This is a guest post from Gift of Diamonds author Roberta Seret, Ph.D. Thanks Roberta!
Romanian women during the 1960’s at the time when my literary heroine, Mica, in Gift of Diamonds, was growing up in Transylvania, were “existentialist” women. Many of them were well educated, for all schools and universities in Romania were free. They were also very western in their tastes: dancing to Rock and Roll and the Beatles, speaking French, German or Russia, and dreaming of visiting the city where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir wrote their books.
But the Romanian women could not travel outside of Romania – they were locked down behind an Iron Curtain. Yet, they had something that no woman had, be it in Paris or London or New York. They were already emancipated. Communism disallowed gender inequality. Women were educated equally to their men to build up the country. They were studying and working long hours just like their brothers. Girls and boys, women and men, were being prepared for the future.
In their free choices to follow their passions, women were given equal opportunities as their male colleagues. They were “existentialists” before the students of 1968 joined their men to demonstrate for equality and gender rights.
My four protagonists in Transylvanian Trilogy were educated in fields that America had stigmatized women with unwritten quotas. Mica, in Gift of Diamonds, was training to be a dancer and future choreographer. Anca, in Love Odyssey, was educated as a physician specializing in infectious diseases. Marina, in Treasure Seekers, became a chemist and Cristina, a fashion designer. These four friends growing up in their small town of Spera-meaning hope—were Poets of their Lives. As teenage girls, hiking together in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, they already knew they would create a new life for themselves in a different country. They had been educated and encouraged to compete in a man’s world, and they did. They overcame obstacles and created for themselves a life of free choices with the possibilities of success and satisfaction.
But it was not only my female literary creations who achieved. Real women in Romania during the 1960’s were already attaining praise on the global stage:
Queen Elena, who defied Fascism and the German occupation of her country, protected Jews overtly and fed thousands of starving children in her home. Nadia Comaneci was training to become the first world-known gymnast and show that a fourteen-year-old girl could win five Olympic gold medals within days and go on to win a total of nine medals.
Dr Ana Aslan, biologist and physician, was greeting the rich and famous like John Kennedy and Mao Tse-tung, at her clinic in Bucharest for doses of Gerovital H3. This was her magic formula known as a “fountain of youth” to delay aging and keep them strong in power. Angela Gheorghiu was already singing her Opera arias. Famous athletes were practicing their tennis, high jumps, ping pong, track and field. Actresses, singers, musicians, artists … and the list went on for Romanian women.
It is only in hindsight that my imaginary heroines of Transylvania Trilogy realized they had attained a very important freedom in their town of Spera. They were free to become Poets of Their Lives.
Roberta Seret, Ph.D., is the director of Advanced English and Film at the United Nations for the Hospitality Committee and Founder of the NGO at the United Nations, International Cinema Education. Her Transylvanian Trilogy series will be released this February-April, starting with the release of Gift of Diamonds on February 23. Visit her website for more information.