WAC: Gabriela Gerhart

Gabriela Gerhart: From Communism to Capitalism 

Yvette Mendoza 

The World Affairs Council hosted yet another amazing event, this one featuring Gabriela Gerhart on her journey from communism to capitalism. After experiencing many ups and downs, she has become an entrepreneur and created a pregnancy and motherhood wellness resource, called the Motherhood Center. The LEAP Members were not only able to meet Gabriela, but also received a copy of her book, After the Fall

Through a moderated Q&A session with Sandija Bayot, we learned a lot more about the author and entrepreneur, Gabriela Gerhart. Gabriela spoke of her seemingly normal childhood in Czechoslovakia, but it did not remain normal for long. One day in 1989, her 8th grade history teacher informed the class that they would have to relearn their history, as everything previous had been a lie. As a little girl, Gabriela experienced the truth of communism without even realizing it.

During the communist control everything was restricted, even radios! Gabriela mentioned a time when her grandfather was listening to an illegal radio station; the next day they received a knock on their door and were reprimanded. It was as if everyone was constantly walking on eggshells. There were the longest of lines just for her family to get oranges, butter, and clothes. Gabriela’s mother would even trade tangerines with a neighbor for clothing. 

During her teenage years, Gabriela ventured and explored. When she landed in America on a short-term basis, she was blown away by all the differences, especially the grocery stores! She mentioned other differences: from the side of the road drivers drive on, to having mayo on the shelf and not on the fridge, and even how many people support the American flag out of their own free will. While starting her new life in America and trying to learn English from watching the American TV show Friends, Gabriela began to establish her own roots.

Gabriela fell back to her love of nursing and infants, and set about building her new business around that. She recognized that there was a lack of pregnancy and motherhood support and knew there was work to be done. Gabriela became a budding entrepreneur in the business of helping mothers and their babies through a program called, The Motherhood Center located in Central Houston. They offer pregnancy and parenting classes, massage spa services, and even yoga and fitness! 

Gabriela has struggled and thrived in many ways from living in a communist country, a place where you can’t truly amount to anything unless you are in the hierarchy of communism in Czechoslovakia. She has learned an entirely different language, become an author, and is now a CEO of a company that is thriving in Houston, while helping numerous families with children. 

She left us with the question, what are you grateful for? Gabriela emphasized that you should always say what you are grateful for, because your situation has the possibility to be much worse. Hearing her journey to freedom has been an inspiration to all of us and a true eye-opener to the effects that communism has on many people.

From Communism to Capitalism 

Erin Juarez 

After our event, the students went to a local Vietnamese restaurant called Lucky Café. We would have preferred to eat food from the Czech Republic, but there are no such restaurants in The Woodlands, so we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant, Lucky Cafe, to maintain the Communist theme.

When we arrived, we were seated by Lucky Café’s great staff and received our menus. The food ranged from Pho, to sweet and sour chicken, to several other combination plates. We began to browse the menu, to see what seemed most appealing to us. 

For starters, we ordered Spring Rolls and Dumplings. I was excited to try Spring Rolls for the first time, and they were delicious!

The orders for our entrees, varied from General Tso’s Chicken, Pho, to Orange Chicken.

Over dinner, we had informational conversations regarding communist countries and how grateful we are to be living in the United States. Some of what Ms. Gerhart conveyed to us about living under an authoritarian government was alarming, and we are grateful for the opportunities we have at SHSU, the freedom of expression, and the freedom to learn about other cultures and, of course, for the great Vietnamese food.

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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