Éva Cseke-Gyimesi Collection at BCU Cluj-Napoca
The Éva Cseke-Gyimesi Collection is arguably the most comprehensive example of Transylvanian Hungarian cultural opposition in Romania. It consists of books, manuscripts, typed texts, private correspondence, newspaper clippings, and other items reflecting Éva Cseke-Gyimesi's cultural opposition to Ceaușescu's regime. The collection allows one to understand Éva Cseke-Gyimesi's criticism exercised through her professional works, her democratic resistance marked by a truly pro-European perspective, and her struggle for human rights illustrated by letters of protest, memorandums, pamphlets, and samizdats which she authored, endorsed, or distributed.
Cluj-Napoca Strada Horea 31, Romania 400000
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Name of collection
Cs. Gyimesi Éva Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The Éva Cseke-Gyimesi Collection was created after the eponymous founder’s death, when her daughter, Zsuzsa Szigeti-Cseke, bestowed, in 2011, a part of her mother’s library upon the staff of the Institute of Hungarian Literature of Cluj-Napoca and then in 2013, donated her mother’s manuscripts. The collection can be divided into two separate parts. The book collection numbering 590 volumes consists of books reflecting Gyimesi’s areas of specialisation and her wide sphere of interests as a linguist, university professor, literary critic, and public writer. For the most part these items represent classic works of Hungarian literature and volumes pertaining to history of literature, literary criticism, aesthetics, metaphysics, ethics, philosophy, pedagogy, and theology. In the 1980s it was difficult to acquire specialised literary materials even from Hungary. Gyimesi’s friends often brought books that were otherwise inaccessible to readers in Romania. Books were highly valued in those times, as libraries did not offer contemporary literary works. The magic that books held in that time has by now faded away, but the personal annotations existing in these books are nevertheless much valued by researchers. The second part of the collection features three boxes of documents including private correspondence, manuscripts, typed texts, newspaper clippings, and other physical items of Gyimesi’s legacy. There are relatively few materials dating from before 1989, but at that time she did not – indeed could not possibly – keep any diaries or notes, as she was permanently in fear of home searches by the secret police, which actually took place twice (Cs. Gyimesi 2009).
The collection obviously included Gyimesi’s professional work as well. It offers insight not only into the spiritual journey of a committed intellectual, but also into the evolution of Transylvanian/Romanian political life in the 1980s. The collection reflects Gyimesi’s ideal of the civil intellectual with a solid set of moral principles, who expresses his/her opinion about the surrounding world without being influenced by parties or interest groups. During Nicolae Ceaușescu’s dictatorship her civil oppositional activity was carried out mainly verbally, while most significantly, a decisive part of Gyimesi’s own activity as university professor was also pursued verbally. She herself summed up the years of her career as a teacher and opposition activist before the change of regime in three stages (Cs. Gyimesi 2009).
1. As a staff member at Babeș-Bolyai University, Faculty of Philology, Department of Hungarian Language and Literature, Gyimesi was assigned in 1977 to the position of teaching Transylvanian Hungarian literature. The study of the original sources (newspapers, periodicals, secondary literature) from the interwar period radicalised her attitude towards the dictatorship, at the particular time when the number of Hungarian students admitted annually to the Department of Hungarian Language and Literature was seeing a gradual decrease. This was a direct result of the system of so-called “repartitions” at the end of university studies, which meant a two- or three-year-long assignment to a compulsory work place for each graduate in Romania. This was applied to all graduates, regardless of ethnic origin, but what discouraged the Hungarian graduates was the hypothetical prospect of “repartition” to a place beyond the Carpathian Mountains, outside their familiar milieu of Transylvania. In this context, she began giving lectures that were devoid of myths and ideological connotations, so her lectures began to attract Hungarian students from other faculties as well. This was the period she marks as the start of her active opposition.
2. She links the decisive turn to the publication in 1982 of the samizdat called Ellenpontok (Counterpoints). When in December, 1982 one of the editors, the poet Géza Szőcs, returned home with his leg in plaster, Gyimesi initiated a fund-raising action at the Cluj branch of the Writers’ Union. Not long after, in May, 1983 she was questioned by the Securitate regarding Ellenpontok and on this occasion she “confessed” that she agreed with the content of this samizdat. In the summer of 1983 Gyimesi obtained a passport for Hungary from the Romanian communist authorities, who hoped that she would not return. This was the time when she not only gained access to the samizdats of the democratic opposition in Hungary, but also the opportunity to meet the populist writers István Csurka and Sándor Csoóri, and some of the prominent Party members who were close to this opposition group, such as Ferenc Kósa and Imre Pozsgay.
In 1983, Gyimesi published her volume entitled Teremtett világ: Rendhagyó bevezetés az irodalomba (Created world: An irregular/unorthodox introduction to literature), which became very popular not only among Romanian Hungarians, but also in Hungary due to its non-conformism. In reaction, her faculty colleagues publicly criticised, as incompatible with the official ideology, the basic principles reflected in the book, which had passed censorship and had been even added to the academic bibliography. The volume began to be used not only in Romania but also in Hungary in the training of philologists and teacher refreshment courses. This broadened her professional popularity and made the communist authorities refrain from harassing her, limiting their countermeasures only to this professional public criticism.
