Ottilia Solt (1944 - 1997)

educator and underground journalist who fought for the rights of the poor in Hungary

Ottilia Solt

Ottilia Solt

Ottilia Solt was born in Budapest into an intellectual family: her father was a doctor and her mother a teacher. In 1967 she graduated in Hungarian philology and Philosophy and started to work at the Institute of Economic Studies. She took part in research conducted by István Kemény on the living conditions of the poor and helped organize the social science and economics lectures that Kemeny gave, initially at the university and then in his own home. In 1972 she left the Institute of Economic Studies and took up a job at the Institute of Education, where she continued her sociological research. Kemeny participated in this research illegally and under a false name, because he had been dismissed and was banned from publishing the results of his own work. In the summer of 1977 Ottilia set out for Paris, where Kemeny was then living in exile, in order to hand him several articles and publications forbidden in Hungary. At the border the material was confiscated and she was arrested. Her trial ended with a warning from the police, the loss of her job, the withdrawal of her passport, close surveillance and the risk of a penal trial if she committed the same offence again. Despite the dangers, Ottilia was not to be deterred: she took part in numerous initiatives organized by opposition circles and in acts of solidarity with the signatories of Charter ’77 in Czechoslovakia. She worked in a primary school and then as a librarian. In 1979, along with other members of the Kemeny circles, she set up the “Fund in Aid of the Poor”. In 1981 she lost her job definitively and suffered constant threats from the police, but she refused to be intimidated: she joined the editorial staff of the underground magazine “Beszelo”, where she published the most important programmatic documents of the democratic opposition, especially in the field of social and political analysis. She was signatory to all the protests against human rights violations and joined the main opposition initiatives organized to mark the anniversary of the 1956 revolution and Hungary’s National Day on 15 March. Despite constant surveillance by the police, telephone tapping and repeated searches in her home, in 1988 she played a decisive role in setting up the “Network of Free Initatives”. She also helped draw up the programmatic declaration entitled There is a way out, published in the same year in “Beszelo” in order to turn the Network into a political party with the name of “Association of Young Democrats”. She was a member of the party’s National Council right from its inception. On 15 March 1988 she was stopped by the police and interrogated at length. In 1989 she took up a research post at Budapest University’s Institute of Sociology and helped the underground magazine “Beszelo” emerge into a legal weekly. She remained a member of its editorial staff until 1995. In 1990 she was elected a member of parliament and joined the social commission, acting as vice president until 1994, the year in which she withdrew from political life.

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Righteous Encyclopedia - Dissent in Eastern Europe

The "power of those powerless" lies in defeating fear through the strength of a collective assumption of responsibility, testified by the appeal to "live the truth" in a society that is built on lies.

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