In Memoriam László Dobos – October 28, 1930 – July 25, 2014

Washington, DC – Members of the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) are saddened to learn that László Dobos, the renowned ethnic Hungarian writer, editor, politician and community leader from Slovakia, died after a long illness at the age of 84.

László Dobos was born in Királyhelmec, in present-day Slovakia.  He studied from 1945-1949 at the Teacher Training College in Sárospatak.  In 1951-1955, he studied Hungarian philology, history and education at the College of Education in Bratislava (Pozsony).  After serving as a teacher in Királyhelmec, he continued his career at the College of Education until 1960.

Between 1963 and 2000 Mr. Dobos published 11 books, including the trilogy, The Stars Were Far Away, The Dispossessed, and With Only a Shirt on His Back. He was the first Hungarian writer who used fiction to hold a mirror to the struggles of individuals who fought the undeserved injustice of minority life in Slovakia.  He recognized the important role that minority culture could play in reuniting the Hungarian nation.

In addition to his literary accomplishments, László Dobos was a visionary leader in politics and civil society.  As Secretary of the Hungarian Section of the Writers Association of Slovakia, he played a central role after 1956 in establishing the literary monthly Irodalmi Szemle, of which he was the Editor-in-Chief until 1968.  Between 1967-1971, he was the President of Csemadok, the nationwide cultural organization representing the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia. In 1969-70 during the Dubcek government, he served as Minister Without Portfolio for national minority affairs, and introduced the most progressive law on minorities in Slovakia.  From 1989-1991 he was the Co-Chair and later, the regional President of the World Federation of Hungarians.  From 1990-1994, he represented the political movement Együttélés (Coexistence) as a Member of Parliament.

László Dobos was a lifelong promoter of Hungarian culture in Slovakia.  As the leader of Madách Publishing House, he published many Hungarian writers and artists.  Madách was the long-time publisher of Szabad Újság, the weekly newspaper for Slovakia’s Hungarian community.  For 18 years, Madách Publishing House operated Hungarian bookstores in nine communities in Slovakia. Dobos’ tireless activity, which never flagged over the course of six decades, even under the pressure of official discrimination and hardship, was indispensable for the survival of Hungarian book and journal publishing in Slovakia.

In 2000 László Dobos, together with John and Edith Lauer, established the prestigious “Posonium Literary and Fine Arts Awards” to provide long-overdue recognition to Hungarian writers and artists for outstanding contributions to the literature, art and cultural heritage of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, a community numbering approximately 500,000. During ten years, 68 writers and 10 artists were honored for their outstanding accomplishments. In addition, the Coalition provided an annual donation to support the operation, publications and literary awards of the Madách Publishing House.

Among his many honors, in 1994, László Dobos received Hungary’s prestigious Kossuth Prize for his achievements as an outstanding writer and public figure. In 2003 he was honored with the Pribina Cross by the Slovak government and the Medal of Merit of the Hungarian President.  In 2007, he was elected a full member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts.

2009 Posonium awards ceremony

László Dobos was a strong Atlanticist: he believed in the need for US presence and influence in a stable Central Europe. With his deep understanding of human nature, he recognized the yearning for freedom and self-determination as a universal value shared by Americans and Hungarians alike.  The Hungarian American community mourns the loss of this outstanding writer, publisher and teacher, who dedicated his life to preserving and promoting the language and culture of his people: the Hungarian minority of Slovakia.

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