Immigrant Heritage Month Storyteller: Nicolai Salgau

Posted on June 3, 2024

by Mely A

Immigrant Heritage Month held each June, gives people across the United States an opportunity to annually explore the unique story of America.

The letter below is a part of a Welcome Toledo-Lucas County (TLC) story telling series, bringing to life first-hand accounts from immigrant, refugee, and diverse community members, who call Toledo and Lucas County, home. We celebrate their contributions, especially this Immigrant Heritage Month, an annual celebration of our nation’s shared immigrant heritage and cultural diversity.

We are glad to share stories that show how our diverse local communities enrich our daily lives. It’s time to celebrate immigrants!

Immigrant Heritage Month Storyteller: Nicolai Salgau

Dear Toledo,

I am Nicolai Salgau, the owner of Salgau Roofing, founder of the Salgau Foundation, and the Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas. I am profoundly honored to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Toledo Library for their esteemed invitation—enabling me to share an account that is deeply meaningful to me: my journey as an immigrant. Additionally, I appreciate being included in Welcome Toledo-Lucas County’s celebration of June as Immigrant Heritage Month. This narrative encapsulates both my personal and professional experiences; it is a reflection on the path that has shaped who I am today.

I was born in Romania, and from a very young age, I attempted to escape the grips of communism. My initial efforts were unsuccessful, but ultimately, when I had the chance to secure a visa for America, I seized it with great determination—hopeful for a brighter future for myself and my prospective family.

In 1996, I arrived in New York City with only 25 cents to my pockets and no proficiency in English. However, I was resolute in my mission to survive and find my place. My early days involved spending nights under bridges or inside an old car until my travels brought me to Cleveland briefly—and eventually led me to Toledo. Indeed, sweet Toledo! It was here in East Toledo that I found what felt like home for the first time since leaving Romania. The community’s warmth welcomed me graciously; they offered shelter and assisted me as I sought employment. Even now, many years later, I remain grateful, especially indebted to Bart, who gave me not just an opportunity but also guided and supported me during those challenging first months. This generosity of spirit profoundly impacted my life, helping light a path during some incredibly disorienting times as a newcomer adapting amidst an entirely unfamiliar world.

I began my career in the roofing industry, and after two years of gaining valuable experience, I established Salgau Roofing. The journey to founding and maintaining my own business has not been straightforward; it required diligent work, a strong desire for success, and motivation driven by providing for myself and others. Now, 26 years later, I am proud to lead Salgau Roofing, a small yet dependable company that prioritizes trustworthiness and quality over quantity. My achievements would not have been possible without the supportive environment provided by Toledo—this community has played a crucial role in our sustained success.

In the year 2000, I was honored to welcome my son, Nicolai John James, into my family. Five years later, in 2005, I had the immense pleasure of adopting my daughter, Seana Jean Marie. Recently, I have embraced the delightful role of grandfather to Knox Nicolai. It is with considerable pride that I acknowledge having achieved my personal interpretation of the American dream.

In the previous year, I had the privilege of establishing the Salgau Foundation, an entity dedicated to serving children. At present, we are underway with renovations to enhance our facilities and anticipate providing a comprehensive update on our projects by the close of this year. East Toledo has always been dear to me; it is through this foundation that I aspire to extend opportunities not only to children in East Toledo but also those further afield—opportunities designed to nurture their potential and pave the way toward enriched lives. The Salgau Foundation commits itself fully to guiding young individuals by fostering values such as trust, honesty, and diligence. Our goal is for them to sculpt their aspirations and encounter role models who can offer both inspiration and encouragement.

It is with great honor that I announce my role in facilitating the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in East Toledo this year. As someone who has been deeply influenced by a devoutly Orthodox upbringing, I am dedicated to fostering and maintaining the profound values of Orthodoxy among those in our community who presently lack a designated orthodox place of worship in East Toledo. Grounded in the core principles of faith, tradition, and morality inherent to Orthodox Christianity, my efforts will be focused on promoting these tenets. Our aim is to cultivate an environment imbued with grace, warmth, and love—a sanctuary where individuals are encouraged to grow spiritually and morally.

I have consistently expressed my deep affection for East Toledo, a community that holds significant personal and professional milestones for me. It is here that I purchased my first home, celebrated the birth of my son, welcomed my daughter through adoption, and established my business. Observing the current conditions in this part of town evokes a profound desire within me to contribute to its revitalization. Motivated by both dedication and vision, I am unequivocally committed to impacting positive change in East Toledo because I firmly believe in its potential for renewal. This initiative represents a heartfelt expression of gratitude towards the city of Toledo and its residents who provided me with opportunities to realize my dreams.

With love and respect,

Nicolai Salgau

This project was led by Betsy Rose Ujvagi, our very first Immigrant Heritage Month story teller, and Chair of the Immigrant Heritage Month Storytelling Committee.

About Welcome Toledo-Lucas County (TLC):

Welcome TLC, housed at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, is a cross-sector network of community partners, including the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, and the Human Relations Commission of Toledo. Welcome TLC’s mission is to build a more welcoming and inclusive community for immigrants, refugees and people of diverse cultures that supports a vibrant civic, economic and social fabric for all.

Led by Welcome TLC, Lucas County achieved the national designation as a Certified Welcoming community in 2019, and a redesignation in 2023. The City of Toledo achieved the designation in 2022, making Toledo and Lucas County the first city and county to be certified together.

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