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At the age of 19, Nicholas Dima was thrown into a Romanian prison for trying to escape to the West. Four years later, after terms of solitary confinement and forced labor, he was allowed to go free.

But Dima hadn't wasted his time in prison. After escaping to the United States in 1967, he published a book of poetry he memorized while in confinement."Romania's best poets were in prison," Dima said. "It was my way of preserving some of their work."

Now Dima travels around the United States lecturing on the dangers of communism, a danger that he says still exists.

"Communism came to Romania in a conspiracy. The Soviet Union is one of the most villainous regimes that has ever been on the Earth. It can be compared to Nazi Germany," Dima said. But the Nazi empire existed only for 12 years; the Soviet Union lasted for 70 years.

And the effects of communist domination in Eastern Europe cannot be erased all at once, Dima said.

"It took 10 to 20 years for the government to change the minds of the people. Now they change the government, it will take 10 to 20 to change the people again," he said.

After growing up in Romania and the atrocities communism can produce, Dima said he didn't believe it when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced his perestroika and glasnost reforms.

Dima, who received a doctorate from Columbia University and later taught at the J.F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C., said he didn't analyze the reforms until two years after they began.

After Gorbachev implemented his reforms, he also forced out the former communist leaders of Eastern Europe, he said.

"Once you give people a little freedom, they don't want a little freedom. They want a lot of freedom," he said.

Dima was speaking in Provo as part of special lecture tour sponsored by Utah chapters of the John Birch Society.