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Bragadiru Family Legacy

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Dumitru Bragadiru took alcoholic extract on credit from the Greeks and ended up as Romania’s second rich man. His descendants today have to recoup properties worth millions of euro.

He began as a shop assistant at the age of 12. He took alcoholic extract on credit from the Greeks and got rich on trading it during the Independence War. In early 20th century Romania, Dumitru Bragadiru founded the second largest fortune after Cantacuzino – Nababul, laid the basis of social policy and influenced the economy of Bucharest. Had he been born in USA, his would have been Bragadir, and today his legend would represented Hollywood’s embodiment of the American dream. Dumitru Marinescu Bragadiru was born in 1842, in Romania, in the family of Marin, a poor and honest shingle splitter who had a „swarm of children”. His story, despite having left its mark on an entire epoch, was sentenced to 50 year of forgetfulness by the Communism, and is now struggling with the dusty democratic bureaucracy. Bragadiru’s offspring have to recuperate real estates worth Euro 400 million only in Bucharest. Dumitru Marinescu – who, later was to take on the name Bragadiru, from the piece of land he had bought – after graduating from the elementary school was employed by Iancu Stefanescu, “alcohol trader and confectionary owner near White Square”. The priest was the one who recommended him to his employer: „He is a strong man, and is not afraid of work”. In the beginning, Bragadiru carried water with the yoke for Stefanescu’s alcohol shop and, shortly after, became the employer’s right hand. The latter made him his partner and used to leave him in charge of the shop when away, on holidays. One of Bragadiru’s descendants, Yvette Fulicea, today has decided to reveal the family folklore: „Stefanescu, before going on holiday, had advised him no to buy alcoholic extract from the Greeks in case the occasion occurred, as they still had plenty of it. Bragadiru though, had the vision of a future alcohol crisis that was to start during the Independence War. He therefore, took alcohol on credit from the Greeks and got rich by selling it to soldiers and hospitals, during the war.” In 1866, Stefanescu passed the entire business over to Bragadiru. Better than the German beer producers Bragadiru was 35 during the Independence War, when he started laying the foundation of his huge fortune. On the piece of land he had bought in Bragadiru village, he built an alcohol manufacture, a town hall, a school and a church. After that he bought a 10 ha piece of land between Rahovei Avenue and George Cosbuc Boulevard, where he later, built the third beer factory in Bucharest, strongly competition against the only beer producers of the time: the Germans Luther and Oppler. The chronicles of 1901 show that Bragadiru’s factory had state of the art equipment and produced over 3 million liters of beer, as compared to only 2 millions produced by the German market competitors. Bragadiru donated 2 ha of his land to the town hall to build today’s George Cosbuc Boulevard and paid for the building of the first telephone in Romania with telegraph poles linking the Bucharest factory to Bragadiru estate. Milk and horn shaped rolls for the workers’ children Bragadiru has never forgotten what was like to be poor. He used the 10 ha he had bought close to the Metropolitan Church and the Rahova neighborhood, to ensure his workers a decent living close to the working place. Inside what we call today, the Rahova Beer Factory, there were the homes of the employees, the family home, the Colosseum with a cinema hall and a ball room (Bragadiru Palace), a bank, stores, a bowling room to entertain the workers. The employees’ children each day, received milk and corn shaped rolls for their effort of going to school. The employees had paid vacation and benefited from social insurance. Sunday, was the workers’ day off as their employer thought they needed to rest. He kept away from politics Bragadiru married Matilda Schwartz, out of love, in 1868. They had seven children: five girls and two boys. Schwartz died at 35 of scarlet fever. In 1894, Bragadiru remarried Sofia, the widow of German Luther beer producer, whom he divorced shortly after. Bragadiru refused to get involved in politics, despite numerous offers to run for the Lower or the Upper House. He was also offered the position of Communication Minister, but he turned down the offer, preferring to go on handling his business and charity works: he sent numerous students to study abroad, in an attempt to create a social class of young people specialized in commerce, agriculture and horticulture. Communism replaced his name with Lenin’s Bragadiru died in 1915 due to a cardiac arrest. Following his death, the family fortune was, for years, kept together by his eldest son, Dumitru. During the war, Bragadiru family members spread over several continents and this is how the Communist regime took them by surprise. The ones, who did not flee Romania, have been thrown out of their homes while others have been put to jail. Today, 10 fingers are enough to count the family descendants leaving in France, Switzerland, USA and Romania. The Communist dictatorship erased Bragadiru’s name from the factory’s frontispiece and turned the Colosseum into the Lenin Culture House. Bragadiru owned almost 40 buildings in Bucharest and a few other estates near the capital city: in Bragadiru, Varteju, Chirca, Popesti Vlasca, Clinceni.

The family’s properties in Bucharest have been estimated around Euro 400 million. The Colosseum and the area around it have been said to worth Euro 26 million. The land under the Bragadiru beer factory is worth Euro 80 million, the Scala building downtown Bucharest values Euro 14 million. Bragadiru family also claims 110,000 sq. m. of land under the Marriot Hotel and the Ministry of National Defense headquarters, which is worth at least Euro 100 million. The family members are also claiming agricultural land and woods in Ilfov, Bacau, Vaslui and Iasi counties, and other properties in the cities of Brasov, Sinaia, Braila, Turnu Magurele, Constanta, Craiova, Galati, Giurgiu, Ramnicu Sarat. No property has been restored in any of the above mentioned locations. The factory was supposed to be turned into a Mall, but ended up in ruin The Bragadiru beer factory was privatized in 1998, although the former owner’s family had made their claims public in 1994. On grounds that at that time, there was no legal ground for the restitution in kind of the factory, the State Property Fund (FPS) back in 1999, cashed almost Euro 700,000 US dollars from buyer World Trade Center Management Romania. The 10 ha land under the Parliament’s House today, is worth millions of euro. The investor, at that time, undertook to invest US dollars 1.3 million to turn the factory into a mall. As it did not comply with its duties, the Authority for Recouping State Assets (AVAS) claimed this was sued to cancel the privatization. The factory is now bankrupt. „Bragadiru family is currently involved in a trial against the owner of the ruins who, at night tears down pieces of the factory’s walls in order to have a reason to build something else in their place. Until now, only the former Colosseum was restored to the family. It was a courageous gesture of the former Bucharest mayor, Traian Basescu, who signed the restoration, in kind, of the building. The same mayor has also signed the documents to restore the Scala and the Ciclop buildings, but there are still six more trials to be held until their final restitution.

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