Juliet was quite the Polish girl. She was from Poland and head a full scholarship to get her PhD from either Chicago or MIT. She chose MIT because she could take classes at Harvard and, let’s be honest, Cambridge, Mass. is more fun than South Chicago. Julia however was not really about having fun. She was on a mission, an anti-communist mission. For me, as an American, post-war communism in eastern Europe was a something I read about in the history books and Solidarity was something in the news. For Juliette though, WWII was far more immediate. She didn’t have one family member killed, entire swaths of her family were wiped out. War killed some of them, but many were killed in the concentration camps, many of which were in Poland. In fact, Auschwitz-Birkenau was only a few kilometers from her hometown of Krakow. While the Nazis were bad, she thought that the communist Soviets were even worse. She felt they had enslaved and debased Poland, which had just broken free from the Soviet and had its first elections. Like so many countries in eastern Europe, the historical one-two punch of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union spanning decades had been beyond traumatic.
Julia’s inner story was not known to most people who instead focused on the fact that she was — photogenic. She had taken a few modeling jobs, but she found the work sometimes creepy but more frequently boring and instead chose to focus on her intellectual passion, fighting communism. She had achieved her dream of being educated in the United States and had the fervor of a new convert. Her hope and dream of coming to America after communism died in Poland seemed to be a dream come true.
January at MIT was taken up with Independent Activities Period (IAP), basically a break between the high-pressure semesters. I sat in on a few classes, went on a trip to Woods Hole, and even gave a course on speed reading. After that though, it was time to shop for classes. I signed up for classes in American politics, computer simulation, and international relations with Prof. Oscar — in fact, Julia and I were both Oscar students — but I still needed a political philosophy course. I went to the first class taught by one of Kilo’s colleagues, and it was all about Marxist unionization and social movements. Julia was there, and she argued fiercely and frequently with the professor. I said nothing, but I knew I didn’t want to take that class, and I was running out of options.
Julia and I walked out of the classroom together, and I asked if she was going to take that class since she obviously knew a great deal about the topic. “Oh no,” she said. “I just went to argue with that professor. He knows nothing.”
“So what classes are you taking?” I asked, “I need another philosophy class and am running out of options.”
“I’m taking Tocqueville with Professor Fox at Harvard,” she said. “We can cross-register — it’s easy!”
I was already in trouble with Prof. Kilo, and it was looking increasingly likely that I would not be continuing at MIT having alienated such an important professor, so why not?
I said, “I’ll think about it.”