Oana lived through the Ceausescu regime. She is an active online personality at Authors Info and she has written a book, The Healings. She has a passion for felines and is a multi linguist.
She met me at The Slaughterhouse, where we talked about totalitarianism regimes and mental conditioning.
You experienced first hand the totalitarian regime of Ceausescu. How do you think he used the personality cult to advance his interests?
This is a very complex issue, there are many aspects involved. He had a double agenda, the domestic and the foreign one. I think the cult for his personality started early on in 1968 when he convinced everyone in the country and abroad that he was “different” than the others Kremlin puppets. He opposed the invasion of Czechoslovakia and pretended he was open to the West. People liked that, and saw it as a sign of independence. Little they knew, in and outside the country alike that he planned to escape the Russian rule so he could create his own personal pocket country.
After 1968 slowly but steadily the regime turned into an increasingly oppressive one. I was born in 1969 and I do remember pictures of him and his wife everywhere, the schools were propaganda-infused, the TV programs — that eventually got reduced to two hours of braodcasting daily – were about him, with him and approved by him.
At this point (I am talking 80’s) he was hated not admired. But the hatred was not overt, the militia and Securitate (the secret services) made sure we were a disciplined people.
We all felt it was an abusive relationship – he was a father who was cruel and horrible to his children and his wife Elena was an equally horrible mother. Ironically they really considered themselves to be our loving parents and guardians. Ceausescu also was close friend with North Korean leaders whom he admired and from whom he learned a lot in terms of propaganda.
Ceausescu used the personality cult to create a system of terror and massive corruption. Everyone feared him so his surveillance services were very effective.
In the end everyone was alienated, his own trusted servants included. No one felt safe around the Ceausescu couple.
It is my personal belief that as a result of that cult twenty two million people developed severe mental alienation. I considered myself lucky to have lived through this for only twenty years although I feel robbed of my youth, but I look back and think of those who never knew better and just feel lucky. Sounds strange but my demons are really “cute” compared to theirs.
There are people out there who never healed. The frightening part is that they never acknowledged the harm that was done to them.
Would you describe yourself as feline and what are your views on dogs?
I had spent a lot of time around cats, especially big cats. I find them fascinating although they are not friendly and cuddly in any way. I have never felt safe around cats really and no animal handler should, in my opinion. With cats is always a matter of ‘when’ not a matter of ‘why’ or ‘if’.
I guess my nature would be rather feline. I rarely negotiate and when I do I always win. So far I have always landed on my feet narrowly escaping extremely dangerous situations – knock on wood haha . I left my country at a very young age, and I had to fend for myself.
Independence curiosity and loneliness would bring me closer to a cat than to another animal. Cats are solitary elusive animals. They are also constantly and consistently monitoring their targets. Cats are hard to distract. I am too.
But that’s where the similarities end. I hate to say it, but I have little if any from the grace of a cat. I am very straightforward, sarcastic, and upsetting for most people. I just cannot sugarcoat the reality. It is what it is.
Dogs are pack animals, social animals. Comparing dogs to cats is simply put wrong. People do it all the time. We attach human emotions to animals. Animals do have a wide array of emotions, some of them very sophisticated, but they are animal emotions not human. Human emotions include the animalistic emotions, not the other way around. I hope I make sense. Sometimes I wish I could explain everything with a meow.
Did you experience any ongoing mental conditioning by the totalitarian regime you left when you arrived in America?
I have a funny story for you. When I arrived in Atlanta in 2001 I had this weird sensation that I was being watched. I didn’t share my impressions with anyone really because I thought I was crazy. But then it was a sensation I had not experienced in many years not even in my home country, keep in mind that Ceausescu was executed in 1989 and we were in 2001.
Anyway, years had flown by and I trusted my instincts and I always looked for cameras. I am not talking about the ones that were conspicuously placed in the stores I am talking all sorts of surveillance devices, hidden in very weird places. I did take my time on a few occasions to find the surveillance programs on computers at work. As a matter of fact, the IT guys didn’t even bother to hide them very well.
Back then I thought I had a lot of mental conditioning going on, but in time I realized I had in fact used all my experience to discover the progress of the surveillance science in my new homeland, or should I say the free western world.
Luckily, the years under surveillance and stress paid off. In so many years of handling wildlife I had hardly been taken by surprise by animals, no matter how good or fast they were. I am not the chick you would try to tap on the shoulder without warning either.
Another classic of mental conditioning that taught me bunches, is the fact that when I see people my first reaction is to screen them. I do not trust unconditionally, period. To be quite honest, people use the information you give away against you, regardless if you are in a totalitarian regime or in the free world. It’s just human nature.
And if there is one category I found hard to trust that would be police or military haha. To me authority had always been “the enemy” or at least some sort of hostile entity. These people are not there to protect me, but to oppress me. That was probably the hardest to fight. I’ve surprised myself many times becoming aggressive and defensive just upon a routine check at the border.
Oh and let us not forget the fireworks or any similar sounds for that purpose. Twenty something years later I still think Ceausescu’s troops are firing at people in Universitatii Square in Bucharest.
I really don’t want to take up too much space here, I shall end on a positive note: if people knew how much they are monitored how much of their information is shared and sold and how many strangers actually peek into the most intimate aspects of their lives on daily basis they would definitely lose their minds.
What advice would you give yourself as a younger woman?
I would listen to my own voice. I would spend more time with myself. Knowledge starts with your own Self.
