By Rebecca Davis for Narratively narrative.ly/meet-your-maker/the-liberty-factory/
Ever since Ovidiu Colea first heard about the Statue of Liberty during a Radio Free Europe broadcast to his native Romania, he dreamed that one day he might be able to see it with his own eyes and experience the freedom it represented. In 1958, at age eighteen, he attempted to sneak out of the country by swimming across the Danube River into Yugoslavia. He was captured on the border and put in a labor camp for five years. In 1978 he was granted a visa to come to the United States, where today he is one of the last remaining manufacturers of the Statue of Liberty models supplied to Ellis Island and dozens of the souvenir shops in New York City. His company, Colbar Art, which is based in Long Island City, Queens, employs mostly immigrant workers. In recent years the pressure to relocate production to China and elsewhere has been strong, but he has insisted on keeping his company here in New York and hopes to pass the business on to his son.
Rebecca Davis is a video journalist based in New York City. Her work focuses on social issues, community programs, the arts, and unique New Yorkers.