Dr. Chris Shaffer, Dean of Library Services at the University of Troy, will be signing copies of his book “Moon Over Sasova: One American’s Experience Teaching in Post-Cold War Slovakia” during a reception at the International Center for the Arts in the university at 5 p.m. on March 29. .
The book documents his time teaching and traveling in post-communist Europe during the 1990s. To RSVP for reception, call 334-670-3608 or email [email protected] ed.
Shaffer began the journey he highlights in “Moon Over Sasova” in Mannheim, Germany as part of a study abroad program at Auburn University in 1991. It is when Shaffer was on a weekend trip to Prague he came across a sign asking for English teachers.
What Shaffer didn’t know was that the program was based at a location near his home: the University of South Alabama. The program was named Education for Democracy, and it was founded shortly after the 1989 Velvet Revolution ended communism in what was then Czechoslovakia.
“The goal was to send people there to teach English because it hadn’t been approved by the former government,” Shaffer said. “At the same time, it was to teach people that Americans were friendly and non-threatening.”
Shaffer arrived in Slovakia in 1993, two weeks after the Velvet Divorce, which peacefully broke up Czechoslovakia and resulted in the creation of an independent Slovak state.
Shaffer’s book chronicles his time in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, which had been a medieval mining town in the 1300s, through the eyes of a 22-year-old American. The city itself was filled with remarkably well-preserved Gothic architecture. He lived in a large suburb of Banska Bystrica called Sasova which was filled with identical apartment blocks which contrasted ominously with the beauty of the town itself.
Shaffer also used his time in Europe to travel to different countries such as Poland, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia – trips he highlights in his book.
Shaffer recounts his time with other Americans, as well as the lack of communication he had with his family back home. A single phone call to her parents cost around $45, but a little interference from the outside world proved a plus. Instead of calling, Shaffer and his family wrote letters back and forth, letters that 28 years later would be an asset to Shaffer’s book.
“It was one of the ways I was able to recreate the experiences for the book,” Shaffer said. “I had letters that people sent to me, and in some cases they kept theirs for me.”
Shaffer was able to work with other University of Troy faculty members to launch his book, including Graphic Arts Professor Ed Noriega to design the cover and English Language Chair Dr. Kirk Curnutt. to read and advise on the manuscript.