Washington, DC – On March 19, 1990 – 20 years ago this week – András Sütő, the outstanding Hungarian writer and respected human rights advocate, was nearly beaten to death by a mob transported by Romanian nationalists to the town of Tirgu Mures (Marosvásárhely), Romania. Sütő lost an eye in the attack. Pictures of a badly beaten Sütő appeared in newspapers dashed hopes for improved relations between Romanians and the Hungarian minority, just months after the Romanian revolution had toppled the universally hated Ceausescu regime.
After receiving initial medical treatment in Hungary, Mr. Sütő travelled to Boston for medical care, but his sight could not be restored. During this trip to the U.S. and Canada, many Hungarian Americans had the opportunity to get to know this wonderful and inspiring man, and his devoted wife, Éva. The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, with the support of several individuals who would later found the Hungarian American Coalition, undertook a major fundraising effort to cover the Sütős’ medical and travel expenses during their U.S. stay. In August 1992, the Sütős were the guests of the Itt-Ott conference of the Hungarian Communion of Friends, subsequently visiting Hungarian-American communities in Washington, D.C., Ohio, Illinois, Connecticut, New York and Michigan.
Sütő András’s literary-political career followed a classic, Eastern European path. Similarly to writers Sándor Csoóri and László Dobos, Sütő began as a first-generation intellectual born to peasant parents and was socialized during the Communist era. Between 1956 and 1989, he wrote several dozen short stories, historic dramas and novels creating a special language of symbols and historic parallels that helped him avoid censorship, even as the symbolic language was easily decoded by his Hungarian readers and audience. In 1970, he burst on the literary scene with “My Mother Promises Easy Dreams,” a realistic look at the effects of forced collectivization in his birthplace of the village of Cămăraşu (Pusztakamarás). His language amazed his readers: it became known as a “pure source” of Hungarian expression. András Sütő was thereafter considered the most authentic literary representative of the Hungarian minority community.
Since his death in 2006, many Hungarian American Coalition members have been committed to keeping his memory alive. On March 29, 2010, we will co-sponsor a full-day “Sütő András Conference” with the participation of prominent literary critics and historians, to discuss the significance of Sütő’s remarkable life work. Co-sponsors of this event are the Institute of Literary Studies, Debrecen Working Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Culture Foundation’s András Sütő Circle. The Coalition’s sponsorship is made possible by a generous grant from Edith K. Lauer, Chairman Emerita. An invitation of the conference is attached.
Potential follow-up projects include funding support for the republication, by Helikon Publishers, of a special series of Sütő András’s works, and providing assistance to raising statues in honor of Sütő András in Sopron, Hungary, and Tirgu Mures, Romania.