Rodica Puiu (Romanian girl at HCA mtg), 1990

Rodica was a beautiful Romanian girl with whom I shared a room in Prague. She wanted to be a doctor. Had never been outside Romania before, as I recall, and had no sense about what things cost or what could be afforded. She was dazzled by the foreign fruit available in Prague, and went shopping for shoes, which I paid for. She seemed to think her shoes cost me pennies —an amount utterly negligible for me. She claimed to have taught herself English, and actually she spoke it quite well. I never knew what to make of her. Once I heard her phoning her parents and they were screaming at each other. She and the other Romanians present suspected each other of being former Securitate agents. Huge mistrust resulting from the system of spying that had existed under Ceaucescu. Later she did get into medical school. I had dinner with her a few years later at a different conference and she seemed fine.

M.S. – You tell me about your hunger strike. How did all this happen that you got involved in this hunger strike?

Rodica Puiu – This hunger strike was based on the discrimination of the entrance examination in schools of higher education in our country, and also is based by the level of education and culture in our country. We started this hunger strike on the first of August when they presented the results of the entrance examination in the medical school, faculty (name of school, maybe?). 200 students were refused even though they had very good marks and they proved they can be medical students. Students, candidates, better, with other marks, not so good marks like those 200 students, are now students in the medical school. I think that in Romania and higher education in our country must be to a high level, a European level to show, to try to help like students only valuable people, only intelligent people. Not people with a good memory, a lot of money and corrupt people, people from the old system, the communist system.

M.S. – You think those are the people that got in?

P. – Yes I think so it is possible. I’m not sure that any people refused this entrance examination, isn’t now, in autumn, a student. It is possible that if you were a refused person in the summer, you are a student now in autumn, no one can check it. It is an old situation we have a sort of University autonomy, the same thing like in Canada or in the United States. This sort of university autonomy keeps the possibility, gives the possibility to the leadership of the University to earn more money. To do the University life like you want to do, for example the entrance examination would be decided in the senate of the university where the students must be there, but they weren’t. Although the director and the others decided how to do the entrance examination this year it is not democratic, only 30% of the senate was there, there must be 75% or 80% not 30%, but they decided. The minister of education in our country is not a competitive person. He has only dictatorial decisions without any proposals from the others. In this way I think our education system will go from bad to worse and it is the worst, the worst in eastern Europe.

M.S.- So you went on this hunger strike?

P. – Yes.

M.S. In the street?

P. – In the street yes, two months in the street

M.S. – Did you have a tent? Or what did you have?

P. – No nothing we had nothing. Only when it was windy or raining a few cars of the parents of the candidates were there and we slept in the cars. Night and day without tents in the streets.

M.S. – Did you

P. Night and day hunger strike and other days in protest strike because the members in the European community saw us and discussed it with the director and the director promised that our problem be very well analyzed in the council at the senate. So we decided together to interrupt, to stop the hunger strike and to form it into a protest strike in the street. To stay all the time in the street, but not a hunger strike – a protest strike. Well, first October the council…

M.S. – When did you make this change? When Mr. Faber (Mient Jan) came to see you, he suggested you have a protest strike not a hunger strike?

P. – Yes, it was a time he decided it was very dangerous for us, I was very ill. But I was without ill like the other women, a mother of a girl was very ill, because the sugar in the blood wasn’t at a high level. The medical assistance between the hunger strike, because you know we had the hunger strike and it was necessary to see if we had sugar in the blood. It was horrible – the same syringe for 3 or 5 persons. The police were very kind with us for pure human interests because they had ordered to stop us or not give us personal security or something like that, I don’t know what exactly. In these conditions 3 persons tried to kill us with knives and they had simulated an accident by car in order to give up.

M.S. – They drove a car at you and you had to jump away

P. – Yes exactly.

M.S. – Who do you think these people were?

P. – I don’t know, I don’t think I can name somebody.

M.S. – Did you find out the names?

P. – No, we didn’t but, it is possible because they were taken by the police and the police have their names. They wanted to say that the population does not agree with us and it is a certain person who does not agree with us

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books