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Piedmont Teacher Shares Communism Experience

Pictured is Ms. Oprea speaking to Honors English II students about her experience with communism in Romania.

On Friday, December 9, 2011, Piedmont High teacher Mariana Oprea visited English teacher Stacy Vickers’ English II Honors classes. She spoke about her experiences in Romania when it was under communist rule.

During Oprea’s presentation, she explained what she felt were positive aspects of communism: free health care, jobs for everyone, homes for everyone, a low crime rate. She remembers spending much unsupervised time outside as a child because safety was never a concern.

However, three major rights were lost: the right to practice religion, freedom of speech, and the ability to travel outside the country. In her Romanian class (like English courses here), she wasn’t allowed to share her writing when she wrote about her faith. Although, citizens could attend church, they could not discuss faith matters in public or in school, or write about faith. During Christmas, the focus was on Santa, not the religious holiday.

Oprea discussed several interesting aspects of communist life. She remembers shopping feeling like “Black Friday” everyday; however, instead of fighting over electronics or toys, people fought each other for milk, bread and eggs. There was only one television station, which played for two hours a day. During that time, the station televised the president speaking or a children’s choir singing about the president.

Sophomore Hannah Davis said, “The most powerful piece of information Mrs. Oprea shared was the fact that every man had to join the army unless they were 45-years-old or over. This would terrify me to know that my dad, brother, or any other male relatives or friends run the risk of having to go to war.”

Piedmont High principal, Jonathan Bowers, attended the 4th block presentation and asked several questions about education in Romania. Bowers said, “We are fortunate to have educators within our reach who can share their personal experiences and provide students with a global perspective on international culture. Students had an opportunity to hear a first-hand account of societal issues in late 20th century Eastern Europe and gain a deeper appreciation for the many liberties that we often overlook.”

Oprea came to the United States with her husband, South Providence science teacher Gabriel Oprea after graduating from college. She wanted to explore the world and was very interested in America because some of her friends had visited. What she thought would be a two or three year experience became permanent.

The presentation resulted from a study of the novel Anthem by Ayn Rand. The novel, published in 1938, involves a character named Equality-7-2521, who lives in a futuristic society with communistic ideas. Rand based this writing on her experiences as Russia became a communist society.

The presentation made an impact on many students in the class as indicated by their feedback:  
Brie Greene: “The most surprising experience she shared with the class was how everyday was like Black Friday. People fought for basic essentials, such as bread, eggs and milk.”

Kylie Emery: “I love the fact that she . . . helps disabled children and values relationships.”

Lauren Mullis: “What surprised me most is that during communism everyone had a job even if they were disabled, intellectually or physically.”

Stasia Olinsky: “The most powerful piece of information she shared was that she was scared for her parents. No child should be scared for their parents.”

Cameron Blackburn: “One powerful piece of information she gave was that the law required you to have four or five children. They did this so that the country’s army would grow.”

Written by: Stacy Vickers, English Teacher
Posted: Dec 14, 2011 by Donna Helms

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