Mandatory Russian Classes, Private French Lessons and The Fear I was an Idiot!

In Fifth grade we all were enrolled in Russian classes at school. The Mrs. Radulescu nightmare stopped after fourth grade and now we were old enough to have several teachers, for Romanian, math, physics, chemistry,  sciences,  music, sports and of course foreign languages, meaning Russian.  The Romanian alphabet is Latin, our language is one of the five Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portugese and Romanian).  Learning Russian didn’t come easy  to us, as they  use the Slavonic alphabet and letters which looked like they could be anything but what we were used to.  Above all, Romanians hated the Soviets and it wasn’t even clear to us, the children, that in fact our powerful neighbors, The Soviets where a bunch of countries with no connection among themselves which were conquered and placed after the World War II under the umbrella of the feared Soviet Union, our neighbor and pretend friend . We thought they were all Russians in that big country and didn’t know of Ukranians and Muslims and all the other many subgroups living in this huge artificially made country.  We knew  however, the Soviets took part of Moldova from us, and Chisinau, the town of my parents college years, was now part of that country and not Romania where it truly belonged. We were hearing stories of how Romanians in the newly formed  Soviet Republic of Moldova were persecuted and not allowed to use their language.

No, we did not like the Soviets and yet, here we were, every week, in school, like little soldiers, in our austere school uniforms,  we stood up when our Russian  teacher entered the classroom and in perfect unison, like a well-rehersed choir we shouted loud and clear: “Straizvuite Lydia Vladimirovna!” That meant “Good Day…” and then she answered in Russian and asked as to sit down.  Every week, we had lessons of Russians, every week for the next four years and all I remember is how to say good day! I have no other recollection of my Russian classes, but in parallel with my compulsory school classes, my mother decided to get me a private tutor and teach me French as well! I was going to be an erudite!  The French tutor was an older overweight woman with grey hair. Her story was, that she belonged to an Aristocratic family and after the communists took over, her family’s house, as many others, was confiscated by the state and given to families of the “people”, party members, the working class.  The original owners were allowed to keep just one room in their own homes and access their formerly private kitchens and bathrooms which now they were using jointly with the working class families. Most of the Aristocrats couldn’t find jobs commensurate with their fine education which was no longer appreciated or needed. Beside, they didn’t have what the Party called “a healthy origin”.  That meant parents who were uneducated workers or  Communist Party members who fought the former regime  and continued to support the “welfare of the party” through their actions. Under these circumstances, my French tutor’s only chance to survive was to go at students’ house and give private French lessons.  I was very touched by her story, however, that gut feeling I had about Annie’s ex, the heaviness in my gut, was always present when she came for our lesson. I knew, somehow I felt she disliked me, or us, or the fact that she, a former classy person, who had maids and never had to do anything, was now forced to travel from house to house and give lessons to all these communist brats. Probably in her mind my parents were part of what she hated most, the communists. The truth was, my parents were professionals forced to become communist party members to keep their jobs. They never spoke in meetings, they barely did what was required to hold on to their professions, as million other intellectuals were forced to do. But the French tutor didn’t know this and our lessons became more and more boring and tension filled. Sometimes she dosed of while I tried to read some Aesop fable in French and when I saw her asleep, as I read, I’d stop and start again the minute her eyes opened.  Then, she’d praise me and as I remember saying “good day” in Russian, I do remember “Bonjeur” in French. That was the extent of my knowledge in both languages.

After a while, my parents wanted to witness one of my tutoring sessions  in French and so they discovered I knew nothing, or so they told the tutor who after a year of weekly lessons was told not to come back. It was not working.  Was it me, was it the tutors?  My affinity to foreign languages was not my forte and “other qualities” needed to be found to put me on the right path of becoming an intellectual, someone worthy.  It was unconceivable that a child coming of such brilliant parents couldn’t speak either Russian or French! My parents looked worried… My math wasn’t that great either and my father, who was good at math, started tutoring me himself, to save money. What I remember of his lessons, where the blows I got to my head while being called “an idiot” every time I made a mistake. And I made many! His tutoring didn’t last long.

What to do with such a mediocre child? What’s going to happen to her? I heard my parents whisper. Yes, it seemed I was okay at reading and liked to write but where could that take me? Nowhere!  Then my mother, who I must say, was the most resourceful person I ever knew, discovered that I had some artistic talent at drawing and modeling in clay. She took me to the Bucharest School of Arts for Children.  There was a test involved. Tests were involved everywhere so I was getting used to them.  To everyone’s surprise I passed the tests and I started attending the Arts school twice a week, in addition to my regular classes. The goal however, was not that I’d become an artist, a painter of some kind, but my mother’s ambition was for me to be an architect, so drawing was important!  Never mind, my father’s conclusion that I was an idiot when he tutored me in math should have given her a hint…. Mother concluded he was the idiot and hired me a real math tutor. She was blonde and calm and always smiled. She had the patience of an angel and never called me an idiot, but many times I felt like one, when I had to re-calculate a formula over and over again until I was finally “getting it”.  However, her kindness and all the tutoring and activities prepared me for the real test, which was getting into High School, and not any High School, but St. Sava, the best in the country.

From my 8th grade classroom’s window,  at St Iosif,  I could see the austere building of St. Sava. The Fortress I had to conquor with my knowledge and prove to the world I was not stupid as so many of them implied.  Was I good enough? Was I better than the other hundreds of candidates who would compete for the less than a hundred spots at St. Sava? And if I wasn’t good enough? What would happen then? That would have been undeniable proof my father was right, I was hopeless.  I imagined myself being enrolled in a technical school, where not so bright kids were sent and  forced to learn how to make shoes or stockings or work on the essembly lines. I feared I wouldn’t know how to even do those activities!

The closer the date of the High School exams, the greater my anxiety, and there was no way out, no where to hide from the truth that will be revealed about me; Was I a true idiot or not?

Only time could tell!

Was it Fear or Second -Hand Smoke?

The undeniable truth that education, knowledge in general, are assets no one could take away from you, prompted my mother to seek the best schools for me from the beginning.  Somehow, she managed to extract me from the area school, which, according to her standards wasn’t good enough, and placed me in a different elementary school, a little further from our home, but well worth it.  It had the reputation of an elite school and what was even more important, next to it, there was the best, oldest high school  in the country, named Nicolae Balcescu, but most people from the older generations called it Saint Sava.

