State Department appears to have turned the tables on the young musician.

The Texas high school graduate landed in Frankfurt, Germany, on Christmas Day for what she thought would be a short holiday with the family she had not seen in nearly three years.

But officials at the U.S. Embassy in Frankfurt denied Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu's application for a return visa, saying her parents, who left Romania in an attempt to join their daughter here, no longer have a permanent address.

Now, the 18-year-old world-class violinist is languishing in an apartment near Frankfurt, grateful for the extra time with her parents and two younger brothers but anxious about possibly missing the spring semester at Southern Methodist University. She is determined not to panic over this latest twist in her turbulent young life.

"I'm trying desperately to get back, desperately but calmly," she says.

She's getting plenty of help, primarily from members of the Southlake and Keller Rotary Clubs, who made the young artist's welfare a project soon after she arrived in the area.

Now, those Rotarians are marshaling their forces to get her back here.

Ed Kelley, a Southlake Rotarian who took Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu under his wing almost immediately, says he regrets that the country the determined young musician embraced so eagerly seems to have turned its back on her. "We opened all these doors, then all of a sudden, we closed [them]," Mr. Kelley says.

The doors began to swing shut the moment Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu stepped on board an airplane headed out of the country. Under U.S. law, her departure threw into question the status of the original student visa she carried, which allowed her to remain here temporarily.

Once in Germany, Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu had to reapply for a student visa to return.

This country gives student visas only to applicants who appear certain to return home when their studies are completed, says Gary Sheaffer, a spokesman for the State Department's bureau of consular affairs.

"If the consular office has a strong indication that the person has no intention of returning, by law, they cannot issue a student visa," Mr. Sheaffer says.

In Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu's case, it may be her parents' lengthy quest to join her in the United States that caused her problems.

The family emigrated to Germany two years ago but has not been granted permanent asylum. As far as the State Department is concerned, members of the family have no permanent address, no home for their daughter to return to when she graduates.

Mr. Kelley and the other Rotarians are pinning renewed hope on Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu's grandfather, who remains in Romania, living in the home the entire family once shared. Mr. Kelley says they will try to convince State Department officials that his home is Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu's permanent home.

Since Mr. Kelley received Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu's desperate call from Germany a week ago, he and a group of allies have notified a senator, Rotary officials, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (a spokeswoman there said the matter is in the hands of the State Department), an immigration attorney and virtually anyone they've ever met who has relatives in Germany. Keller Rotarian Jan Moore even offered to adopt Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu but was told she is too old.

They're willing to try anything, Ms. Moore says. "There's bound to be an avenue out there," she says.

Sen. Phil Gramm's office is aiding in the search, says spokesman Larry Neal. But Mr. Neal concedes that it won't be easy. "We're constrained by the limits of the law, but within the limits of the law, we're going to do what we can," he says.

Mr. Kelley says he realizes that to State Department officials, Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu is merely one person among the thousands clamoring to enter this country. To government gatekeepers, "She may not be any different than anybody else. But we think of her as being special," he says.

When she unofficially defected -- she never formally sought political asylum -- from the country then under communist rule, Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu spoke no English, had few belongings and knew no one.

Since then, she has moved to Southlake and lived with several local families, mastered English, graduated from Carroll High School, wowed audiences with her violin virtuosity and won hearts with her engaging personality. In the fall, she entered SMU with a scholarship to the school's music program.

All of which makes her current problem all the more painful. "After you work hard and get settled, they kind of throw you out. That hurts," Ms. Rosu-Nicolescu says.

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