E. Europeans to study Western ways Democracy is focus of Hopkins program

September 30, 1991|By Ginger Thompson

Leslaw Werpachowski of Poland is going to learn about democracy by working for a Roman Catholic charitable group that provides food and clothing to the poor.

Horia Nicolescu, an architect from Bucharest, Romania, is going to learn about democracy by finding ways to develop safe, affordable housing.

And professor Stanislaw Szmagalski of Warsaw University has already interviewed organizers of an upcoming march on Washington to learn how to get masses of people to participate in rallies while maintaining control of the crowd so the demonstrations do not erupt into riots.

"Here people do things so they will get arrested to get more attention, but they don't get out of control," Mr. Szmagalski said. "But in our new democracy, people would be offended if the government arrested them for speaking out and things could turn nasty."

These professionals from Eastern and Central Europe were invited to Baltimore as part of a Johns Hopkins

University fellowship program designed to promote the growth of democracy in that region.

The university's Institute for Policy Studies has conducted a foreign fellowship program for more than 20 years, but it was recently given $500,000 in federal and private funds to concentrate on Eastern Europe because of the dramatic changes in the area's political climate.

Instead of focusing on political changes at the national level or the privatization of government agencies, the Hopkins program hopes to train its fellows in the development of local, autonomous governments and private, non-profit philanthropic groups.

"For democracy to survive in that part of the world, it has to be rooted in local institutions," said Lester M. Salamon, director of the institute. "This is a laboratory for the instruction of the new democratic leaders in Central and Eastern Europe."

Under the centralized rule of the Communists who held power in Eastern Europe for a half-century, local government officials and leaders of "volunteer associations" had no real decision-making or leadership powers. Therefore, they have no experience in managing private land markets, setting up property tax systems, developing land-use strategies or raising money from private sources. The fellows from Central and Eastern Europe will spend their year in Baltimore researching these and other topics.

For example, Mr. Werpachowski edits a weekly newspaper in Ustron, a town of 15,000 people in southern Poland. He wants to learn about publishing technologies and ways to increase circulation. He already understands the newspaper trend sweeping the industry in this country -- local zoning.

"People were not reading the national newspaper because they didn't want to read about national politics," said Mr. Werpachowski. "But they read my paper because we tell them what's happening with their neighbor across the street. We list all the people who have died, people who got married and we salute people who have birthdays."

Horia Nicolescu, the architect from Bucharest, hopes to interest U.S. developers in coming to his country to build prefabricated houses.

"We have cheap workmanship," he said.

"The workers would at the most get paid about $100 a month and we have a good supply of wood for wood frames."

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