The ultimate goal was, that after the first seven years in this elementary and then mid-school, I would be prepared for the ferocious acadmemic competition to make it into St. Sava.  Yes, my mother had vision for my life, she had a long-term plan. A very long one, which extended beyond her pysically being with me on Earth.

It was only a fifteen- minute walk to my school along the Congress Palace, and the Tower, which was at the time the tallest apartment building in Bucharest, and up by the Lutheran Church which was always closed and looked deserted, and to the left I walked every day, through the courtyard of Saint Iosif Cathedral, which was Catholic and always opened, or so it seemed. There sure were a lot of churches around for a country of atheists, but rumor had it, Romanians weren’t always non-believers, so the houses of God, most of them deserted buildings as I grew up between  1950’s and 1980’s made historical  sense. My elementary school was in the back of the Cathedral’s yard and the times when we had recess was also marked by bells ringing from the Cathedral. A coincidence.

There were about 35 or 40 of us in one class, under the direction of one teacher. It was a co-ed school.  My teacher was Mrs. Radulescu, a massive older woman with a lot of experience in education.  That implied she was a good teacher.  She had greasy shoulder-length hair and a long face that seem to never end, if it weren’t for her  yellowish teeth, sticking out through her always cracked, dried lips. Perhaps because she constantly licked her lips, it is her mouth and her teeth that I remember the most of her face. To me she looked like a horse!

Mrs. Radulescu had the reputation of a no nonsense educator, which meant if a pupil made a mistake he or she will get punished in ways only she could conceive.  In fact, it wasn’t even necessary to make a mistake and we were punished just in case…we might have thought of making a mistake or get into mischief.

We wrote slowly and diligently: a, b, c, d… 1, 2, 3 … and she leaned over to see if the letters were perfect, they had to be perfect! If a letter wasn’t, Mrs Radulescu ordered:

“Make a fist.” and the pupil made a fist and she would hit the guilty student in their knuckles where it hurted most, with her immense gold ring, the tool of our torture.

Many times she just hit us for no reason, and by the time parent-teacher conferences came around, I was so scarred I barely spoke at school, only when asked.

“Your daughter seems sick! She is too quiet.” she told my parents.

“”She is quiet?” my parents were surprised,  as I never stopped talking at home, they told her, but Mrs. Radulescu ignored their story about me, her pupil, which was uninteresting, and changed the subject turning towards my father:

“So, I hear you inspect farms? That must be nice, all that fresh fruit. It’s apple season and there are no apples on the market…”

Somehow, my beatings stopped after that parent-teacher conference, and so did  the beatings of  others, but some children’s  didn’t. Many of my friends continued to learn the lessons of tough knocks even when the a, b, c s where perfect! Somehow it didn’t seem fair… I was confused about the fairness of the beatings, but mostly I felt guilty because I wasn’t punished anymore and others were for no apparent reason!

From the perspective of today, I wonder if positive thinking would have helped us, the students, stop her abuse… but of course we didn’t know then about such miraculous tools  and that by the power of our minds alone we could  have changed the  reality of our fate! What was certain, was that we had other very distinct feelings, of fear and helplessness. Personally, I’d have done anything Mrs. Radulescu asked me to do to avoid  pain or help my friends.  Over the  next four-years she was my teacher, she never hit me again after that parent-teacher conference.  It was a miracle, or perhaps she just enjoyed fresh farm apples! I’d never know for sure…

In the second part of my 2nd grade year, I started to cough and I had a high fever. It got worse and worse until  my mother took me for X-rays and to a doctor.

“She has double pneumonia”. the doctor told my mom. “She needs to stay home and take these antibiotics and rest. Bring her back in a month.  Don’t take her back to school until I see her again”.

I was sick! I didn’t have to see Mrs. Radulescu and for a change my mother was nice. I liked being sick and coughing was not that bad after all… I was dosing on and off with the high fever and being awaken every four hours to take pills. My bother kept putting hot onion leaves on my chest, a non- scientific treatment to loosen the cough which continued to be dry and hurt my throat…

Generally though, I was happy and the benefit of not seeing Mrs. Radulescu coupled with the satisfaction of seeing my parents worried was worth the illness. I felt special and valuable. I felt their fear that I could die!

For days, my parents sat around my bed smoking and looking concerned.  Twice a day my mother  opened the windows to “air” the room but then the smoking would start again.  In those days everyone smoked in Romania and people had no idea how bad this was and as I was healing from double pneumonia I kept inhaling the smoke of all those concerned about my health.

I missed a lot of school that year, and the following year, because the pneumonia kept coming back with a vengence or perhaps I was calling it back in my subconscious mind, to avoid Mrs. Radulescu!  However, a rational mind could not exclude the aggravation of my illness by the exposure to second-hand smoke, a much more palpable reason, we  didn’t understand at the time.

What was the reason of my illness? Was it Fear or Second-hand smoke? Perhaps both? Most importantly, what were the powers of my mind over a teacher’s abuse or my parents’ smoking? I only had power over me and  after months of being sick and doing most of my homework and studies in bed, propted on fluffy pillows, the bed became my comfort zone. In spite of missing months of formal instruction with Mrs. Radulescu, at the end of the school  year, when I finally went back to school, I was awarded Premiul II (Award number 2) Meaning my grades were the 2nd best in the whole class.  Then, I had no question in my mind it was my hard work and discipline to study for months sitting there, taking medicine and writing in my bed despite the high fever and cough. which made me successful.

In retrospect… I wonder if Mrs. Radulescu  secretly continued to enjoy her fresh apples from the farms my father inspected while I was sick. Suddenly, I was not that sure or proud of myself, Doubts of my real value seeped into my already doubting mind.

The Christened Chicken and Grandmother’s House

Summers were dry and hot in Bucharest, Romania where I lived with my parents.  Most disturbing, in summer time there was no school and I was always shipped to my maternal grandmother’s  and her sister’s in the town of Iasi, a part of Romania called Moldova. My parents were originally from Moldova, but from different towns and when they were in college they met in Chisinau, which after the second World War became part of the Soviet Union.  In other words,  the place where my parents went to college, met and fell in love with each other was now on foreign territory and we were not allowed to freely cross the boarders. I was always listening to stories about “good old times”, before the Communists took over, but these stories were never told in my parents’ home, only at grandmother’s.  I liked those stories, they were like fairy tales, with princesses and queens and kings in them!

Everything was different in Iasi, perhaps that’s why, as a child, I was eager for the summers to come and to be shipped there, and I never wanted to come back to Bucharest when the fall arrived.

