Monday, April 21, 2008

Romanian anti-communist dissident and journalist dies

Monday, April 21, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: Monica Lovinescu, a Romanian journalist who was an outspoken opponent of this country's former communist regime, died in France on Monday, the national news agency Rompres reported. She was 85.

Lovinescu — who had moved to France in 1947 shortly after communism took power in Romania, and was granted asylum there — died at the Charles Richet Hospital in Val d'Oise, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Paris, after battling an unspecified illness for three months, Rompres said.

President Traian Basescu praised her as an inspiration.

She "will always be for us the voice of moral resistance in times of oppression and suffering," he said in a statement. "Her fight against communist totalitarianism with the written and spoken word gave faith to those in the country ... that truth and freedom would prevail."

Lovinescu, who worked for about 30 years for U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe based in Paris, was the daughter of Romanian literary figure Eugen Lovinescu and married to the literary critic Virgil Ierunca.

After she sought refuge in France, Lovinescu's mother was jailed in Romania for political reasons. Denied medical care in jail, she died and was buried in a common grave, the journalist said.

Between 1951 and 1974, Monica Lovinescu contributed to Romanian-language broadcasts of Radiodiffusion Fran├žaise and worked as a member of its Eastern Europe staff.

She became a journalist for Radio Free Europe in 1962 and created two weekly pieces that were influential in generating internal Romanian opposition to the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. She informed Romanians about cultural and political trends in the Free World. She also published many memoirs and journals, in Romanian and French, that often criticized communism.

Romanian philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu has said he was told by a senior intelligence officer that her broadcasts angered Ceausescu so much that in 1977 he told Romania's secret service: "Let's shut her up! Let's break her into pieces! Let's break her teeth, jaw and break her hands so she can never write or speak again."

Later that year, Lovinescu was severely beaten in front of her home in Paris, leaving her in a coma with head injuries. Ion Pacepa, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence under Ceausescu before defecting in 1978, has said the beating was carried out by two men acting on Ceausescu's orders. Lovinescu later recovered and returned to broadcasting for Radio Free Europe.

Ceausescu was overthrown and executed in 1989, and Lovinescu continued her work with Radio Free Europe until 1992.

On Monday, the Romanian Writers' Union called Lovinescu "an emblematic figure" for other Romanian writers who faced censorship at home, the union said in a press release.

There was no immediate word about burial plans for Lovinescu, a childless widow. Ten Romanian civic rights groups wrote to Basescu Monday urging him to make her funeral a day of national mourning.

She left her estate in France to the Romanian state, the Romanian Foreign Ministry said.

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