What I Have Learned From James Wilkie
I grew up in the Maramures region, ROMANIA, where I have my first memories from. The region was much nicer, ethnically more diverse, better climate, and more geographic diversity, with the Mountains of Gutinul and the rivers of Iza and Tisa, as Tisa was the natural border with the Ukraine.
When I reached 10 years old, I had to make a fateful decision for may career, and choose between study Russian or English languages. I choose English. And I chose English.
I was admitted to the University in Cluj, in the heart of Transylvania, namely the American Language and Literature –Romanian Language And Literature Department of Philology. The Boljay University Is considered the Best University in Transylvania.
The professors, started reading the mounds of new Decrees every day, which made me laugh, and staff of the university was suspicious of me not believing their “expose” in the classrooms. Professors were trying to befuddle us with words from a wooden language, totally bent toward twisting our brains into confused submission. Teachers,Professors, acting as Securitate officers, and acting as sweaty bureaucrats, and Eagle minds trying to tell us what to think. Not one professor asked us: “What do you really think, all of you?”
Each professor had their favorite students, and made sure they pointed this out in class, stifling any competition, and were showing openly their favoritism or nepotism. This certaily alienanted a lot of my colleagus, myself included) from studying the Indian language, especially.
When I reached 22 years, I started being argumentative, and started criticizing professors, esp. the history professor. I was getting so sick at academics yelling at us, and being forced to do the military service as a woman in the academia. After all, Americans were coming to take away our socialist country. We were doomed by being taken over by foreign powers, especially the Americans. Sic! The russians have been directing Romanian politicians since 1947!
As awfull as it sounds I learned the hard way and bought my books from the black market.
The North of the country was slightly disconnected from the South, and foreign language material was hard to get by. We couldn’t buy books in English, and I was an English major.
The DONTS I had to go threw were impossible. E.g.: We couldn’t talk to foreigners, and the atmosphere was dreadful in classes. Speech was not free; one couldn’t argue in class, or make any real analysis or debate. You had to regurgitate what they were telling you, and read whatever was there in the old books stacked in the communist library.
I was an English major, but could not get the books in English necessary for the Exams. They did not exist. Talking to foreigners in English or answering one question was a crime, according to a stupid decree. Abortion was a crime for 20 years. Doctors performing it ended up in jail, and so did the pregnant women. 5 years jail for an abortion. If my uncle from Canada visited us, we were all under surveillance, the entire family. Even today, in 2014 one has to go and declare if you have family visiting from the USA or CANADA for some bizarre security reasons. Well after 22 years, not much has changed in poor Romania. Corruption is ominous; security officera run the so called privatization, and are planted in key position; I call them the vampires debauchery!
Nobody underwent this in my class.
I had been a professor of Romanian and English in Sighetu Marmatiei, Maramures County, at School #2. It was very exacting commuting all the time from Tisa where I lived in our private Museum (Pipas Museum of Art) to Sighet. So, finally, after teaching for 10 years, I decided to leave in 1986, and traveled to the border, as well as paid a smuggler to take me through Yugoslavia. We were caught on the border and sent back in 1984.
The jail was so cold in Timisoara to keep the bacterias and viruses that it made everybody sick internally with the cold and the flue. Most of civil society was imprisoned, for trying to open the system, and denounce the Ceausescu dictatorship. The blanket was as warm as a Kleenex tissue. Moreover there were no pillow, and the concrete slab where inmates slept was a back-breaker. The lights were on 24 hours a day, blinding all of us, and there was constant observation. We were awakened hourly to be counted, and the Romanian hymn was sung every morning! All under the guise of watching out for suicides. But everyone could be clearly seen by the guards, and there was no need to sleep-deprive inmates, as they were doing. There was also someone in the higher echelon ripping off the food bill. They served only baby carrots, and spicy beans.
My poor mother was so confused by the propaganda, that she started crying when I was freed from jail, feeling very emotional after the death of the nation’s father, Ceausescu.
Fed up with all the restrictions, and full of frustrations, I hit the border with Yugoslavia.