I didn’t even mind the inconveniences of not having paved roads, running water or a toilet in the house.  Walking with my uncle, my mother’s sister’s husband, to get water from a public water pump at the end of the dusty or muddy road, was an adventure. Pumping the water in the two buckets we brought with us was fun! Going all the way to the back of the back yard in the wooden shack which housed an unsanitary huge whole used as bathroom, was not equally rewarding. In fact it was disgusting and made me miss the little cold bathroom at home, in Bucharest, where I could at least flash the toilet after I peed.

But all these inconveniences were balanced by my grandmother’s cooking, her beautiful garden, the butterflies everywhere and the grape wine tended by my uncle.  Above all, I was fascinated by a hundred-year old walnut tree growing right in the middle of this mini-Paradise. Many times I rested under its shade. I wasn’t allowed to pick the walnuts and the branches were too high for me anyway, but once in a while they would fall on their own on the ground, or hit me in the head.  Only then, it was fair play to crack their crust and eat the delicious inside. After all, I rationalized, if they fell on their own, they asked for it!

Another adventure was when we went to the  open market to buy live chicken and fresh vegetables.  Some of the hens we bought, were kept in an enclosure in our back yard, close to the outdoors toilet, since it all smelled bad. The hens laid eggs and that was fun, but some most unfortunate ones were chosen for eating. The chicken, or hens, or roosters were bought alive and it was a man’s responsibility to decapitate the bird chosen to become soup.

The ritual of killing the “prey” was always the same: my uncle  sharpened a big knife and  took the chicken outside on the unpaved street, in front of the house. He put one steady foot on the creature’s body and with one hand held it’s head steady while with the other decapitated it with one quick blow.  There was always a lot of blood and most disturbingly to me, the body of the chicken kept moving and even jumping for a while as if wanting to reattach its head back on. I secretly wished it did, but that never happened and the process continued.  The now dead bird was boiled and the feathers plucked and then vegetables  added and ” gritz galuste” and somehow the soup was so tasty, the image of the slaughter faded somewhere in the back of my memory, to only come back later and make me feel guilty I ate!

After witnessing repeated chicken  killing rituals, I started waking in the middle of the night screaming. I was dreaming I was the killer and the victim would put itself together and come after me and in my nightmare, I became the victim!

One night I told my aunt, my mother’s sister, who together with her husband, lived with grandma. I still remember the warmth of her boosoms holding me tight and pressing me into her immense body. It felt so comforting!

The next day, she and I went to the open market on an unplanned trip.  The markets were always loud and colorful with lots of  people coming to sell whatever one wanted, from beautiful flowers to cheese, to vegetables or fowl.  We approached a table filled with little chicken. They were so little and  cute! Most of them had golden fluff instead of real feathers, like in the Easter postcards I saw later in life.

“Which of them do you like?” my aunt asked.

“Oh, I said, “I like all of them!”

“You may only choose one and I will buy it for you and that will be your pet and we will not kill it,” she continued.

My own pet! A dream come true. At home, I wasn’t allowed.  In spite of my many pleads for a cat or a dog, my mother decreed the apartment was too small, it would have been too much responsibility and most importantly all pets had germs! A miracle was about to happen, I was going, after all, to have a pet!

“That one,” I said, and chose the only chicken with red fluff  on her body and no fluff on its neck.  It had a featherless, bold  long neck. It looked different. I liked her… and decided it must be a girl to be so beautiful.

“Why did you choose the ugliest chicken?” my aunt asked.

“Ugly? … but its the only one with a bold neck, it’s different, it will never get lost or mistaken for another.”

“It’s your bird, if you like it that’s fine by me,” my aunt said and handed the peasant the money. The peasant smiled and winked.

Back home, there were some logistic problems: where to house my pet? She surely could not be with the rest of the chicken! She was special. Somehow I convinced my aunt to allow her to sleep in a small cage by the entrance, but inside the house. I fed, petted and decided to train her to sit on my head at command. Then, I realized that she had no name and was not Christened. I remembered how when I was very little I was told, one of my father’s sister’s took me in secret to be Christened so in case I died I didn’t go to Hell! What if my chicken died and went to Hell?! I had, by all means, to perform the ritual even if I were not a Priest. I was sure God would understand my noble intentions because that’s what Teta told me, and I remembered: God sees everything and rewards the faithful and punishes those that take his name in vain! I guess that would be my parents… or may be not, they didn’t take His name in vain, just ignored Him.

I felt faithful, like secretly doing God’s work which was against my mother’s instructions… but how would she find out? There was no way she would. I felt fearless!

I started to plot the whole ritual. First, I needed water and a lot of it. I couldn’t go alone to the public water pump and the bucket would have been too heavy for me to carry anyway. As I was trying to solve the dilemma of my chicken’s Christening, God answered in an unusual way: It started to rain. Because water was at a premium, in the  garden, there were several wooden barrels which collected rain water. It rained and rained some more, and when the sun came out I had enough water to Christen five chickens, let alone one!

What should I name her? A beautiful, unique name… I decided upon “Zinica” which means “Little Fairy” because to me she was a miracle:  One of my wishes, to have a pet, came true in the form of a chicken. Zinica it was!

One warm, sunny afternoon, I took Zinica which by now was a hen, and emerged her in the water three times, just like I saw a Priest do with a baby: “In the name of the Father…” I forgot what was said in the middle but it ended with  “and The Holy Spirit.  Oh, it was the Son, in the middle, I remembered later. I completed  the incomplete Christening and Zinica survived but didn’t look very happy, kept fluffing her red feathers and told me she didn’t appreciate, all in hen language, so I pretended I didn’t understand, but I actually did. Her body language spoke louder than words.

I knew in my heart I did the right thing and now if she died she went to Heaven, that’s all that mattered. Zinica just didn’t understand it was for her own good but there would come a time when she’ll be thankful! I was convinced.

Zinica was very smart for a hen and indeed I managed to train her to fly on my shoulders on command and come down and circle around me. She’d balance on my head, although this was not my favorite trick because sometimes she’d poop on my hair and that wasn’t nice. I could not potty train her, but I tried.

Then the summer ended and in spite of my crying and promising I’ll have straight As and take care of Zinica in Bucharest, the answer was NO. Zinica was to stay at my grandmother’s under the solemn promise of all she will continue as a pet and next summer I will see her again. However, I was warned that the life-span of a hen was not that long and it was possible she’ll just die of natural causes and no one knew how many days, or years one was “given” by God. My mother’s family, like Teta, believed in God and as I grew older I had more and more confusing feelings about God, Heaven and Hell and where dead bodies go?

