The View From Dunrovin: Immigrant’s hard work at Lolo ranch erased skepticism

Daniel and Monica Birluts in America.

By SuzAnne M. Miller

My July 6, 2011 letter to Carroll College on Daniel Birlut’s behalf says it all:

“It is a great pleasure to write a letter of recommendation for Mr. Daniel Birlut’s application for admission to Carroll College. Daniel has been employed as the Ranch Property Manager for Dunrovin Ranch for the past two and one half years. He has been an outstanding employee during that entire period and we hate to see him leave Lolo to relocate in Helena where his wife had secured employment with the state of Montana.

“I have been a supervisor of many employees during my career in natural resource management with the state of Alaska, and I have rarely encountered such a capable man. Daniel’s natural intelligence, strong work ethic, honest and reliable character, and easy going manner made him the ideal employee for our ranch. His duties ranged from taking care of a herd of twenty horses, designing and constructing new facilities and buildings, meeting arriving guests, cleaning accommodations, cooking breakfasts and dinners, planning for special events, bookkeeping and payroll accounting, taking photographs for marketing purposes, developing a computer network, developing software to process return mail surveys, designing and writing the code for our web site, trail clearing, and guiding guests on expeditions.

“Daniel is truly a “jack of all trades”; he is unafraid to tackle any task, committed to excellence in all he does, and is very quick to teach himself any new required skill. He will be sorely missed by Dunrovin Ranch, and I would heartily recommend him for any position to which he aspires. Daniel would be an excellent student at Carroll College.”

My initial hesitancy to hire an immigrant nearly caused me to miss the tremendous business benefits of Daniel’s labors and the joys of our friendship with both him and his wife, Monica. I wasn’t sure that someone nearly straight off the plane from Romania would fit in with my guest ranch operation. How would he interact with guests? Could he be gracious to everyone who walked through our door? Did he have the confidence to work independently without constant supervision? Would I be able to effectively communicate with him? I had lots of questions rolling around in my mind.

His job application indicated that he lived very near the ranch, which was the primary reason I was interested in him. However, when I called him, he told me in his very broken English that he and his wife had since moved to Missoula. Nonetheless, I thought “in for a dime, in for a dollar” and asked him to come out for a personal interview.

He and Monica arrived in matching bright yellow University of Michigan sweatshirts. She did nearly all of the talking, assuring me that he was a “very good worker.” He was quiet and diffident, but as we walked around the ranch, I saw his eyes taking notice all of the little things that needed fixing: a rail on a fence, a missing hinge on a door to a shed, a disconnected section of a roof gutter. I decided to give him a try and asked him to come out on a trial basis.

It was immediately apparent that Daniel was a man who knew hard work. He so impressed me that after only one week, I offered him the job full time.

The next Monday when Daniel was to report for his first day of permanent employment, he arrived with tears in his eyes telling me that his parents had been in an automobile accident in Romania and that his father had died and his mother was hospitalized. He had to go home. He didn’t expect the job to wait for him. He could be gone for as long as a month. But by that time, he had made such a strong impression on me that I assured him the job would wait and we would welcome him back.

While Daniel worked at Dunrovin Ranch, Monica studied accounting at UM and graduated in 2011. Soon after, she was offered a full time position with the State of Montana in Helena, and the couple moved. During their first year in Helena, Daniel commuted to Montana Tech in Butte to earn a degree in civil engineering, worked full time for the grounds maintenance crew for the state capital, doing much of his work late at night, and secured a bank load to purchase land and build a beautiful new home in the north Helena Valley. Whew, it exhausts me just writing about their accomplishments in a single year.

Today Daniel is a certified civil engineer for the state. Monica passed all of the exams needed to earn her CPA and now works as an auditor for the state. They became US citizens in 2010. How could Montana ask for more productive, engaged citizens than the Birluts from Romania?

SuzAnne M. Miller
SuzAnne M. Miller

I doubt the Birluts are unique among immigrants. The drive to succeed, the commitment to support families stuck in areas of the world less fortunate than ours, and the courage to begin entirely new lives propel many immigrants to undertake the daunting challenges of becoming US citizens.

The Birluts have more than answered any questions I once had about hiring immigrants. They have enriched my life and my business with their presence and hard work. I have no doubt that the immigrants following in their footstep will be equally beneficial to our communities.

SuzAnne M. Miller is the owner of the Dunrovin Ranch in Lolo. Her column appears regularly in the Missoula Current. Visit her websites at www.DunrovinRanchMontana.com and www.DaysAtDunrovin.com.