Illyés Gyula (1902–1983) magyar költő, író, drámaíró, műfordító, a XX. századi magyar irodalom jelentős alkotója. Paraszti családba született Felsőrácegrespusztán. Dombóváron, majd Bonyhádon járt gimnáziumba. Szülei válása után, 1916-ban édesanyjával Budapestre költözött, itt fejezte be gimnáziumi tanulmányait. Először 1920-ban jelent meg nyomtatásban verse. 1917 és 1921 között az Izabella utcai felsőkereskedelmi iskolában tanult, ahol leérettségizett. 1921-ben beiratkozott a budapesti tudományegyetem magyar-francia szakára, illegális baloldali tevékenysége miatt azonban az év végén Bécsbe emigrált, majd Párizsba költözött. Itt részt vett az emigráns magyarok szakszervezetének és különféle munkásmozgalmi körök kulturális munkájában. Több francia avantgárd, szürrealista és dadaista alkotóval is barátságot kötött. 1926-ban amnesztiát kapott és hazatért Magyarországra, a Nyugat című híres irodalmi lap szerzője lett. 1927-től 1936-ig a Phőnix Biztosító Társaság hivatalnoka, 1937-től 1948-ig a Magyar Nemzeti Bank sajtóreferense. A harmincas évek közepén csatlakozott a népi írók mozgalmához, s annak egyik vezető alakja lett. 1934 és 1938 között a Válasz c. lap munkatársa. 1937-től a Nyugat társszerkesztője, majd 1941 és 1944 között a Magyar Csillag szerkesztője volt.
1945–1946-ban a Nemzeti Parasztpárt egyik vezetője, országgyűlési képviselő. 1946 és 1949 között a Válasz szerkesztője. Országgyűlési mandátumáról 1948 novemberében lemondott és visszavonult a közélettől. Az 1956-os forradalom alatt a Nemzeti Parasztpártból alakult Petőfi Párt egyik vezetője lett. A forradalom leverése után továbbra is visszavonult életet folytatott, s csak 1961-től publikált újra. 1969-ben a PEN Club egyik alelnöke lett. A népi-nemzeti ellenzék támogatójaként rendszeresen kiállt a határon túli magyar kisebbség védelméért.
- Budapest, Hungary
Virgil Ierunca (real name Virgil Untaru, 1920–2006) was a Romanian literary critic, writer, and cultural journalist. He was born on 16 August 1920 in Lădești commune, Vâlcea County and in 1943 he graduated from the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy of Bucharest University. After World War II, he began to publish articles about French culture in newspapers towards the left of the spectrum of Romanian political life (Dumitrescu 1997, 304; Meseșan 2015, 82–83). Later on, Ierunca explained that his initial leftist sympathies were the result of his anti-fascism and of the fact that, as he put it, “communists overwhelmed me with attention which I gave up when I understood their game” (Meseșan 2015, 83). He thus left for France with an Arthur Koestler scholarship granted by the French Institute in Bucharest, and in 1948 he sought and was granted political asylum there (Meseșan 2015, 84). In 1952, he married Monica Lovinescu, with whom he shared his passion for literature and her determination in supporting dissidence against Romanian communist rule.
In exile, Virgil Ierunca focused on cultural journalism, working for Radio Paris (1951–1975) and from 1975 for Radio Free Europe (RFE) where he collaborated on two programmes: Cronica pesimistului (Chronicle of the pessimist) as part of the Actualitatea românească (Romanian Cultural Events) and Povestea vorbei – pagini uitate, pagini cenzurate, pagini exilate (The story of the word – forgotten pages, censored pages, exiled pages). He also wrote articles, essays, and even poetry for magazines and newspapers published by the Romanian exile community and acted as editor-in-chief for several Romanian publications printed abroad (Meseșan 2015, 85; Crăciun 2009, 285). In his broadcasts, Virgil Ierunca used cultural journalism to express his anti-communist convictions, as he sharply criticised many authors of the Romanian literary scene. In addition, he was among the first to document the mass-scale repression perpetrated by the communist regime against innocent individuals.