In the middle of winter we received a sad letter announcing Zinica’s  death from natural causes!  The letter said they buried her in the back of the garden and  even said a prayer because they knew I loved her. There was a wooden cross on her little grave, which my uncle made and I could see it next summer when I was to be shipped again to Iasi.

As I wiped my tears, I was glad at least she was Christened. I knew she was in Heaven, a much better place where, I was convinced, they didn’t slaughter chickens!

Always Trust Your Gut!

As we grow older and learn about life, or  life teaches us, and surely our experiences shape our beliefs one way or another,  many times we stop trusting our” gut feelings”.  Remember, those strong likes or dislikes when we meet someone “nice” who turned out to not be  so “nice”?  When we are kids, it’s okay to frown and say “I don’t like you!” and start crying.  Excuses are made for you, because, what does a kid know?

Later we  are not afforded this luxury and always have to give the benefit of the doubt.  It is no longer acceptable to just listen to our gut without some logical  explanation as to why you don’t like someone.  The more the logical part of the brain takes over, the more we loose touch with our gut and because I am not attempting to write a politically correct story I dare say that this “gut” quality, which God gave us at birth comes in hand and sometimes save our lives.  I’d say it needs to be preserved and treasured by all means.

One such event showed me early in life the importance of trusting my gut.

I must have been six when Annie was hired as a maid and she was unlike any other person I have ever met.  She was a short, skinny young woman with a broad contagious smile.  Somehow she always found time to play with me and cook and do the laundry and if she didn’t finish her chores she’d offer to come Sundays, her day off and do them at no extra cost. Wow! My mother was in owe. I was finally not driving the nanny away and seemed happy.  This was an asnwer to prayers, or because my parents denied the presence of any God, it was a fortunate coincidence. Annie was the ONE!

The miracle lasted for about a month and we all wished for many more, for years of having Annie around, that’s how amazing she was.

One rainy afternoon when Annie diligently was washing the windows, while I watched her fascinated by the thoroughness she desplayed in doing her work, the door bell rang.

Who could it be? We never had guests, at least not uninvited. No one ever just stopped by…

Annie answered the door and in walked a very tall, dark- bearded man who looked me up and down and said:

“Hi, I am Annie’s husband.”

Then he completely turned his back on me and they went in a corner whispering.  He never turned towards me again, but at times I heard his voice raising and then Annie would turn towards me smiling reassuringly.  It was okay.

After a while he left and  slammed the door. He didn’t bother to say good bye or even look in my direction. Soon, my mind transformed him into a monster with huge feet and hands probably able to strangle someone. In spite of Annie’s smiles I knew, I knew they were arguing about something. I felt danger in my entire being!

“Annie,” I asked as she continued to wash the windows and smoke cigarettes. ” I didn’t know you were married?”

She stopped and came off the chair and looked me in the eyes:

“He was my husband, now he isn’t but we still love each other” she whispered, although there were only the two of us in the apartment.

“She wiped her hands and sat down next to me. She lit another cigarette and with an encouraging smile she said:

“I’ve notice how you look at me when I smoke. Now, it’s okay to want one, here, have one, so you know how good it tastes!”

We were buddies, I thought, we were smoking together, she must really like me!

Reluctantly, afraid the dream will end, I took the cigarette and she lit it for me. She instructed me how to keep it burning and I must have done a fairly good job because soon after I inhaled, I started to cough uncontrollably.  I had a bitter taste in my mouth and I felt dizzy.

“Are you okay?” Annie asked, and put off the cigarette. My first cigarette! Damn, I thought, I should have never coughed!

“Now,” Annie continued,” this is our secret, that you smoked, your parents don’t understand you, but I do, we are friends!”

I still felt dizzy and her words seem to come from far away. I nodded in a kinda approval and she continued:

“Now, since we are friends, and have all these secrets, don’t tell your mother my ex visited. She would get upset, just as she would get upset if I told her you smoked!”

This time I heard her loud and clear and completely understood the threat we were both facing from my mother who was such an unforgiving person.

I mumbled I’d never tell my mother about the ex or the cigarette and Annie was happy:

“That’s a girl,” she said, “Next week we’ll try again smoking,  you get used to it, you will not be able to live without them and like it as much as I do, and your parents.  It’s difficult just at the beginning. After you learn, you could snetch one here and there from your parents’, they won’t notice!”

Suddenly, when she said I’ll have to snatch cigarettes from my parents, the memory about my friend’s mother and the stealing of the Turkish piece of material came to my mind.  What Annie was proposing surely sounded like stealing, and I knew better. This was not a secret, it was a lie!

The definitive sense of danger kept me quiet. I didn’t contradict Annie and pretended to go along with her plan.

When my mother came home from the hospital Annie, all smiles, set the table, gave a full report which was not that complete and left for the day.

Was it the fear I felt in my gut when I thought of Annie’s giant ex husband, was  it the guilt I felt because I smoked, was it all of these feelings and more that made me tell my mother the truth:

“Annie’s husband was here today” I didn’t volunteer at first the part about the cigarette smoking.

“Annie is not married,” my mother said and continued to eat undesturbed, as if I had told her the weather was cold.”

“…and after he left Annie gave me a cigarette to smoke because now we are friends,” I continued.

That made an impression on her. She put down her utensils and asked:

“What? She did what? You did what… smoked?

“Yes.” I affirmed, remembering what happened last time I lied to her.

“You smoked a cigarette? she continued. “Annie gave you cigarettes?”

“Yes, because now we have secrets, we are friends. But I still don’t like her husband, he looks like a thief!”

Silence. That was unusual in our household because my mother was never out of words. But now she was silent and I was more and more scared as this was unfamiliar to me:

Why wasn’t she screaming? That would have been much better, I’d know what to do, where to hide, how to press my ears hard to not hear and close my eyes tight. But she was silent and I just sat there expectantly.

“Okay,” she said, “it’s a good think you told me because I would have found out anyway, and you know what would have happened! And about the cigarette… you should have known better!”

What would have happened? I thought. Would she have given me to a family of gipsy in exchange for new plates, as she often threatened, to an orphanage?  All choices were equally bad and I was glad I told. After all, Annie and I weren’t such good friends and the fear of her ex-husband was greater than any other feelings I experienced!