Although I was far from being unaware or oblivious to existence in general, I got to know my own Self late in life. I had not been aware of how much energy and raw force I was putting out there and this ultimately destroyed all my relationships with men. Not that they were saints, they were actually very troubled. But I was the one picking them, so until I figured out what exactly made them flock to me, their problems became mine.
Had I known how to channel that testosterone – mine not theirs! — I would have been a happier woman. I wouldn’t have competed against men, but worked with them.
That’s how I realized that being self-centered is okay, while being selfish is not. When you are interested in your self and learn the laws that govern your body and mind you become a woman of your own.
I am one today but now I have to wait for men to catch up with me haha.
Life is so funny.
How would you describe your writing?
What a question haha. It’s like asking, how would you describe yourself naked with no make up? I guess we are all humans before being artists, so the answers would be, oh, I am fat or I am so sexy. Some writers think highly of their writing even if it has the quality of scribbling on the walls at the outskirts of the big city. Some do not, and feel their writing is not good enough. It’s not a matter of writing, it’s a matter of ego.
However to the eye of the observer, a writer cannot hide behind his writing. A writer is his writing. So my writing is aggressive, poignant, somewhat bordering on brutality. All this on the canvas of my great sensitivity. Surprise! I have the soul of a five year old.
If anything I like all my characters to “be right” at the same time. I refrain from placing The Truth in the hands of one character or another. That’s my signature trick haha. I like my readers to step back and exclaim in outrage, “Wtf is this, are we getting an answer?”
No, you are not. Hahaha.
Do you think killing and fucking are related?
They are both fueled by instincts. The reproductive one is stronger than anything else; killing derives from it in my opinion.
I am fascinated how they work together. They both have something to do with territoriality and control. Male harassment of females is definitely an important factor in evolution of mammals.
There is even species of seals where the males harass the female as part of the mating game, and sometimes kill her, but they never mate. I think the male canary occasionally kills the female if she is not ready to mate. Go figure. I think we should pay more attention to animals if we want to learn something about our sexuality.
There are some nasty truths there that have to be faced so we can finally evolve. Yet we have been obstinately avoiding them and that is why we display such awkward social behaviors. We never changed who we are; we just sugarcoated who we are.
Do you feel American?
Yes, I do feel American.
Am I American? Heck, yeah! I write in English, I publish in English, I am at home in both language and country, I am more American than anyone I know haha.
I do want to say a few things about language, though. I know people who have lived here for twenty years and do not speak English. This is sooo wrong. On top of that, they complain all the time about everything, and I look at them and say, “Hey, you are the architect of your disaster. You didn’t bother to learn the language, initiate contact and settle down. You’ve made no effort to feel at home here.”
And by saying that I feel American, I am not denying my strong European heritage. It shows in my education and my views. But then so does my Balkan temperament. Who am I, really?
I am layers of experiences, I am a little bit of every culture I was exposed to; I am not a linear one-dimensional being.
Spiritually, I am a citizen of the world.
I think part of the conflicts we have — religious, cultural, historical – stem from the fact that most people fight to stay within their own cultures, they demand one dimension.
Tell us about The Healings.
The main character is a depressed male – the universal human being in search of his own Self and his place in the society and, on a deeper level in the world. In his quest for healing, he is accompanied by his one and only partner, his talking cat.
The thoughts and dilogues, naïve and hilarious as they seem, offer a deep insight into life, death and what’s in between.
My take on depression is simple and effective: witticism and laughter coupled with the understanding of the frailty of human nature help us heal.
I think laughter is a recipe for survival.
The most important feature of my book is the namelessness of the character. I broke the rules, although everyone told me to avoid that. I think the fact that every human being can relate to that is huge. And I really wanted to capture that.
Tell us about the new magazine Authors Info.
Author’s Info is one of the projects I have joined some time ago. When Shane Cox, the gentleman who created this network approached me and shared his vision with me, I admit I was reluctant. I’m hard to get and even harder to keep around. As we talked more and more, I started liking the idea, then I saw some of my friends authors joining as well.
The concept behind it is having a FREE professional network for readers, writers and all others the literary industry, where they can connect, get exposure, and also get access to affordable services for members.The website was designed to offer exposure, unlike the social websites people usually join just to hang out someplace.
So far writers who joined are happy because their articles and posts are viewed by many readers. Members can post in the Blog section; add themselves and their books in the listing area, create a fan club groups, and much more.
Right now I have the pleasure of coordinating the monthly poetry anthology Blueflame. I also co-host the radio show It Matters together with Monica Brinkman. I have my column titled, The Romanian Bite. Other writers and editors work on their own projects, whether it’s a slam poetry contests or various events.
What is the most important skill a writer should have?
I think observation is the most important skill a human being should have. Good observations lead to good predictions, too. Whenever I trained people and regardless of the subject matter I did my best to teach them how to see the things in front of them. Too many times, we look at things without seeing them and poor assessments translate into missed targets, and ultimately failure.
If people took their time with observation, they would see that their puppy crawling dizzy on the floor is not being “cute” but has a hypoglycemic episode. They would see their partner is unhappy and hurting. They would see their child is not scratching the walls because has ADD, but because is trying to paint or write. Oh well…
A good writer will take the art of observation, which is a long lost art, to a different level. That is why we love to read the classics because they help us see things we constantly miss in life.
Oana thank you for an interview that is both versatile and interesting.
Find Oana at…
Her website, Twitter, The Romanian Bite, an 18+ fan club, or check her list of resources for other places she can be found.