I have been unfairly jailed as I tried to leave the country in 1986. I was ready to give up my freedom, just to escape an impossible country, with impossible leadership.
In 1989, Ceausescu finally pardoned everybody who tried to escape the horrendous conditions in the country.
The first act of freedom I have performed it was to secure a passport for myself. And got married to Valerian Pipas, a famous violinist from Virismort, Tisa in Maramures county. Otherwise the consulate would not have given me the visas. Conditions were one had to be married, and own a house. Truly I enjoyed being married to a musician; he played the violin and I danced tango and csardas in weekends.
I have been teaching English in Sighet, Tisa, and Giulesti, as well as Camara for another 10 years. Conditions were absolutely horrific; no heating in schools, no teaching material, and constant harassment from colleagues of being informed on.
After I met Jim, in the city of Sighet, I decided to finally leave Romania, well after an execution squad shot the Ceausescus in December 26, 1989 for Christmas. Such a nice gift to the Romanian people.
When the regime changed in 1990, I was free to get a passport, and Organized Conferences and Seminars at the University of Babes-Boljay, in the heart of Transylvania, as well as with James Wilkie, we have opened a PROFMEX office in Moscow, headed by Boris Koval. I went so far and invited also Mihai Coman, the Dean of the Romanian University I graduated. We then opened an office in Budapest, and invited over our Hungarian PROFMEX rep, Istvan Balazs.
I was mostly writing on destatification and privatization of Romanian companies. 51% of MARA, the textiles company I researched was finally sold to the Germans. The opening up of Romania to the world has finally begun. And so did my eyes open with having met James W Wilkie on a beautiful day of September 16th, in 1990.
It was on a rainy September 16tth day, in Sighet. Shortly after I have met James Wilkie, and James Platler, the two American professors from UCLA, I realized I had to and I was meant to see the world.
The two professors were doing a study on the effects of the Cold War in post-socialist countries.
I stated my observations and my truths to James Wilkie, as I saw a kindred spirit in him the moment I have first talked to him. Many of my thoughts were very valuable to Dr Wilkie, who then asked me to guide the academic group through Eastern Europe.
The academics were traveling in a German Opel (a U.S. made car). I took them to the Museum of my friend, D-ra Mihaly de Apsa, in my hometown, Sighet. We then went to the Merry Cemetery, the unique “happy cemetery” in the world.
I’ll start by explaining the places I went in 1991, mainly one of the most beautiful part of Romania, through Pasul Prislop. We then continued and went together around Romania, visited the monasteries of Moldova, C-lung Moldovenesc, Suceava, Sucevita and Agapia monasteries. Then we went to Lacul Rosu. We took the scenic road to Cluj Napoca, where I was trying to get the plane in order to fly out to Paris, in France. I had all the visas. But there was no flight. Nobody took credit cards at that point in Romania. James Wilkie taught me what CREDIT was.
I fell in love with Jim Wilkie. After this I am going to call him JW.
I was deeply in love with James Wilkie, whom has hired me as a guide.
He said: “call me Jim”. We finally left for Budapest after the airport visit in Cluj Napoca. We got through Budapest, finally, and then got out towards Austria and Germany.
Dr James Platler, Jim’s colleague was worried that I was a spy, which is because everywhere we went, we received special private rooms, and great Hotel deals, plus good lunches at the Monastery, where I was a good friend with the Mother Superior.
But, after reflecting on the situation, James decided to help me get out of Romania. In Budapest I obtained the Austrian visa, where I needed a simple transit visa. James Wilkie had tremendous confidence. He was irradiating confidence.
After, getting the Austrian visa, we next travelled to Kobentzl, overlooking Salzburg, in Austria talking about the global economy. We even spent most of our time down Salzburg city, taking pictures, and JW was teaching me constantly economics, how the world of development worked: finances, credit, and interest. JP had more faith in me than ever.
Then we went to Munich, where we celebrated Oktoberfest.