3. Gyimesi links the radicalisation of her oppositional activity to the year 1985. By that time her best known work, the manuscript of Gyöngy és homok (Pearls and sand), which represented “a critical approach to Transylvanian ideology” (Cs. Gyimesi 1992) was ready, but she envisaged the possibility of not seeing it published, for her anti-regime activities now took a decisive turn. Already in 1983 and 1984 she had forwarded petitions to the Ministry of Education and to the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) to protest against the forcible transfer of graduates to workplaces beyond the Carpathian Mountains. Encouraged by her action, the graduating class of 1985 that she was in charge of failed to appear on the day of “repartition” as a sign of protest and instead drew up a memorandum on the matter. Following this event, which was officially labelled as instigation, Gyimesi found herself confronted not with the Securitate, with but the leadership of her own university. Besides this incident, it was also in 1985 that Péter Cseke and Éva Cseke-Gyimesi joined Limes kör (Limes circle), a small intellectual circle that had been founded under the leadership of the senior editor of Kriterion Publishing House in Bucharest, Gusztáv Molnár (ACNSAS I236674/1-4). Limes was a sort of debating club, an inspiring community that granted a public platform and intellectual feedback to marginalised intellectuals. After 1986 all publishing houses denied Gyimesi the right to publish, while the book of her husband, the literary historian Péter Cseke, entitled Erdélyi Fiatalok (Transylvanian youth), was banned before distribution in bookshops.
Following this decisive step towards openly opposing the communist regime in Romania, the repressive measures against her intensified, but so did her dissident activity. In November 1986 Gyimesi wrote the manuscript Honvágy a hazában (Homesickness in the home country) in the form of a samizdat. Gyimesi made reference to the critical accounts of a part of the graduates with whom she corresponded (Cs. Gyimesi 1993). On 7 February 1987 the Securitate conducted a home search in the flat of Gusztáv Molnár in Bucharest. After this development, the rector’s office of Babeș-Bolyai University was instructed by the Cluj County Securitate and the Cluj County Committee of the PCR to take steps to warn and intimidate Gyimesi, and simultaneously to silence any possible foreign echoes of the matter, reducing Gyimesi’s conduct to a university disciplinary matter. On 8 March 1988, International Women’s Day, Gyimesi addressed a memorandum to Viorica Neculau, deputy education minister, attempting to get her support for finding a solution to the compulsory “repartition” of students after graduation. The letter was also broadcast by Radio Free Europe (RFE).
In the spring of 1988, together with puppeteer, artist, and prose writer Ivan Chelu, Gyimesi protested against the potential demolitions of Transylvanian villages. Using an unregistered typewriter, she drew up a bilingual appeal, which began with “Fraților – Testvérek” (Brothers). About 100 copies of this manifesto were scattered over a large crowd by Chelu from the upper level of the Cluj market hall in broad daylight. Out of all the copies, only one was preserved and then published in the samizdat known as Kiáltó Szó (Screaming word). The next event, the publication in Hungary, in July 1988, of Gyimesi’s work Levél egy erdélyi menekülthöz (Letter to a Transylvanian refugee) increased the number of charges brought against her, as she made multiple mentions of the violation of human rights in Romania. At the disciplinary meeting held on 26 July 1988, the Executive Committee of Babeș-Bolyai University Senate issued a final warning to Gyimesi and resolved that a three-member board should supervise her conduct and professional activity. Gyimesi’s academic status was suspended forthwith pending the board’s decision. Following her suspension her colleagues were instructed to submit collective, though anonymous, informative reports to the county Party secretary and then to higher communist authorities, including the ubiquitous State Security, demanding the dismissal of their recalcitrant, unworthy colleague. These memoranda were neither dated nor signed. On the other hand, on 12 September, a written protest against Gyimesi’s harassment, openly endorsed by seven Hungarian intellectuals from Cluj – Lajos Kántor, Júlia Szilágyi, Aladár Lászlóffy, István Szilágyi, Gyula Szabó, Sándor Fodor, and Edgár Balogh – was addressed to the rector of the university. Eventually the three-member board investigating her case made a favourable decision and she was able to resume her activity as a university professor.
