Profile of a Roerich Enthusiast: Don Croner, Our Hero of 2009
When we began the marathon drive in the spring of 2009 to raise money for and accomplish the work of restoring the Roerich House in Mongolia, and get the house at least to a state where we could open the doors on the Dalai Lama’s birthday of that summer (July 6th), we had two great strokes of luck.
The first was that the professional restoration artist Vedran Bolfek joined us as a volunteer supervisor of the work crews, and of course also worked tirelessly himself with hammer and nail. Vedran ran several different work crews, some simultaneously, often working from early morning until long after dark in order to try and have things ready for our scheduled July 6th opening. Somehow he succeeded.
The second stroke of luck was that Vedran brought the American Mongolist Don Croner on board as publisher extraordinaire, and during the spring of 2009 Don published a half dozen books by or on the Roerichs. Don’s blog, “Don Croner’s World Wide Wanders (see http://www.doncroner.net/blog.html) has become almost legendary with enthusiasts of modern Mongolia, and his support and involvement with Roerich House Mongolia was a great inspiration to all members of the Roerich Society in Mongolia.
Don began by publishing three books in cooperation with and for us (well, in reality out of his admiration for the Roerichs, and in order to help the success of our Roerich Mongolia project). The vehicle was his Mongolian publishing house, Polar Star Books. The three were:
1. Shambhala, by Nicholas Roerich (in English);
2. Heart of Asia, by Nicholas Roerich (in English); and
3. The Foundations of Buddhism, by Helena Roerich (in English).
In addition, he also published a Russian edition of the Helena Roerich book on Buddhism. Helena had in fact written this book in Russian during the winter of 1926-27, while living in the house in Ulaanbaatar that we were now restoring. Her book had originally been published in Mongolia during the spring of 1927. Given that Mongolia had at the time already been under Communist rule for half a decade, this was quite a feat on her part.
Don and his Polar Star Books also published a small catalog of Roerich House Mongolia, with articles in both Mongolian and English. This was much appreciated on the opening ceremony of July 6th 2009, at which former Mongolian president Ochirbat came as chief guest of honor.
The saga continued a month later, when the great Tilopa Tulku (Delov Hutaght) generously consented to be the first featured speaker at our newly opened Roerich House Mongolia during his summer visit to Mongolia. This young US born lama is the present head of Buddhism in Kalmukia; but even more importantly, he is regarded as the reincarnation of the great Telo Lama, one of Mongolia’s three greatest incarnate lamas. The former Telo had escaped the Communist killings of the 1930s, and made his way to America, where he died in 1967. Thus he was the first lama to reside in the USA. He had been instrumental in bringing over the Kalmukian lama Geshey Wangyal, and thus helped to create America’s first Tibetan Buddhist centers.
Don turned up the heat in his publishing company when he learned that the Telo Lama would be in the country and would teach at Roerich House. He quickly brought out a new edition of the long out-of-print English translation of the autobiography and political memoirs of the former Telo Lama, and presented a copy of this work to the present incarnation when the latter visited Roerich House Mongolia in late July, several weeks after our opening.
Because of this great contribution, Prof Bira, president of the Roerich Society of Mongolia, formally presented Don with the award “Shambhala Hero.”
To view a video on Telu Tulku’s visit to Roerich House Mongolia, click on the following link:
—– Glenn Mullin, Oct 18, 2011, Chicago