By Emily J. Minor
BOCA RATON — Dr. Stela Tudoran, a longtime ear, nose and throat doctor in Boca Raton who began her career in the United States after escaping communist Romania with her 4-year-old daughter in 1968, died Feb. 20 after a brief illness. She was 81.
Born Dec. 5, 1935, in Arad, Romania — close to the eastern border of the former Yugoslavia — Dr. Tudoran practiced medicine under the Communist Party in Romania before packing very few belongings, taking her little girl and escaping with doctored papers into what is today Serbia.
Her husband, Gregory, joined them in Italy a few weeks later after hatching his own dangerous escape plan.
At the time of her death, the couple had been married 54 years.
“She was a very strong woman,” Gregory Tudoran said. “She had courage to go through such danger.”
For Daniela Tudoran, today a dentist in Boca Raton, that mother-daughter journey almost 50 years ago has always been part memories, part family lore.
“I do remember her praying and praying,” she said.
According to daughter and father, Dr. Tudoran and Daniela traveled as another man’s wife and daughter — altering the photos and stamps on the family’s non-Romanian passport to look as though they were a family. Daniela, of course, was too young to realize she should not speak. Not one word.
Her Romanian jabbering would have blown their cover.
So her mother gave her a sleeping pill. “[Stela] was so worried because [Daniela] slept for so long,” remembers Gregory Tudoran.
As it turned out, when it was their turn to be questioned, a skirmish with other travelers diverted the guard’s attention and Dr. Tudoran and Daniela slipped through without questioning. Gregory Tudoran said his wife always believed that stroke of luck was God’s work.
Once in the U.S., the family settled in Chicago while Dr. Tudoran worked on her American medical training and residency.
In 1976, after visiting Florida, the couple opened her medical practice in Boca Raton. Except for a short time in Pompano Beach, they’ve always lived in Boca Raton.
Daniela Tudoran said she remembers the professional challenges her mother faced when she joined the local hospital staffs in those early years.
“She had to change in the nurse’s room,” Daniela Tudoran said. “She was a foreigner. She had an accent. And she was a woman.
“People weren’t always very nice to her.” But her patients were devoted, and they loved her, Daniela Tudoran said. Although she stopped doing surgery about 10 years ago, she was still seeing patients, her husband said.
In addition to Dr. Tudoran’s husband and daughter, a son-in-law and four grandchildren survive her. Daniela Tudoran said the only thing her mother loved more than her patients were her grandchildren.
Services were Feb. 25. She was interred at Boca Raton Cemetery & Mausoleum.
The family asks that memorial donations be given to First Care Women’s Center, 3965 Jog Road, Lake Worth, FL 33467 or Boca Raton Community Church, Romanian Missions, 470 NW Fourth Ave., Boca Raton, FL 33432.