News | Press Releases 2011

In Memoriam: István Csicsery-Rónay (1917-2011)

Washington, DC – István Csicsery-Rónay, author, politician and publisher, and an outstanding figure in the Hungarian American community and Hungarian public life, passed away on April 22, on the evening of Good Friday, in Budapest. Csicsery-Rónay had returned to his home country in 1990 after the change of regime.

Those who knew him or his works know that István Csicsery-Rónay, in his 43 years of exile, as well as after moving back to Hungary, was a loyal representative and advocate of the ideas of Hungarian freedom, independence and democracy, to which he had devoted himself since his youth.

He studied in Vienna and Budapest, and later at the School of Library Science of the Catholic University in Washington, DC. Already in his early years, he was active in public life mostly in opposition to the ruling regime. He participated in the underground movement formed to oppose Nazi rule in Hungary. Beginning in 1944, he was a member of the political committee of the Hungarian Independence Movement and an author and publisher of illegal writings. A speaker of five languages, Csicsery-Rónay played a key role in promoting a democratic regime in postwar Hungary between 1945 and 1947, heading the foreign affairs department of the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party. However, as Communist Party rule became increasingly entrenched, in 1947 he was arrested and convicted of “conspiracy”. When he was released temporarily, he escaped from Hungary, first to Austria, Switzerland and France, emigrating to the United States in 1949. He settled in Washington, DC, and began working for the University of Maryland as a librarian.

István Csicsery-Rónay, who never gave up hope of returning to Hungary, lived in the United States as a Hungarian citizen from 1949 to 1990. He worked many years in the Free Europe Committee, was editor and publisher of the magazine “Hírünk a világban” (Our reputation in the world), and of its influential supplement, the “Bibliográfia” (Bibliography). He was director of the Occidental Press publishing company, which he founded in 1953.

He contributed to the accessibility of many literary works prohibited in Kadar’s Hungary, including those of Teilhard de Chardin, the poets of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and the “Napló” (Diary) of Sándor Márai. He is responsible for publishing the French and English translations of the poems of Gyula Illyés.

After moving back to Hungary in 1990, he continued serving Hungarian causes as founder and chairman of several foundations. Thanks to his persistence, the bronze statue of statesman Pál Teleki by Tibor Rieger was erected in Balatonboglár, Hungary. Over the years, he remained active as a writer and public figure. In 2010, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary by President of Hungary Pál Schmitt.

His knowledge, moral courage, democratic mindset and enduring activity serve as an example for generations to come.

Recent Posts