In the early 1990s, Poland transferred ownership and management of the public schools to local authorities. But in many of the smaller, less densely populated areas, there wasn't enough money to keep the schools going, and thousands were closed. The crisis compelled Alina Kozinska-Baldyga to abandon her Ph.D. and throw herself into a new project to save rural schools.
The Poles call them "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 of security.
Greece has been suffering from high levels of unemployment, and the standard of living has dropped precipitously, as a direct result of the cuts in government programs mandated by the EU and the IMF. The EU should have predicted this result: This was the great unlearned lesson from the experience of East-Central Europe over the last 25 years.
I didn't have a chance to interview Munteanu in 1990 when I was in Romania because he was still in detention. But I met him last year for a conversation in Bucharest. I was surprised to discover that the activist who had captivated huge audiences of protestors for weeks at a time in 1990 never particularly relished that role.
One of our important activities was the seminar organized in 1987 at a church in Warsaw. The title of the seminar was Bringing Real Life to the Helsinki Agreement, and it was based on the Memorandum prepared by the Western peace movement and politicians as well as people from the opposition in the East.
When I met Jamie Walker in 1990, she was a specialist in mediation and conflict resolution. She worked in this capacity from her home in West Berlin, becoming involved in the peace movement, doing violence-prevention work in the school system, and eventually pioneering efforts in mediating cross-border family conflicts.
In Poland in the late 1980s, Polish sociologist Jadwiga Staniszkis began writing about "political capitalists." These were colloquially known as "red capitalists" -- technocrats and enterprise managers who were technically part of the Communist system but had already begun to function like capitalists.
Political parties in East-Central Europe are like amoebas. They are constantly splitting apart (mitosis) and then banding together in coalitions (aggregation). For someone coming from a U.S. context of two relatively stable parties, the political scene in East-Central Europe seems hopelessly complex. That goes double for Romania.
In 1990, the issue that catapulted Romania into the headlines in the West, after the rise and fall of Ceausescu, was the country's orphanages. Journalists and foreign health care workers were appalled to discover the condition of babies and children in the many state-run institutions in the country.
Activist Judit Hatfaludi took a position with Hungary's Feminist Network to coordinate a campaign to lobby for the pro-choice bill back in the '90s. We recently caught up about the current state of women's issues in Hungary, why the annual Pride marches are no longer like jubilees, and what she does now in her current work as a shaman.