I have decided to stay in the West that is in France. I had my family friends waiting for me. I took the plane to Paris, from Munich, to fly out to Bordeaux to meet the family, which invited me to France. JW had to go back to teach. He promised he would return for me soon. I was already missing James W., hardly had he disappear from my sight at the Paris Airport when we separated that year, in 1991.
After ten weeks in Bordeaux, JW came to visit me. After one year in France, in Paris, I was refused asylum in France. The national security Bureau headed by a Gris guy (security officer) was constantly menacing me…with turning me back.
JW returned for me and arranged with Gerard Chaliand so that security won’t meddle constantly in my life, and I could leave for the United States, moving towards freedom faster than ever imagined by me. It was a very wonderful fall, in Bordeaux, so we drove to see all the castles along the Loire River.
The 1st trip was to and along the river of LOIRE; we left in September, and came back in December. Then we went to Paris, and visited the Versailles, Champs Elysee, the Montmartre, and Montparnasse. We had everything to ourselves, and then we went to the beautiful port of Marseille, while listening to the PASTORALES, and exploring the beautiful green lands of France.
In Marseille we stayed at the Sofitel, JW was overlooking the Bay, into the icy cold town. And we went to the COTE Azure. We stayed at Hotel Welcome. Then rode over the serpentined Cornish roads, overlooking the Mediterranean, Cap Ferrat, and Monaco. Then Jim W. had to fly out to teach again, and I flew back to Bordeaux, where I took numerous courses in European Union Regulations for the environment, and sustainability. I was deeply in love with James.
In Bordeaux France, 1992
Life with the nuns in Bordeaux, France, the city of Red Wines, was excellent The mother superior took me to Toulouse Lautrec’s castle, and swam in the Atlantic ocean. Then I flew to meet Jim in NICE, in 1992.
It is now another beautiful stay at WELCOME, in Beaulieu sur Mer.
James came back 10 weeks later, when getting a break from UCLA teaching. So, the second time together, we travelled to Carcassonne, a fortified city, through Andorra (a gambling center, in the Pyrenees’) Mountains. The Principality of Andorra was rich and ostentatious with baroque buildings. We stayed at La Rochelle, a beautiful Bay, nested in the mountains.
Then entered into Spain, toward Madrid, and stayed at Hotel Paris for a week, in the center of Madrid. We were studying the Spanish cultures, and later, I had a great background in the Peninsular thinking of the Spanish conquistadors. Major Spanish cities are named after in Mexico.
In Toledo, we enjoyed the charales in the main plaza. Morelia, in the state of Michoacan reminded me of Toledo later on.
We left to Toledo, the town of knives, and then headed to the town of Trujillo. In Trujillo we went and took pictures while walking on the red roofs of houses, perfectly lined up for us to walk.
I took great pride that I was free and nobody minded my business for the first time in my life. I could walk on the roofs of many tiny houses, around the main plaza.
Jim and I, we were only taking care of one another.
We went up to the Devil’s Throat (a town deep in a canyon, tucked into the mountains) to continue up in the mountains, and then went down to a walled town of Avila, to Trujillo, and continued to rainy Madrid.
Then we headed toward El Escorial, the monastery, and then JW flew out of Madrid. I took the plane to France, and in Bordeaux I joined the nuns again, and continued my studies of Folklore at the University of Bordeaux, where I was writing about the mythical Lilith.
To paint it in a picture of words, I am flashing out the pageant, of that beautiful Catholic Church, as we went down from La Rochelle, along the clean river, where we called to make reservations in a pretty tiny hotel, ahead and we found a room with a high ceiling warm and cozy.
Out of many, Switzerland is my favorite European country; its majestic mountains and the rivers impressed me.
Monte Rosa’s Peak and Matterhorn were absolutely fabulous, left us breathless, and the chalet Michabell was looking down on Italy. The view out of the window was that of Matterhorn Mountain in Zermatt.
