Bill Bryson Meets Zbigniew Brzezinski — An Entertaining Odyssey
through an Often Forgotten Corner of Europe

Published to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Dracula is Dead: How Romanians Survived Communism, Ended it, and Emerged Since 1989 as the New Italy takes readers on a memorable tour of Romania—past, present, and future. Through a series of colorful vignettes, former United States ambassador to Romania Jim Rosapepe and distinguished journalist Sheilah Kast, his wife, introduce us to the people, places, and history of Romania, transporting us to a vibrant country most of us know little about

When we think about Romania, what most often comes to mind are images of Dracula’s fog-enshrouded castle in Transylvania, bleak orphanages, and an oppressed people reeling from Nicolae Ceauşescu’s regime. In Dracula is Dead, the authors set the record straight, presenting a thriving nation that has overcome centuries of tyranny and has emerged as a true success story with a bright future—that’s why they call it the New Italy. This compelling volume fills a void in the literature about Romania. On a larger scale, it explains the impact of the fall of Communism in Europe and helps us understand the growth of democracy throughout the world. As Kast and Rosapepe write in their Preface, “Many of Romania’s most difficult challenges in the twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany and the fall of the Ceaușescu dictatorship in Romania have been similar to those encountered throughout the former Soviet bloc…This is the story of all 350 million people in two dozen countries.”

The authors write from their experiences in Romania over the past decade, including the years when Rosapepe served as U.S. Ambassador (1998 to 2001). They experienced the inner workings of Romania—from the mines to the monasteries, from the hospitals to the software labs. They met Romanians from all walks of life at town meetings, on farms, in remote villages, and in schools and factories. They also spoke with American missionaries and Peace Corps volunteers, entrepreneurs, and Romanian Americans who came to Romania after the fall of Communism in December 1989. Many of their remarkable stories are included in this volume, in their own words.

We meet public figures whose influence has spanned Communist and post-Communist years in Romania, such as Ion Iliescu, both a leading figure during Communism and Romania’s first democratically elected president, and Ion Diaconescu, one of several Romanians who underwent years of political imprisonment but lived long enough to become major players in modern democratic Romania. We are introduced to church leaders and the heads of the Jewish community, students, small-town mayors, and a colorful cast of real-life characters including singing monks, IT entrepreneurs, and The Mother in Law of the Year.

We travel to Bucharest, the capital city once called “the Paris of the East,” where politics meld with the Orthodox Christianity entwined in Romania’s identity since its early days. We visit Constanta on the Black Sea, where Roman poet Ovid did some of his best work, underlining Romania’s Latin roots. We explore Transylvania, home not just to Vlad Ţepeş, the real-life Dracula, but to the historic divide between Romanians and Hungarians; learn the poignant history of Maramureş, the birthplace of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel; and take a light-hearted break in the Merry Cemetery, known for its colorful and amusing epitaphs.

Along the way, Rosapepe and Kast share with us, through their amusing and insightful essays, the discoveries they made about this country of boundless hospitality, brilliant skills, strong work ethic, staunch family values, deep religious faith, and tremendous resiliency. In Dracula is Dead, they present a fascinating portrait of a model for the region and the world for how people of diverse ethnic heritages can co-exist in one country, and as neighbors. Through their thoughtful analysis, we gain new understanding of the dramatic transformation of Romania from a Communist country into a vibrant democracy and a member of NATO and the European Union —and what its metamorphosis means to the rest of the world.

As the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9 and the 20th anniversary of Ceaușescu’s execution in Romania on December 25, this timely book will be of broad interest.

Dracula is Dead includes 8 maps and 32 black-and-white photographs.

How Romanians Survived Communism, Ended it, and Emerged Since 1989 as the New Italy

By Sheilah Kast and Jim Rosapepe

Published by Bancroft Press, Publication date: November 2009

400 pages, 32 black-and-white photographs, 8 maps, $25.95 hardcover

ISBN 978-1-890862-65-7