He shared Monica Lovinescu’s opinion that politically unbiased literature was possible even in communist Romania (Stan Snejana 2010, 120–121), and consequently he used his broadcasts and written pieces to acknowledge the moral integrity and literary value of some of the Romanian writers marginalised for their reluctance to follow the official canon. On the other hand, he openly condemned the compromise made with the regime by another part of the Romanian writers and saw his criticism as a moral duty towards the present and especially the future. Through his journalist project entitled Antologia rușinii (The anthology of shame), Ierunca became the needed voice that denounced “the stupidity, servility, and insolence” of those intellectuals “who did not only lose their conscience but also their reason” (Merișanu and Taloș 2009, 7–8). Antologia rușinii identified those who shamelessly praised the communist regime, its policies and leaders and it was supposed to function as a vaccine against the forgetting of those acts of collaboration that nurtured and ensured the survival of the regime (Mănescu 2012, 13–14, 25, 27–29). Virgil Ierunca started the Antologia rușinii column in November 1957 and resumed the project after the so-called Theses of July 1971 when the Romanian press was flooded with these “texts of shame” (Meseșan 2015, 85–86; Mănescu 2012, 67–70).
Virgil Ierunca remained mostly known for his indictment of communist repression. In 1981, he published Fenomenul Pitești (The Pitești phenomenon), the first account of the extreme psychological and physical torture that inmates in prison of Pitești were subjected to round-the-clock by other inmates in 1949–1952. Besides exposing the horrors of this rather unique “reeducation experiment,” which came to be associated with Pitești, although it was implemented in several other prisons too, Ierunca raised again the issue of collaboration with the regime. In this case, he condemned the lack of morality and conscience on the part of those who designed this experiment and of those who participated willingly in the tortures and humiliations (Mănescu 2015, 23, 71–72). Due to his opposition to the Romanian communist regime, the Securitate tried to silence Virgil Ierunca, but the would-be assassin surrendered to the police in Berlin (Lovinescu 2001, 247). Ierunca’s anti-communist activity gained official recognition in 2006 when the Romanian authorities praised Virgil Ierunca and his wife, Monica Lovinescu, for their activity at RFE and for supporting and popularising acts of cultural opposition against the communist regime (Mănescu 2012, 16).
- Paris, France
Gediminas Ilgūnas was a journalist, writer, ethnographer and traveller. (Although his full name was Stanislovas Gediminas, he chose to be called by his middle name Gediminas.) In 1953, he was imprisoned for anti-Soviet activities. According to his criminal record, he was arrested and sentenced to 25 years for 'anti-Soviet activity'. He was accused of participating in an organised 'anti-Soviet group', of attacking a Red Army soldier and stealing his gun, of stealing a typewriter from a Soviet organisation, and of maintaining contacts with guerilla fighters. However, in 1956, Ilgūnas' sentence was shortened to seven years, and in 1957 he was released. Although there is no information about his release, after the 20th Communist Party Congress in February 1956, many Lithuanians who had been imprisoned for anti-Soviet activity were released; Ilgūnas was probably one of them.
In 1959, together with his close friend the philologist and literary historian Vincas Kuzmickas, he started to organise ethnographic expeditions, not only in Lithuania, but also in the Soviet Union (Russia), and to collect material about important personalities in Lithuanian national history (the geologist Jonas Čerskis, and Vincas Pietaris, the author of the first historical novel in the Lithuanian language), who were practically unknown to the general public. He graduated from the Faculty of Philology at Vilnius University in 1976. Until 1990, Ilgūnas worked for a state construction company. The ethnographic and cultural activities which he was involved in were not considered dangerous by the regime.
During the time of perestroika, Ilgūnas founded a Sąjūdis movement group in his native town Jonava in 1988, and in 1990 he was elected to the Supreme Council, which on 11 March 1990 proclaimed Lithuania's independence. He made a political career in the Republic of Lithuania, as director of the Archive Department, chairman of the Board of Lithuanian Television and Radio, an active member of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, and as an advisor to President Algirdas Brazauskas.
The Gediminas Ilgūnas collection was founded in 1988. Ilgūnas presented nine units of material to the Lithuanian SSR Central State Archive of Literature and Art. The manuscript of his biography of Vincas Pietaris was among them. In 1992, he again presented more than a hundred units of documents to the Lithuanian Archive of Literature and Art. Among them were various documents he had collected relating to the life of Pietaris and his writings (copies of articles, etc). In this way, the Ilgūnas collection in the archive grew substantially.
- Vilnius , Lithuania