I was born in Oradea, Romania on September 22, 1974. Life under the Ceausescu communist regime did not stop me from having a happy childhood. Yes, we often had no hot water, no food, and no heat. I remember walking to the bread stands, with my house key around my neck, waiting in line for hours to get one loaf of bread, a gallon of milk and a few bones with meat. My grandmother always tells a story that she made peas for dinner and I wanted some more but there was none and she cried for hours… To me as a child, all of this did not matter…as children we had our imagination. We made a playground of everything, running barefoot in the mud, climbing trees and picking berries from bushes. Everyone raised us as children. From the neighbors in the park who scolded you, to your friend’s mother feeding you and the school disciplining you. We had cohesion because we had a common factor “of not having”. It was this ‘lack of’ that made us appreciate an orange, a piece of gum, a t-shirt when it came.
My father defected to the United States in 1981. My mother lost her job, I was punished in school as a ‘traitor’ and I was kicked out of “Pionier”, which was the equivalent girl scouts. Eventually, my father obtained political asylum for us and we immigrated to Detroit, Michigan. Imagine coming from a homogenous society to a diverse one encompassing different cultures, different races, different social, political and economic one to a completely different world. Unimaginable. When we arrived in New York, I saw a Coca-Cola dispenser. I was in awe and wining for my mother to buy me one. My mother had no money. An African-American lady bought me my first Coke. This was my first experience in the new world.
In Detroit, we had to sink or swim. We had no money but we had food stamps, and government milk and government cheese and so on… I returned cans and bottles to have money. A school across the street took me in and gave me the opportunity of life. I spoke no English, my bangs were cut unevenly, I was skinny and most of all, I was lost. A teacher inspired me not only to believe in myself, but taught me that education was the one thing that no one can take away from you. I hung on to that for dear life…that was all that I had.
I studied hard, earned good grades and obtained a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan. Loyola School of Law offered me a scholarship and I moved to Chicago. I have been practicing law since 2000 and am currently a partner at the law firm of Rock Fusco & Connelly. I am a single mom of three boys, ages 9, 7 and 3. The oldest is an avid soccer player, the middle aspires to be a basketball player and the smallest with a smile as wide as the sun hopes to not be nagged by his older brothers. This is my life, this is your life as is of many others….