Full Interview List

In 2012-13, as part of an Open Society Foundation fellowship, I re-interviewed many of the people I talked to in 1990 when I traveled for seven months through East-Central Europe. Twenty-three years later, I also interviewed a wide range of additional people in order to get as broad a picture as possible of what has changed (and not changed) in the region since the transformations of 1989. I send...
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A Commitment to Children

They are called the decret generation. During the Communist era in Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu issued Decree 770 in 1967 making abortion and contraception illegal except under certain circumstances. The Communist leader wanted to radically increase the population of the country. People with money or political influence found a way around the regulations. But those who did not expect or could not...
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Rescuing Rural Schools

In the early 1990s, Poland began an overhaul of its political system that transferred considerable authority to local authorities, including ownership and management of the public schools. Local governments were suddenly responsible for paying for education from local funds. In many of the smaller, less densely populated areas, there wasn’t enough money to keep the schools going. As a result,...
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The Land of Junk Contracts

The Poles call them umowa śmieciowa or “junk contracts.” If you’re young and lucky enough to have a job in Poland these days, it’s likely to be short-term and come without benefits. Ten percent of young people (up to the age of 25) are working in the black market, and another 25 percent have part-time or short-term work. Of the rest, most have job contracts that provide little in the way...
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The Accidental Activist

Romania’s revolution in 1989 was not as clear-cut as those in other countries in the region. There was not, for instance, a sharp divide between the Communist political elite and the post-Communist elite. And the street demonstrations that faded elsewhere in the region intensified in Romania through the spring of 1990. For instance in April and May 1990, thousands of students occupied...
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Housing Is for All

During the Communist period in East-Central Europe, when people talked about “homelessness,” they were speaking of a spiritual or political condition – of being in exile from their country of origin or feeling homeless in their own country because of the presence of Soviet troops. At that time, there were few people living on the street. Everyone had to have an address. Homelessness did not...
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