I enjoyed the lovely scenery in Luzern, and Interlaken, with the beautiful lake with little bridges leading up to the center, all dressed up in geranium flowers. Multicolored geraniums flowers were hanging out from each houses’ window. The beautiful trip is to go up on a chairlift (teleferico) to wheel you up over the meadows, seeing cattle and, magnificent glorious view of the Swiss Mountains, and the peaks. It is a very gentle and slow trip.
In 1991 in summer I left France for the United States, more specifically to Los Angeles that is to UCLA, where I wanted to get my master’s degree in History.
In L.A. I witnessed the 1992 riots. We found a lovely hotel, Marina Del Rey, in Marina del Rey, where I stayed for a week, and we looked for a place to live.
I have escaped from the bad world into the good world. We loved each other so deeply.
I moved into Westwood and enrolled into the UCLA’s Master program in summer 2004. I graduated soon after in 2005, but no family was present, as my mother died of a heart attack, and could never travel by plane.
I understood that I never had good communication with any of my husbands. I was sensitive and creative; and only JW could appreciate me.
My uncle Nicholas Lazin, who has fled to Hungary in 1947, and settled down in Oshawa, Canada, invited me to visit, Oshawa, in Toronto, Canada. It was wintertime in Canada, and it was a harsh experience staying there and getting accustomed again to cold weather. It just does not work with me; we don’t mix, the cold weather and me, it was that simple.
And Los Angeles was waiting for me, the warmth and the Ocean….
Discovering new places and peoples.
It was good escaping Ceausescu’s tyranny and discovering the hidden side of the word. I realized how we lived in the dark, and that there was better climate in Mexico than in Romania; and one does not be the prisoner of their own thoughts and limited spirit of the others, living the same nightmare, as I did back in Romania.
I know the nuns in Bordeaux were free spirits and happy women, with a great sense of humor especially the Mother Superior. We even visited Toulouse Lautrec’s castle, and spent time on the beach where the Atlantic Ocean met the Pacific Ocean. I had spent unforgettable moments of discovery, intellect, meditation, and fraternization with the nuns.
But now I was going to Mexico which was attracting me like a magnet. So we now come to Mexico, and yes, I tried to live also in Mexico, in order to see the pyramids first, at a place called El Bosque del Secreto, but it did not work out. Cuernavaca is my favorite state, for its fincas and ranchos covered in Bogumvilla!
Even though the air is too polluted in Teotihuacan, I have found Mexico D.F. a very nice city, so we travelled around Mexico D.F. and finally visited the Pyramid of the Sun, the pyramid of the Moon, and I found this sacred place a place for meditation. Time for meditation
After having worked a long time on getting a Mexican passport, I discovered Mexico as the most beautiful country on earth.
But as all ironies are happening, when I arrived to L.A., the riots were in progress. Good place, L.A. to study Globalization indeed.
I have touched earth in the United States; I “parachuted” straight in Marina del Rey, California.
It took 8 years of College and University learnings with James Wilkie to better understand the Los Angeles riots for me. James taught me here that there is no black and white issue, but there are the “greys” in life too.
After enrolling at UCLA, my self-development took me again to Toronto to see my uncle Nicholas, and cousin Caroline Lazin. I started teaching History pretty soon, when I returned to UCLA as a Teaching Assistant for 10 years, during my MA and Doctoral Program.
After 2 years in the Doctoral Program in History at UCLA, I graduated in 2001, in January. After graduation I have published my Doctoral thesis, and a second book on the bright and dark sides of Globalization with Dr James W Wilkie, Professor at UCLA. Our books are widely read around the world and are used to teach Courses at College and University levels. To get the books we have written together with James Wilkie, download them from:http://www.olgalazin.com/books.html
After 9/11 the whole world has changed. And this will be the topic for another book. A book in which we are still research/investigate what has changed exactly in these 25 years in Los Angeles, and how change has impacted us, at PROFMEX. My curiosity, as per why are we missing those good things of the past, as a collective. That is the recovering the collective memory of freedom.
And here we are now, paying tribute to James Wilkie the man and the Academic of the Century! Here in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Thank you, Jim!