Archive for the ‘Eastern Europe’ Category

They were Hungary for wine

January 15, 2009

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Dec. 7, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

 This was one of those “we laughed, we cried” trips. Fun at times, and very solemn intense at others.
 
Linda (left) and Harvey Weiner at Zakopane, Poland, beginning a hike up the High Tatras.

Linda (left) and Harvey Weiner at Zakopane, Poland, beginning a hike up the High Tatras.

WHO: Linda, 64, and Harvey Weiner, 66, of Newton, Mass.

WHERE: Eastern Europe.

WHEN: Two weeks in July.

WHY: “I’d always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, near Krakow,” Harvey said. “I feel it’s an obligation of everyone to go there. We love to hike, and Linda found an organized hiking trip with Backroads from Budapest to Krakow.” Linda was a little hesitant about visiting the concentration camps. “I kept telling myself that I had the easy part by observing.”

TOOLS OF TERROR: The couple spent a few days in Budapest before the tour. “We visited the opera house and the Parliament, but the House of Terror was the most interesting,” Harvey said. “It was the party headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis and later the communist KGB. You see torture chambers, gallows, racks. There’s also the Holocaust Memorial Center, which is noteworthy in sharing blame with passive civilian onlookers.”

Linda (center) and Harvey (right) at wine tasting at the Rokoczi wine cellar, Takoj, Hungary

Linda (center) and Harvey at wine tasting at the Rokoczi wine cellar, Takoj, Hungary

SWEET AND HIGH UP: Backroads took them and eight other hikers into Hungarian wine country and the High Tatras mountains of Slovakia and Poland. “The initial couple of hikes were short warm- ups around vineyards and the countryside and then it got more strenuous in the mountains,” Harvey said. In the Tokaj wine region of Hungary they tasted dessert wines at the Rakoczi Cellar at Sarospatak. “Some people liked them, but they were too sweet for us,” he said.

Harvey and Linda hiking in Tacal, Hungarian wine country.

Harvey and Linda during a hike in Tacal, Hungarian wine country.

SEASONED TRAVELERS: “There were a lot of local families and even nuns in full habit with backpacks and walking sticks.” Linda noticed that many women had “paprika colored hair. They must have dyed it themselves. It was funny because Hungary is known for paprika.” One night, in Javorina, Slovakia, they stayed at Hotel Kolowrat. “It used to be for the communist elite,” Linda said. “It had funky ’50s architecture, a great view of the mountains, and a bowling alley.”

NOT A DAY TRIP: In Krakow, where the tour ended, Harvey wanted to go to Auschwitz by train instead of on a bus tour. “I didn’t want to treat it as a tourist attraction,” he said. Once they were in Oswiecim, they managed to reach the site, though there are no signs pointing the way. “There are two camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Auschwitz is set up as a museum, with two barracks. They still have evidence of people: toothbrushes, glasses, human hair, which they sold to make into fabric.” “The room that really got me was where the so-called beds were,” Linda said. “A whole wall was filled with children’s shoes.” At Birkenau they saw ruins of gas showers and crematoriums. They also spent a few days touring Krakow. “It’s a gorgeous city that survived World World II, unlike its Jewish population,” Harvey said.

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Signs of change in Moldova

January 28, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(published Jan. 27, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I was very impressed with Justin, who hadn’t even heard of Moldova before going there to volunteer. Since then his world has opened up, and he keeps in touch with several friends there. Before doing this story I’d never thought about sign language being specific to written and spoken languages. Even British and American is different. I learned a lot about it during my interview with Justin. Very interesting!

WHO: Justin Goujon, 27, of Methuen, Mass.

WHERE: Moldova.

WHEN: Four weeks in August and September.

WHY: Goujon (pronounced goo-ZHAN), an American Sign Language Justin Goujon in Moldovainterpreter, volunteered at a school and orphanage for deaf children in the small Eastern European country, a former Soviet republic. “I went twice before with a group of deaf adults from Grace Chapel in Lexington, Mass., and made friends. This time I went back to work at the orphanage and to visit friends I’d made in Moldova.”

DEAF OUTREACH: “A fellow interpreter mentioned the trip to me the first time, and about the church’s deaf ministry,” said Goujon, who works as an ASL interpreter at Work, Community, Independence in Waltham. “Each time we go we raise our own money, $1,600 each.” Before going the first time, Goujon researched the country. “I’d never heard of it before. It’s bordered by Romania and Ukraine. It’s the poorest country in Europe.”

US ROLE MODELS: At Cahul Hipoacuzi Orphanage, in the city of Cahul, “some children live there year-round and some go to school and go home on weekends. There’s lots of outreach to Moldova from secular and religious groups. But as far as we know, there’s been no one deaf visit the school,” Goujon said. “Sign language is different in different countries, but for them to even see deaf adults from America was the biggest benefit, to see how their lives are here, how they’re educated. Deaf people there don’t have a lot of role models. There are no real services there for them.”

Justin Goujon in MoldovaREADING THE SIGNS: The first time Goujon visited, the interpreting process was cumbersome, with four interpreters involved. “This time we worked the kinks out more. We found a Moldovan who knew ASL and could interpret into Moldovan sign language.” Most younger Moldovans speak Romanian and Russian, as well as some English, while older citizens speak only Russian. “Menus are in both languages, but most street signs are in Romanian,” he said. Although the country is poor, “it depends on where you are,” he said. “The capital, Chisinau, is beautiful, with tons of parks, modern buildings, well-dressed people. There’s a huge disparity between poor and rich.”

MOLDOVAN MARRIAGE: During his visits, Goujon became friends with a Moldovan interpreter and spent several weeks with him. “He’s a university student, and his family is in Chisinau. I timed the visit to go to the wedding of a friend of a friend. It started at 6 p.m. and ended at 6 a.m. in a hall. A smaller church wedding was the following week. There was a huge production of signing the marriage license, with vows and rings. There were traditional dancers and bands all night, and a lot of circle dances, with everyone holding hands.”

AMERICAN IDOLS: Several times Goujon was a guest at a friend’s university English class. “Most of their questions were about American pop culture,” he said. “They think McDonald’s is around every corner and that everyone is fat. Whenever I would meet anyone and say that my name was Justin, everyone would say, ‘Timberlake?’ “