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Surviving Oppression With Poetry

by D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
posted Mar. 11, 1998

For Liliana Ursu, writing poetry during the Ceaucescu regime in Romania was so difficult that, at one point, she quit writing all together.

“We (writers, publishers and broadcasters) could not use words like ‘church’ and ‘despair’ because they appeared on a list of forbidden words issued by the government,” said Ursu during a recent telephone conversation from Penn Sate University, where she is a visiting professor.

Writers were also required to register their typewriters with the local police, said Ursu. Samples of the characters were kept on file to assist authorities investigating revolutionary propaganda.

“I came to look at my typewriter as an enemy,” said Ursu, explaining why she gave up writing during that period.

Ursu will be on campus Thursday, March 19, to discuss the challenges she faced as a writer in a totalitarian country. The lecture “Poet Between Worlds” begins at 11 a.m. in 263 Dwinelle Hall and is sponsored by Lunch Poems and the Center for Slavic and East European Studies.

Censorship was just one of many obstacles Ursu faced in her native country. During the 1989 revolution, Ursu frequently dodged bullets as she entered or left the radio station where she produced cultural programs for Romanian National Public Radio.

Although she didn’t consider herself a dissident, Ursu said her compositions on life, love and religion provided moral support for revolutionaries and their supporters during the upheaval.

“I think my poetry reached out to people’s hearts and helped keep them alive,” said Ursu.

Since the revolution, Ursu has won two Fulbright Scholarships. She continues to produce radio programs and will issue a new book of poetry, titled “Angel Riding a Beast,” this fall.

“I’m so glad to have my freedom back, but I cry when I think of the years that were stolen from me during that terrible time,” said Ursu. “Through my poetry, I am trying to find the strength to forgive.”

For information on Ursu’s visit, call 642-0137.

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