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Life in a Communist Country
My mom, Elena Lupean, was just another average girl living in Sibiu, Romania in the 1980’s and 1990’s, living under communist rule until everyone decided to take into their own hands and fight for their freedom. This is her story.
CT: Who did you live with while you were in Sibiu?
EL: With my parents until I got married and my three other sisters, Dana, Adriana, and Luminita. I used to be a different child to say the least. I always was the one who always protected them and I was calmer and more serious than them for the most part. I was the only one in the family who was like this.
CT: How were you like/act when you were little?
EL: I was very calm but, sometimes when I used to play with the kids, most likely, I used to beat the boys that get me upset, but in general I was pretty calm and quiet.
CT: What is a story that someone told you when you were little?
EL: When I was little, I used to grow up in a village with my grandparents on my mother’s side and especially my grandfather. He was the sweetest man in the world. He was very popular, nice, trustworthy, and religious. He loves his grandkids more than he liked his own kids. He was very young when he retired because then he went over to World War II. I liked used hear about the stories he had and everything that was in the history books he knew as well. He knew every General and Captain because he used to go with them as a messenger. I liked to hear how it was and what happened during that time.
CT:How was your school?
EL: The school was very good and I liked it. My favorite subjects were math and chemistry and I liked them very much ever since I started school. I liked to participate in all kinds of Olympiads for those subjects both local and national. We lived in a communist country so school was more important. We didn’t have any computers or too many needs in our school. All we used was just books, paper, and pencil. The rooms looked empty and the walls were only painted white and so were the hallways with tables and chairs. The only picture that was in the room was the picture of the president. When I was in high school, that was when I was sometimes using technology like a calculator. With the kids around, there was freedom. The kids used to play freely, it was safer and secure where the kids used to play.
I played a lot of sports before high school. Handball was something that I really liked to play. We used to have a school team and play against other schools and championships. I played mostly as a goalie. I also liked to run on the track team. I participated in mostly local and national competitions. We always ran about 5000 meters during the competitions. Then, I went to high school and it was very fun. I liked to participate in the communist bureau in the high school and I like to do that.
I like to go and help in the big center for all the bureaus to discuss and to see how everything is going. I just took advantage of it and mostly went to the city halls as a representative and we just had to say that our school was going well everything was doing good and sometimes we had to lie because this was a communist country.
CT: What kind of country was Romania at the time you were living there?
EL: In 1977, when I was 7 years old, there was once an earthquake that destroyed half the capital of Romania. It was a 7.0 earthquake and it happened sometime during the night. We didn’t feel it that much because we lived very far from the capital and there were mountains in between us and the capital. There were many famous people that died from this earthquake and especially very good actors. Till I was about 19, I grew up into a communist country. We were communist in 1989 we had a revolution to remove the communism and become a democratic and free country. You couldn’t go anywhere but another communist country. The only place I could go was Bulgaria which was also communist at the time.We went to training camps to train you how to use a gun and how to point it to a target and those were some exercises that we had to do there. Sooner or later, the people got sick of the communists and went out to the streets to protest. The entire country decided to go out on the streets to protest. In the morning everyone was saying “let’s go to the downtown area to protest because that’s where everyone used to gather and protest until we can’t anymore.” We went over to the police station because the police were most likely communist. While the communists had the police, we had the army on our side. Every boy that graduated high school at the age of 18 or 19 they are obligated to go in the army for a year. We went to the police station and there were people screaming “Down with the communists!” “We need freedom!”
Everyone was saying everything that was one their mind. I was there with my other friend in the back of the building since the entire building was surrounded of people. When the people started climbing the fence in order to get inside the building, the police started to shoot. So when I was in the back corner, there was an alley about 3 meters across from me, there was a girl about my age over there, falling because she was hit by a bullet. The other people tried to get her into a car so they can get her to a hospital, but the police was still shooting the people. By having that, the army started up and everyone started to run away. I just ran and ran, not looking back until I was a considerable distance from the station and my house. As I was running back to my house, the army was all the way on the other side of the street. Then, they started to shoot each other. They weren’t enemies, they even used to drink together, but in one day they’re shooting and trying to stop each other.
After I got home, I found out that my youngest sister was missing and my mother was saying “she’s gone!”, so I ran back into the streets trying to look for her. During that time, the police were trying to restore piece, but they couldn’t so they were hiding in the 10 story buildings all around the city, shooting from the balconies. I ran and ran, looking for her and I couldn’t find her. It was total chaos at the time. Finally, I couldn’t find her so I went back home and waited and after a while she came back by herself.
After we were all back, my father took some of the boys to the ground floor to protect the building from anyone that tries to come in. They slept in shifts for about three to four hours each. So they barricaded the door and stayed there and play cards to pass the night until their shift was up. They weren’t really afraid because they were all armed with big knives and big pieces of metal. It was a good few days until it finally stopped, right before Christmas. The president tried to run because he was communist and the people wanted to judge him for what he did. So what they did was they killed him on Christmas day and everyone was there to watch.
CT: How did you immigrate to America?
EL: We won a VISA lottery. What happened that we were 7 families and we were married at the time and we had no kids and my older sister came one day with an idea that she found out about and we had to put our names on pieces of paper and send it to a certain address and then after a short while we got a big envelope back and it was just us and nobody else and we filled it out and we didn’t know what it really us. After about 3 months we got another envelope with health forms and an interview with the American embassy. When we went there, we asked to see what happened and we found out we won the VISA lottery and we were really excited and came here. All we knew about America was about the Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon because that is all we learned in school so it was a new experience for us.
CT: Thank you for your time and this knowledge that you shared.
EL: You’re welcome.
After they moved to Chicago, Illinois, Elena and Dan Tulban had two kids. They moved to Niles, Illinois and continue to spend their lives in America to the fullest.