“I am going to the Police Station to inquire about Annie” my mother announced.

She took me to the neighbor’s and left.

After a while she returned and it was the first time I saw her cry. She told our neighbor that the officer told her Annie was divorced from one of the most dangerous criminals in Bucharest. He also told her the divorce was only on paper, so that it looked to the authorities that she was no longer involved in his operations, but they knew she was.  Their modus operandi was that Annie was hired as a maid and after a while, especialy if the family who hired her was expecting to buy something valuable, she’d tell him, he’d steal the valuable object and off they would move to the next fools. The nest day, when Annie came to work all smiles, my mother just said:

“Give me the keys and go”.

Annie didn’t ask why, she handed the keys and left without asking for her pay. We changed the locks anyway.

As I look back, it seems hard to believe the two valuable objects Annie and her husband aimed at stealing were a black and white TV set my parents planned to buy for New Year’s and my mother’s new winter coat which was not back from the tailor.  It is hard to imagine in today’s America that there was a time in my life when stealing such objects were the goal of two of the most skilled thieves in  Bucharest in the late 1950’s. Most important to me is the fact that I smoked my first cigarette in the company of one of them, but her offer of friendship didn’t deter me to listen to my gut and tell my mother the truth knowing the adverse consequences.

On the other hand, honesty paid off in the long run because we were the only ones who had a TV and neighbors came to our house to watch the soccer games.

It was no longer lonely.

Lessons Taught Are Not Lessons Learned

No one single person is able or responsible for the way another person turns out as an adult.  No one is that powerful and many factors contribute to who we become.

I wish I knew this obvious truth years ago, before I had my own children, but I didn’t,  or didn’t want to know that a parent’s influence on their children is limited and there are many other factors which contribute in the making of a person.  I should have known, just by looking in the mirror to see who my mother wanted me to be and who I had really became.  Although, along the years, I had many mirrors in my homes and I looked, I guess I always  have seen only what I chose to see, my perception of reality, what I wished it to be.

The basic concept on which I based my motherhood was to do everything the opposite of what I experienced as a child. For years I deeply believed I was the main factor that will shape my children and I truly did my best. This overwhelming desire to  offer my children the childhood I never had completely took over my persona for years.  Because I poured myself into my parenting, I became parenting. I wanted to make up for my mother’s detachment. For years I had a false sense of  trust and the illusion that  it was my responsibility for my children to be happy and wholesome and become as adults good people serving worthy causes, all with the noble purpose of my children being happy.  I wanted to give them all that I didn’t have, a secure home, constant motherly love, pets they could love, a home  full of friends, best education and exposure to activities and the best of the best in everything.  Above all,  a real family, two parents who loved them and most importantly showed their love!  I really, really wanted my daughters to feel loved because as a child I didn’t and I still remembered how it felt when I did my best but it was never good enough, the fear of always doubting  that the results of my actions were not valuable enough, and expectations weren’t met!  Criticizing  and crushing any personal initiative were the main tools my parents used to “motivate me” to be the best.  How did this “educational tools” work in the long run? With my knowledge of today, I know better. I know that no one person or persons could totally shape another into who they become. It is a combination of nurture and nature and ultimately a personal choice. I learned the hard way that what is essential and valuable to me might not be, and it isn’t to others. Most importantly, I can’t make anyone feel like I do, as others couldn’t make me, no matter how hard they tried.

Life  attempted to show me how foolish I was  many times, but nature gave me a very stubborn streak which many times came in hand and it turned into the quality called determination.  Today,  as I look back I wonder if, in all fairness,  my mother didn’t try to teach me good lessons in the wrong way because that’s what she knew how and her intentions were in fact commendable.

Because of  my personal experiences as a child,  I attempted to teach my children using different methods,  because I knew mother’s mostly didn’t work on me. Well… perhaps sometimes they did…  Here’s an efficient lesson which stayed with me a life-time:  How I learned that stealing is wrong and not acceptable.

I must have been five or six and I was playing with my friend, next door. Her mother was a dress-maker and as she was cutting materials, small pieces fell under her work table, where we played. One of these colorful pieces, a Turkish bright print, attracted my eyes and quickly I placed the piece of material in my pocket without telling anyone.  Later, at home, I showed my mother the treasured material.

“Where did you get this?” she asked.

“It was down, on the floor at my friend’s apartment,” I answered.

“Did you ask for permission to take it?”

Suddenly it struck me that I assumed the material was no longer needed and just took it. “No,” I answered my mother, it was a leftover, it was on the floor.”

She made me go back and  say how sorry I was to my friend’s mother and gave it back. I did, and that’s how shame was born in me but also the concepts of right and wrong which I carried throughout my life, no matter the situation.  This is, in my mind ,a  good lesson learned.

Another lesson however, was not equally successful.  My mother was telling a neighbor something I knew was not true and I felt I needed to set things straight. She was not telling things right. I corrected her story and told the neighbor the truth, or my version of it.  My mother smiled embarrassed and we went home quickly.

At home, she took a sock out of a drawer and asked me: “What color is this sock?”  “White,” I answered.

My mother dangled it under my nose and said:

“NO, it is not white, I say it’s BLACK, and even if you see it white, if I say it’s black it’s black! Don’t you ever tell people my stories are not true, do you understand? If I say its black and you see it white, it’s still black because I say so!”

I re-played this story in my mind many times and tried to discover what good did it do?  It is obvious now, with my knowledge of today, that she wanted to make me obey her blindly. But was this really a good lesson? Do we  want our children to have no judgement of their own? Or do we hope they will develop the judgment of who to obey and who to disobey?

At times I wonder if my mother, who died before I left Romania, in 1981, would somehow know all that I experienced after her death,  what would she do? Would she raise from the dead to save me or tell me I did it all wrong and try one more time to control my destiny!

Lots of Nannies and …a Taste of Freedom!

I am still trying to determine if in those early years of my life, when I was first allowed to be born and then overcame a generally fatal illness, it was God that intervened,  my parents, or the skill of many doctors and nurses. Perhaps it was a combination of efforts and determination.  Above all, I wonder about the role played by the willpower in that little, fragile body in which my soul was housed… Which of these factors allowed me to continue life on Earth?

