My Transylvanian Family

Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

In 1989 the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of a 40-year Cold War to the jubilation of millions around the world. But how many of us have a personal story of the struggle, heartbreak, despondency, and alienation endured by individuals caught between two opposing political ideologies during that period? Little did I know what I would learn about this subject when I first moved to Europe in 1982 to begin my performing career at a German opera house.

Early on I met a tall, impressive bass, an ethnic Hungarian from Transylvania (formerly a part of Hungary ceded to Romania after WWII) with an unusual last name and charismatic demeanor…

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Uzbek Surprise

Diane Henrikson Russell

Never in a million years did I imagine that I would visit Uzbekistan, a Soviet republic in Central Asia!

In August of 1979, I accompanied my graduate-student spouse on the 1979-80 USSR academic exchange sponsored by IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board). We participants began the exchange by taking a crash course in Russian while living in the Moscow State University dormitory. We met two exchangees who were heading to Toshkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, in September, while we planned to study in Tbilisi, the capital of Soviet Georgia. We became such good friends that we vowed to visit each other at our exotic locations.

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Is the American Experiment Doomed?

Peter Neame

I preface this brief article (by a biochemist and Brit and thus an Alien!), who has bucked the normal trend of being a leftist while young and right-wing when old to become the exact opposite while absolutely not embracing a true leftist philosophy by saying that it is a very personal viewpoint.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana, 1905.

The writers of the constitution, ratified in 1787 and amended twenty-seven times, created a wonderful document. Based heavily on the Magna Carta of the UK (1215) and heavily tweaked by a consideration of the history of ancient Rome and the city states of Ancient Greece, it was succeeded by the constitution of the French Republic (1793). The writers of the U.S. constitution created a government framework with a number of checks and balances to avoid a despotic government arising, notably the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

So far, so good. Yet the majority of governments in the history of the world have been autocratic in one form or another.

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Komi’s Northern Lights

Junia Ancaya

When we see what is happening in Yemen and Ukraine, we sometimes feel that more human suffering is taking place now than the world has ever seen before. And that’s not true. Most of us are old enough to remember WW II as having been a recent event when we were children. Some of us experienced it. The horrors taking place now are real but not unique.

Junia Ancaya and her family suffered the brutalities of both the Soviets and the Nazis during that dreadful time, and she has written about it in two books she’s published and here in OLLI Connects. In this issue she adds another chapter to her family’s saga.

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Christmas Carol Redux

Joan Weaving

This week’s blog ushers in what we hope will be a series of issues about the challenges facing this nation in 2024. We are pairing her thoughtful, short article, where she considers the future we are leaving for the next generation, with a new challenge in the form of an appeal for more opinion content from our subscribers and writers. You can read more about our request at the end of Joan’s article. — Editors


The ghost of Christmas Future visited us this Christmas Eve. It came on the faces of all the little children who gathered at my son’s house. My grandsons, their neighbors and friends, their cousins. The oldest was 10 years and the youngest 2 months. I felt very old.

I thought about the world they will live in. The only thing I know for sure is that it will be different from the one of today, and unrecognizable to the one I grew up in. The events which shaped our understanding of the world will be just a footnote in their history books. But I want them to know.

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Make It So!

Neil Cosentino

One of my favorite television programs as a teenager was Victory at Sea. I watched every episode, and the theme music has stayed with me all these 70 years:  Don-Don-Don-to-Don – Dant – to – Dant – to – Dant… 

The dream of being on a Navy warship and the music stayed with me even after I’d joined the Air Force and become a pilot. And as luck would have it, after completing my F-4E Phantom Fighter Training at George AFB, instead of Vietnam, I was assigned to the 62nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Misawa, Japan. It was a great assignment, because I have always liked the Japanese culture. (Later I would build a house there overlooking the Pacific Ocean and live off base inside that culture.)

I could have flown to Japan, but instead I decided I’d try to make that lifelong dream come true.   Read more

Three Vivid Memories

Jerry Noland
Susan Harrison
Andy Mohr

Jerry Noland, Susan Harrison, and Andy Mohr – members of OLLI’s Shared Interest Group Community of Readers and Writers share three short memoir personal essays as part of a project of Vivid Memories. Creating layers of meaning and weaving images in a limited number of words (under 500) seems to bring out the best in their writing. You, too, are welcome to send your vivid memories, even a prose/poem, (under 500 words, please) to the group for feedback and tips for editing at readersandwriters.too@gmail.com.

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Not in America ?

Joan Weaving

On Monday, September 29th 1941 at 8am, Shepsa and Sura Gershunovich appeared at the corner of Melnikiva and Dokterivskaya streets in Kiev Russia, as ordered by the town police.

Shepsa and Sura were decent, God-fearing Russians who worked hard, and followed the laws of Torah. They raised children, eked out a living, and believed that God would provide. They were my great grandparents.

At 9 am, along with over 30,00 other “Yids” who had gathered as ordered, they were marched to Babi Yar, a huge ravine north of the city. They were stripped of their clothes and belongings and layered like plywood into the ditch. Then they were systematically shot to death and buried beneath the rubble. By 8 pm, all the “Yids” were dead.

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Here’s Looking at You, New Yorker Poems

Robert Strozier

Last October Cath Mason and Bob Strozier taught an OLLI course on “New Yorker Poetry,” and this year they’re back with a sequel, “Here We Come! More Poems from the New Yorker,” on Thursday, October 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Compton Park Azalea Room. (Call 813-974-5848 to enroll.)

Bob wrote the following introduction to last year’s course, and we offer it here as both a stand-alone love letter to the magazine and as an enticement to enroll in the upcoming course. — Editors

Growing up, I don’t remember reading much poetry in the The New Yorker unless it was by Ogden Nash, high priest of light verse. Remembered, among other things, for:
“Candy is dandy/But liquor is quicker.”

And “The Cow.”
“The cow is of the bovine ilk/One end is moo, the other, milk.”

Speaking of farm animals, in March of 1976 I happened across a New Yorker poem about a pig that caught me completely off-guard and left me in tears. It was “St. Francis and the Sow,” by Pulitzer Prize winner, Galway Kinnell, which turned out to be one of his greatest poems. I still get teary when I read it.

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Ending Birthright Citizenship Is Not the Right Thing to Do

Don Menzel

Are you a U.S. citizen? How do you know you are or are not? “Oh”, you say, “I was born in the U.S.” Well, all right, but it may surprise you to learn that the U.S. is one of only 35 countries that offers birthright citizenship—the vast majority of the nearly 200 countries on the planet do not do so.

So, what is controversial about birthright citizenship? Simply put, one view shared by the Republicans running for president is that birthright citizenship is a vehicle for illegal immigrants seeking entry into the U.S. Leading the pack is former President Donald Trump who has said that if elected in 2024 he will sign an executive order ending automatic citizenship for children born of parents who have illegally entered the U.S. In his view, birthright citizenship results in “anchor babies” who upon reaching the age of 21 can sponsor parents and family members for U.S. entry. Joining former President Trump are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy who has said he will add new citizenship requirements.     Read more

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