Joanne Ivy Stankievich didn’t know what she was getting into when she agreed to accompany her husband Walter to Germany in 1988. He had just accepted a position as director of the Belarus Service
at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which was then headquartered in Munich. The journey turned out to be quite a ride for the self-described “American farm girl,” as she witnessed the fall of Communism and the consequent sea change both in the geopolitical landscape and in ordinary people’s lives.
So rich was her experience that Stankievich recently published a book about her time in Europe, Living With A Scent Of Danger: European Adventures At The Fall Of Communism.
RFE/RL welcomed Joanne and Walter Stankievich to its Prague headquarters on Friday, May 10 for a lively and engaging conversation about his time as the Belarus Service director from 1988-2001 and her “adventures” living in Europe during such a pivotal period in its history.
“It was a wonderful opportunity because it was a time in history when everything was changing, and to be here at that time and to see the changes in the government and to go through some of the chaos, then to see the changes and the progress, that was one of the most rewarding times to go through that process,” said Stankievich.
Reading a passage from her book, Stankievich recounted her first impressions of RFE/RL, including her initial alarm at the strict security implemented after the 1981 bomb attack at the RFE/RL Munich headquarters -- later revealed to be the work of Carlos the Jackal and paid for by then-president of Romania Nicolae Ceauşescu.
In addition to Cold War dangers, dicey excursions behind the Iron Curtain and encounters with dissidents, the memoir also includes humorous anecdotes about cultural differences and funny gaffes the author, who is a self-confessed hopeless language student, inadvertently committed.
Stankievich’s memoir is available at online booksellers such as Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. The book’s proceeds go to the Monroe-Vilnia Foundation, an organization that promotes democracy in Eastern Europe, particularly in Belarus.
RFE/RL's Radio Svaboda, as the Belarus Service is locally known, is one of the leading news websites and one of the few news outlets accessible to Belarusians in their own language.