Perhaps I was already thinking positive thoughts subconsciously, because remember, that’s when it really works! May be I have to thank the Law of Attraction…perhaps,  in my innocence, I was doing it right! Truth is, what I do remember is the unfocused fear that I might disappear if I stopped fighting and didn’t know where I would go if I died? Where do little dead bodies go? The perspective was probably not attractive because I became determined to keep on living and stay in the world I knew even if I didn’t like it much, at least I knew it. Much, much later, I learned in my psychology classes that people prefer to stay in their “comfort zone” even if it’s hurting them, because that’s what they know and the fear of the unknown is greater than the pain of what one knows.

But in those days, in the 1950’s I didn’t have such sophisticated knowledge.. Everything was simple and basic:  After I was out of danger,  and back home from the hospital, my parents returned to their daily routines, mainly trusting me in the hands of various nannies who took care of me while my parents worked.  My mother, an M.D., was always “saving” many lives in the hospital, while my father was somewhere in the country, “inspecting” the quality of crops at some “cooperativa”,  state owned farms. He was always out of town, and when he wasn’t he was drunk and violent, so we were thankful for his out of town job which protected us against his  unpredictable fits of rage.

For this reason, I have few early memories about my father. My only early recollection of motherly love, was  the feeling of her rushed hand rubbing my back late at night, to soothe me to sleep.  It was a quick rhythmic movement whose message was:”I have little time”.  If I was really good, sometimes, she gave me the bonus of invented stories about little bears or deers and a little girl’s adventures in the woods.  There was no question in my mind, the girl was me, but I didn’t know the bears or the deer, but they were nice and I wish I did!

It was around the time when I got sick that my first nanny was hired.  I remember bits and pieces of what happened during her reign. According to stories I learned as an adult, she had a crucial influence on me.  She was a former nun, but when the communists took over, in late 1940’s,  she no longer could be a nun, she became a nanny desperately trying to earn a living. My parents, both atheists, hired her on condition that she kept God out and never mentioned or did anything religious to influence my education.  Everything seemed to go well and I loved Teta, my nanny, and she probably loved me enough to  disobey the orders and introduce God in my early consciousness. She also introduced me to the idea of  “secrets”, meaning, lies, as I was told to not mention our prayers, our little secret to anyone. I kept the secrets, but since I was not told the deep bowing after the prayers and crossing myself were  secrets, I welcomed my parents home by bowing so deeply that my head hit the floors.  Mother was mortified as she immediately understood her child was introduced to God and prayers and “matanii” (bowing to honor God).  The sin was unforgivable! Teta  was disgraced and was ordered to leave immediately. She packed a small bag under my teary eyes and screams  and promises that I didn’t mean to betray our secrets and promised it will never happen again.  It was too late! Teta’s bed was placed in the same room which housed the stove, the kitchen sink, small counter, and the bath tub.  Teta’s “area” was in the corner opposite the tub and was “privatized” with the help of another curtain, around the bed.  Not your usual maid’ quarters, but a luxury for Communist Romania!

She left immediately, without being given notice, without a word!  She just disappeared… I wondered where she went, out there, in the blizzard? Did her God take care of her, or did she freeze to death? Did she have to go in that ambiguous place I feared, where dead bodies go?  I sat on her bed, breathed in the smell of her pillow and cried, and cried, until mother had enough of it and said: “Enough, already, I have to wash the sheets”.  This was the last time Teta’s name and what happened were mentioned in our home. My mother’s orders were never ambiguous: “Don’t you ever bow like that again and cross yourself, it is stupid and dangerous! She was a crazy woman, I should have never hired her!”

I don’t remember how much time passed before another nanny was hired, a lot of them came and went, because I had become a difficult child and no one was able to tame me, so they came and left quickly, leaving my mother in a bind often.

Many times, she had no choice but take me with her to work. She sat me in a corner of her doctor’s office and threaten: “If you move, if you say one word, I will make you regret it for the rest of your life. It is your behavior that makes nannies leave, now you sit here and listen to me while I consult the patients! See how it feels, instead of playing at the park!”.

I must have been five at the time, and I was so terrified because I wasn’t sure what exactly would happen to me if I disobeyed. my other and moved.  I indeed sat there frozen for hours and listened to her asking the questions: ‘How long have your eyes been red? Any discharge? What color?” “This is a very contagious infection…”  Then, my mother wand the patient would go to a little dark room, at the end of the main office, so that my mother could look inside their eyes and decide the real reason of their problems.

This went on for a while, and I have noticed, that in most cases, people had red eyes, which she called conjunctivitis and then she prescribed them an unquent and off they went. One day, my mother had to leave the office for a few minutes and left me alone with the patient.

“How old are you? He asked, bored by the wait.

“Five,” I answered, and looked closer to his eyes.

They were red and crusty. “I know what’s wrong with your eyes,” I said, “You have conjunctivitis, it’s a very contagious infection, and you need medicine! Oh, and wash your hands , you can pass it on to your girlfriend, don’t touch her!”

“What?” How do you know all this?” He smiled amused.

I didn’t have time to answer  him, how I aquired the knowledge because my mother came back. I quickly moved in my corner and I sat down.

The diagnosed patient, looked at me and said nothing.  My mother  examined his eyes and said with concern in her voice “You have conjunctivitis….”

My mother  continued and asked  him the same questions I did and gave him the same advice and medicine I recomanded. I was secretly proud of my newly discovered skills to diagnose conjunctivitis!

As the patient was leaving, he turned and looked at me, then at my mother, and said: “Doctor, if I were you I’d not keep her here, she is stealing your profession.! She diagnosed me while you were out!” He smiled and left. My  mother was livid. I disobeyed again! This could not continue, she had to find a new nanny to avoid  a disaster and loosing her job. Imagine such shame, a five- year old diagnosing eye problems! I sure was a difficult child!

This is when Mrs. Orban came into our lives. Unlike the rest of the nannies, she demanded to be called “Mrs” a sign of great respect. My parents complied and so did I, although I didn’t respect her much. She was a large woman of Hungarian origin and she was the best cook ever! She didn’t sleep in the kitchen-bath tub combo room but had her own house and a schedule.  Her main responsibility should have been to take care of me, but she liked to cook so I was left alone for hours to play with my only doll and the French books. I did not like Mrs. Orban and she wasn’t fond of me either. Our main conflict was that she would rather have cooked while I would have rather been in the near by park playing with my buddies.

“Mrs. Orban” I asked meekly one afternoon, “Could we please go to the park today?”

She kept stirring in her yummy smelling pots, my parents appreciated so much.

“No, no, I told you I am cooking, just play with your doll, I have no time to take you out, don’t you see, I am cooking!”

