In the autumn of 1996, my colleague Dan C. Stegaroiu asked me whether I wanted to go to Prague to AUDEM. At that time I didn’t know what AUDEM meant; I thought it was the name of some firm … I agreed, though, because the temptation to see the “golden city” was big.
I arrived in Prague in a beautiful November day. What I experienced there had such an impact on me, that I wrote dozens of pages on it in the Romanian press. I remember some details that were shocking for me, as a person belonging to a country coming out of a communist dictatorship: during the official reception, the personal councilor of the Czech president Vaclav Havel received no special treatment by the waiters, but queued up just like all the other participants. I also noticed that all the prominent professors present at the conference, from the USA or the UK, were treating us, those coming from the East, in a very normal way, as if we were their peers. This was the first lesson of democracy that I learned. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself, in my own powers. I understood that I could be a winner.
It was still in Prague when something happened and I consider it a miracle in my life. I listened with great interest to the speech of an American professor on the Communist Manifesto by Marx. I went to the professor, congratulated him and asked him to allow me to translate the text of his speech in the Reporter magazine, that I was about to publish. He agreed very kindly. We exchanged cards and I found out his name: John Ryder, Dean of the Arts and Science Faculty at the State University of New York, College at Cortland. Present at the conference was also his friend, the Distinguished Professor, Henry Steck.
In 1997 I went, thanks to AUDEM, to Warsaw, in 1998 to Nitra, in Slovakia, and in 1999 to Budapest. After visiting each city I came back home and published dozens of pages. This is how my first book was born, Pilgrim through Europe, containing travel impressions from Wien, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest. At each AUDEM conference I met John Ryder and Henry Steck again. We became friends. I invited them to Cluj-Napoca, to “Babes-Bolyai” University. John came in 1998; in 1999 he came with Henry. They held several conferences and seminars. In 2000 my two friends invited me to their university, where I held a course called East – European Contemporary Journalism. I was accompanied by my son, Mihai.
The visit to America was an extraordinary challenge for us. The experiences I had then will be materialized in a book about America (From Moscow to New York). I had the chance to shake hands and exchange a few words with the former US president, Bill Clinton, which was for me, as a journalist, an extraordinary event. We visited the Niagara Falls. At Cortland I made new friends: Collen Ryder, Janet Steck, Devereaux Kennedy, Sharon, Bill and Mitchell Pesesky, Karen, July and David Hempson, David Hellenback, John, Linda and Peter Hartsock, Thomas Mwanika, Craig Little, Samuel Kelly, Coralee Burch, Joseph Brownell, Deborah Williams, Rhonda Moulton, and many others.
At Cortland I was fascinated by the events that took place there in 1906, events that inspired An American Tragedy, the famous novel by Theodore Dreiser. I had the chance to experience live the American Democracy, that I found in the American homes without fences, in the open doors of public institutions, in footnotes, in traffic signs, in the notices at hotel rooms that asked you to close the windows, to prevent rain or pigeons come inside, in people’s smiles, in the air I used to breathe. Thanks to John Ryder’s great generosity I spent three days in New York. On September 15th 2000 I saw the Statue of Liberty, the Twin Towers and the Empire State Building. I couldn’t imagine, not even in my worst nightmare, the tragedy that was to happen one year after, on September 11th …
In 2001, prof. Coralee Burch and prof. Henry Steck came as visiting professors at our university, where they enjoyed the appreciation of our colleagues and our students, for their courses and seminars. In May 2001, prof. Thomas Mwanika came, also as a visiting professor. Other friends announced their visit in the following years. Is this a matter of small importance? I for one, believe it means a lot!
With each AUDEM session I make new friends, new contacts. I owe three of my books to AUDEM. I owe my visit to America to AUDEM. We owe the pleasure of having valuable American professors to AUDEM. The Reporter magazine, one of the few publications with a journalistic profile owes to AUDEM. The fact that I have become a very rich man (for I consider friendship, together with health, man’s greatest wealth) is also due to the AUDEM. The fact that the electronic magazine Dragon Planet has a co-editorial staff in Romania is due to AUDEM. I would like to thank, from this page corner, to those who created and are leading AUDEM.
If it weren’t for AUDEM, these things wouldn’t have existed for me. Not even the miracle of meeting John Ryder and Henry Steck. My wife, Doina, says I’m a lucky man. “How come, in Prague, out of 200 participants you went straight to John and Henry?” Well, I don’t know …. It was a miracle that changed the course of my life.