Cluj-Napoca, Romania

I am one of a generation of baby boomers born after a 1966 decree by the Romanian dictator Ceausescu interdicting abortions and contraceptive measures. The country has undergone so much change since that time, yet when I think of Romania, I think mainly of my grandparents’ small brick apartment in a 1950s military complex in Cluj-Napoca, where I spent my early life. On one side was a dead-end street with a slope perfect for winter sleigh riding, and on the other side the military base, surrounded by a cement fence. After gymnast Nadia Comăneci won gold at the 1976 Olympics, the fence became our balance beam. Nadia was the quintessential Romanian girl, and I modeled my ponytail and bangs after hers and walked on the fence, which was five feet high, all summer long.

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