“You mean, not even later, after you’re done? Can we go later?”

“No, I said no! Your mother is right, you are a difficult child, that’s why no nanny stays with you!”  She turned around still stirring and looked me up and down with disgust.

I didn’t like her either!

I closed the door to the kitchen and slowly  tip toed and opened the main door to our apartment. My heart was pounding hard, but I was determined to “show Mrs. Urban” just how bad I was.  Slowly, I went down the smelly steps of our apartment building where drunks from a near bar constantly urinated, and I left the building.

I was outside. I was free! Mrs. Orban, will be in trouble, I thought, and I wasn’t sorry for her!  I knew I were to be punished but I didn’t care!  This was my opportunity, but which way to go?  To the park, of course! I knew where it was, but feared a little going through a dark alley, a “gang”.  I had to walk  through  this long covered alley full of all sorts of strange people.  Many times I was told there were bad people in this alley, but no one could possibly be as heartless as Mrs. Orban, I thought and continued my walk!  I took my chance, didn’t think twice of perhaps going back. I walked through the alley which had the fancy name  of “Pasajul Englez”. It seemed endless, but it wasn’t! Just as  like going through a tunnel, I finally saw the light at the other end.

“Pasajul Englez” ended in  Calea Victoriei one of the busiest streets of Bucharest in the 1950’s and even today.  I looked right, I looked left. Cars were zipping by and the pedestrians waited for the red light to change. I waited too.

“Little girl,” a smiling woman asked , ” are you alone?”

“No,” my nanny is just behind me, we are going to the park.” I said”. “We live there” I  continued, and  “she let me go to the park, across the street, ahead of her”.

“Oh, that’s nice… she must trust you… would you like me to help you cross the street?” The woman offered.

“Thank you, thank you,” I said. “My nanny would really appreciate too,” I said, and held the woman’s hand tightly. Her hand was warm, firm and reassuring. I was no longer afraid.

We crossed on green.

Eventually Mrs. Orban discovered I was missing and her Hungarian gulash  probably burned because she had to stop stirring the pot and find me!

Oh… well, Mrs. Orban had to leave as well… what a shame!  I didn’t care what happened to her. All I cared was  that I never had to see her again or eat her gulash!

Yes, in Romania parents believed where a parent hit you, the flash grew healthier, or better, or wiser?  The little adventure in the park caused my butt to grow much healthier, or better, or more beautiful? However, I never regretted my escape. It was the first time I tasted FREEDOM and there was no return to the old ways of total control and fear.

I knew, instinctively I trusted, no matter what, someone, perhaps an Angel from Teta, will show up and hold my hand when I cross a street. I became fearless!

First memory: A Little Girl, Forced Upside Down!

In Communist Romania of the years 1950’s an average Romanian family had one child. They could barely feed the one, lucky to be allowed to be birthed baby and the rest were aborted. Abortion was an acceptable form of “birth control”, although illegal. At the same time, Ceausescu, the tyrant President of Communist Romania  in the 1960’s, 70’s and late 80’s, was ordering mandatory gynecological exams for women  of child-baring age, and if a woman didn’t have four children already, she was forced by the state to birth the child. Because these poor families could not feed their children, their children were placed immediately in Orphanages. It was Ceausescu’s secret plan to build an army of orphans, people blindly devoted to him and ready to defend him under any circumstances. After the fall of communism and the execution of Ceausescu, on Christmas Day of 1989 many documentaries revealed the horrors of Romanian Orphanages. They showed footage of children never touched by human hands, shaking their cribs to soothe themselves, their milk bottles attached to the crib to ease the work of the caretakers. These images were to stun and  haunt a world, but only later, in the the 1990’s after The Romanian Revolution and  Ceausescu’s execution, on Christmas Day, 1998.  Only after the fall of communism the truth about his many abuses surfaced for the entire world to see them. We, the Romanian people lived through it in silence and fear!
In 2009, while in Graduate School in the U.S., I wrote a paper, “Diagnosing Ceausescu” and the research I did on the man whose insanity drove me out of my native country, in 1981, still gives me goosebumps and the memories of my childhood and youth still seem surreal.

But we are not there yet, this story is about a little 2-year old, me in Bucharest, Romania. It is 1952 and I am the only daughter of a Romanian ophtalmologist and an agricultural engineer who is also a Counselor in the Romanian Minsitry of Agriculture. One would think my family was priviledged, and perhaps it was by the communist standards. I do not know how other families lived, but we lived in one large room. There was a long corridor leading to the room  where the three of us lived (my parents and I). The heating system, a large stove made of tiles, was in one room and the window in the other, thus the space was always used together, as one room. The kitchen also contained a bath tub and to take a bath while mom was cooking, we would draw the curtain around the tub, for privacy.

Yes, we must have been better off than our neighbors, for sure, who did not own a bath tub, and were grateful to use ours at times. But what I recall vividly even today, was the small, unheated room at the end of the corridor, which we called bathroom.  It had one toilet and a small sink with cold water.  We didn’t have toilet paper and used old newspapers instead. Sometimes I was bleeding, but it was no big deal. The toilet was a small and smelled of disinfectant.  Even today,  everytime I sit on a toilet, the chills I experienced when I went to the bathroom as a child, still echo in my mind. “To sit or not to sit? What if my behind freezes?” But it didn’t then or ever. The fear was all in my head, it still is… A terrible feeling, to be cold.  Its like my whole brain slowed down and I became unable to function, but it do, I have no choice! I was a survivor!

Because in Communist Romania we owned nothing  material, and the  communist officials constantly attempted to  own our souls, early on, my mother tought me that “the only asset one cannot take away from you, is your education”.

With that truth in mind, my mother focused all her attention to improving me, as an individual. I did not have toys, but I had books. Well, I did have one doll, named Olga, after my grandmother and  lots of children’s books, even French books and somehow my mother managed to enlist me in a French daycare for a while. Oh, and ballet lessons were a must! She found a private, probably illegal studio, and at the age of two I started taking dance lessons.  I hated them so much I was developing fever before going to classes, but what I felt didn’t matter  in the making of a finely educated young woman in communist Romania, I was still forced to go.

