Peter Georgescu was attending grade school in Bucharest and his father, a Standard Oil executive, was with his mother on a business trip in New York when young Peter's world fell apart. It was 1947 and the Iron Curtain was descending on Romania. The Communist authorities put 8-year-old Peter and his 13-year-old brother, Constantin, to work in the labor camps and would not allow their parents to return. For seven years, the boys stayed with their grandmother and spent their days digging up potatoes, cleaning sewers and doing other menial tasks.
Freedom came in 1954, when President Eisenhower helped win the boys' release and the family enjoyed a reunion in the U.S. The young brothers were cast from the Romanian work camps into the world of American celebrity as anti-Communist heroes. With a translator at their side, the two appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Today Show and in newspapers across the country.
After learning English, Georgescu threw himself into his studies, moving from Phillips Exeter Academy to Princeton to Stanford business school, where he remembers debating with classmate and fellow Eastern European import Andrew Grove, co-founder of Intel. Georgescu says his immigrant experience helped shape an outlook his colleagues describe as relentlessly optimistic. "As immigrants, I think we see the opportunities and the possibilities of this country. The freedom of the individual is so great. You see that clearer as an outsider. Americans see the problems. But to an immigrant, the possibilities are far grander than the problems." Over the years, Georgescu and his wife have supported many refugee relief organizations and educational programs.--JV