I don’t remember the  ballet lessons or what I learned, if anything, but I do remember being forced by my nanny who took care of me when my mother was working in the hospital, forcing me to sit on a dirty toilet seat at the studio. The smell  of that bathroom will always stay with me and the recollection of it still makes me vomit. After all, smells go directly to the limbic part of our brain, that’s why certain smells are instantly connected, to certain memories.
A few days later, I started feeling sick and sicker and sicker…
until my parents took me to a hospital. They immediately diagnosed me with thyphoidic fever, a potentially deadly disease, which I most likely contracted from the toilet seat at the ballet studio. Yes, I could die, my parents were assured, this was serious, and such a small child, not understanding the importance of drawing blood, shots, medicines.
I remember the austere, simple iron beds with matresses that made my back hurt.  I remember  the doctors and nurses, all dressed in immaculate white uniforms. They always came to my bed smiling.  They didn’t know they weren’t to fool me! I always saw the siringe in their hand, the tool of torture! The siringe which they wanted to insert in my neck, the only part of my body that had good veins, they said, but I didn’t care, it hurt!

The first time it was easy, I didn’t know the pain the shot will make me experience, but then, every time they came I fought as an army of adults forced me upside down and stabbed me with the needle in my neck. It hurt, I didn’t like them and the fever was not going away and I was confused as to why were these people so mean to me? What have I done wrong to deserve such pain?

Then,  one day, the fever went down and they no longer stabbed me in my neck holding me upside down. I stayed in the hospital for over two months and it wasn’t all bad! Let’s not forget the theme of my blog. What was the Positive of it all: First, I was alive! Yes, a BIG positive!

I have some good memories too of my stay at the hospital. Actually one: A train and its mechanic. Every day the train would pass by at the same time. It was the highlight of my life. The mechanic always smiled and waived, and I waived back.  He never missed our secret date. He was my only friend. I trusted him!

What is the Law of Attraction? A Personal Perspective

Briefly, the “Law of Attraction” states that like attracts like.  To give an example, I believe, given the economic climate of today, many would  relate to the following statement:

If we think: “I need more money” that is a negative thought, therefore the chances of getting more money are japordized by our faulty, negative thinking.  We would be much better off if we restated our thought in a positive way, such as: ” I will make more money, my future is filled with money, happiness, good health, etc”.  No matter how bad a situation, the thoughts of the individual must be positive at all times.  The principle of positive visualization is well known and used in performance sports. Visualizing your every move prior to competition, visualizing you as the winner, it does work!

How about in our every day lives which are influenced by factors outside our control?  What if it’s not working, in spite of my effort to think positive?  Well, that’s  my fault, because even if I think  positive and make positive statements, and I do,  my subconscious must not be cooperating! According to “The Law of Attraction” the subconscious must be positive as well if we want it to work. Otherwise one’s desperate efforts to “attract health and wellbeing” will not work!  This concept alone puts me out of luck and sends me on a guilt trip!

At the time I started writing this blog, I wasn’t aware of the huge controversy concerning the proven results of “The Law of Attraction”.  Common sense told me there must be a controversy,  as the simplicity of the principle must have stirred questionings in the minds of many intelligent writers, reporters and people who in spite of trying hard to succeed don’t.

Personally, I decided to write about this subject because times and again I felt confused and guilty about the many adversities and trials I experienced throughout my life, and the outcomes. Am I the creator of my own misfortunes?  Is my subconscious undermining my efforts to be happy?

Even now, as I write this blog, I try to find the positive in the fact that I fell on a broken sidewalk and had to cancel my trip to see my daughter, and am confined to a bed with a fractured ankle, alone for the Holidays.  Why did this happen? Did my subconscious make me fall?  What is the meaning of what happened? Did I want to be confined to my bed, in pain in a place where I don’t know anyone and spend the Holidays alone? That subconscious mind of mine again, playing tricks on me!

I decided that perhaps this was God’s message that I should write. I have no more excuses, I cannot move, but I can write! That’s how this blog is being born!

In my previous entry I wrote about the history of “luck” and “fortune”.  The research was easy, it had a logical evolution from  Greek  mythology to the present.

I tried to follow a similar pattern and researched “The Law of Attraction”.  I found most of my information on Wikipedia, a source generally frowned upon by the Academic community, at least in the school where I am still a graduate student of psychology (a course away from earning my Master’s, once I finish my internship).

In researching the “Law of Attraction” and its roots, my sources directed me to  Socrates as quoting a Thracian physician as saying:” You ought not to attempt… to cure the body without the soul…” To me, this statement is along the same belief expressed  by another ancient philosopher, Seneca (? 4 B.C.-AD 65) who believed in moderation and who first nailed the phrase “Healthy mind, healthy body”.  As Seneca did, I  too, believe wholeheartedly in moderation, in the connection between mind, body and spirit, in a healthy mind in a healthy body. I hold a certification in hypnosis and for ten years I had a wholistic business, Rodica’s Natural Therapies, at a time when “natural” “alternative”, “complementary medicine”, all principles connected to the new age movement, where not accepted by  the main stream America.  However, from believing in the connection between our souls, minds, and bodies to believing we can change the outcome of our lives by the power of our mind alone disregarding all other circumstances… it’s a long way.

I continued my research to determine how from “a healthy mind in a healthy body” some people arrived to the conclusion that we can change our lives by the power of our minds alone,  no matter the circumstances, and we are completely responsible, and therefore to be blamed if our lives do not turn right.

According to my source, the phrase “Law of Attraction” was first used in the 19th Century” by New Thought writers.  This is a spiritual movement which focuses on metaphysical beliefs.  The movement  included religious denominations, writers, philosophers and individuals who shared the belief in the absolute results of positive thinking. To sum it up: “All sickness originates in the mind and the right thinking has healing effects.”

While I am in total agreement that a positive attitude is essential to healing, my personal experiences showed me that we are only in control of our attitudes but not in control of other circumstances life throws at us.  We are not in control of where we are born, whether we are born sick or healthy,  to rich or poor parents or in rich or poor countries… we are not in control of floods, earthquakes… yes, we are in control of wars but we seem to not understand  our responsibilities in the general fight between Good and Evil.

What makes it very challenging  to write about luck,  destiny and also the effects of positive thinking in our lives, is the fact that I, personally, believe in parts of each, but above all I believe in moderation and common sense.

How did  these controvertial elements, “luck”, “destiny” and “the Law of Attraction” and my continuous efforts to think and act in a positive way in spite of adversity, manifest in my life?

What happened after my soul, after all the struggles to be allowed to be born, manifested at last in Communist Romania  of 1950’s and was  housed in the body of a little, sickly girl whose parents wished her a boy?