In the very last years of the communist dictatorship, Gyimesi came close to the Cluj-based leading Romanian dissident Doina Cornea. In the fall of 1988 Gyimesi, Ivan Chelu, Marius Tabacu, and Enikő Kós visited Cornea in her home to express their solidarity with her solitary struggle. At that time – due to her suspended position as a teacher – Gyimesi did not sign the protest against village destruction which Doina Cornea had initiated. On 1 November, Gyimesi met with Cornea again in the Házsongárdi/ Hajongard cemetery. Her work written on that day, Fohász a Házsongárdban (Prayer in Hajongard) was later broadcast on Radio Kossuth. After this, their meetings grew more frequent. After Cornea was placed under house arrest, contact between the two women was enabled by lawyer Gheorghe Vasilescu. This contact aimed at helping the Romanian opposition activist with medicines acquired from abroad and food which was in short supply, and with delivering messages outside the country and offering encouragement. Thus, on 20 June 1989, another search took place at Gyimesi’s house, this time by the economic police, which searched for “stolen butter” and inquired for days in a row about the origin of the food intended for, but yet not delivered to, Cornea. The majority of the food in question came from Dutch donations and in this case was provided by the priest István Tőkés and his family. Not long after the questionings, Radio Free Europe broadcast Gyimesi’s letter to Cornea dated 11 March 1989 in both languages. Consequently, Gyimesi received threatening letters written in Hungarian, which labelled Gyimesi as a traitor for having cooperated with Cornea. Many tried to exert a “positive” influence on Gyimesi, arguing that her support for Cornea did not serve the Hungarian cause and that, moreover, it jeopardised the existence of university education in Hungarian at Babeș-Bolyai University. Cornea’s answer to Gyimesi was also made public by the Romanian desk of RFE, and then published in the Munich-based journal Dialog. In order to explain her reluctance regarding a common oppositional platform, Cornea explained that among Romanians, the Romanian Hungarians were perceived after the war as the most ardent communists, who were held responsible for installing a Stalinist dictatorship in Romania. However, beside this letter there was also a comment in which Nestor Ratesh, one of the most prominent representatives of the Romanian emigration, explained how unjustified this collective labelling was. The Romanian communist authorities did everything they could to convince the public that the Hungarian Gyimesi and the embodiment of Romanian national values, Doina Cornea, belonged to two separate worlds that could not walk common paths or share a common political ground (ACNSAS I017980/1-6). The last chapter in Gyimesi’s anti-regime activity occurred in the autumn of 1989, when signatures were collected in Cluj to express solidarity with Calvinist pastor László Tőkés of Timișoara. The protest was signed by seventeen Hungarian intellectuals, including Gyimesi. Therefore in November 1989 she was again called to the rector’s office to be warned. Her overall activity attracted the close surveillance of the secret police until the very end of the communist regime in Romania. (ACNSAS, I0235144/2, Cs. Gyimesi 2009).
Given all the above, it may be inferred that the Gyimesi-materials donated in 2011 and 2013 consist of intellectual items with an enormous symbolical value before 1989, which is unfortunately hard to grasp today by those who did not live through those times of dictatorship. “Many people look at her bookshelf, as it is there, but from the professional point of view these shelves are less exciting today than in the time when I was a student, when the items of specialised literature that leaked into our country were accessible through her and nowhere else,” says István Berszán in the interview dated 27 March 2017. “On the one hand, the years that have gone by, and on the other hand a much greater accessibility keep it from being so significant in the history of literature. If this material could have been displayed on such separate shelves in the 1980s, before the Securitate interfered, many people would have been attracted by its professional value. Today people pick up a volume, nod upon reading the title, in part because they are reminded of the volumes on the shelves at home or of former borrowings. We have no knowledge of any professional intentions aimed at the processing of these volumes,” concludes István Berszán.
Berszán also underlines that: “Her intellectual heritage is more important than what she left behind in palpable form.” The volume published in 2011 bearing the title Újrateremtett világok: Írások Cs. Gyimesi Éva emlékére (Recreated worlds: Notes in memory of Cs. Gyimesi Éva) was intended to be a homage volume, but it became a farewell one (Balogh F. et al, 2011) because of her suicide on 23 May 2011. Her friends and students who published studies in this volume tell about the stage of the project that they started with or worked on in parallel with Gyimesi. The approximately forty studies beautifully reflect these intellectual-professional relationships, not only in the names but also in the thoughts conveyed. The studies are mainly signed by professionals in literary theory and the history of literature who used to be her students, who explain how they carry on the knowledge they acquired directly from her as a student. There are present-day researches that are related to Gyimesi’s lines of thought. However, according to József Imre Balázs, these researches do not primarily focus on her heritage collection at BCU Cluj-Napoca, but on her entire intellectual accomplishment.
Description of content
The Éva Cseke-Gyimesi Collection is made up of 590 specialised books and three boxes of documents which constitute her material intellectual legacy. The majority of the specialised books are from before 1989 and consist mainly of masterpieces of Hungarian literature and Gyimesi’s personal library of works related to the history of literature and literary criticism, which were considered as priceless before the change of regime because contemporary literary works were not available in libraries. The collection also includes Gyimesi’s professional works, serving as proof of a profession exercised without ideological frills. Among these are her writings defined as samizdats, which were published in the mid-1980s in Hungary, when she was banned from publishing in Romania, such as “Levél egy erdélyi menekülthöz” (Letter to a Transylvanian refugee), Magyar Ifjúság, Vol. 25, July 17, 1988, or works that were confiscated and published only after the change of regime, such as Gyöngy és homok: Ideológiai értékjelképek a magyar irodalomban (Pearls and sand: Ideological value-symbols in Hungarian literature). The three boxes comprise approximately 2000 pages of documents, consisting of national and international private correspondence, manuscripts, typed texts, postcards, newspaper clippings, and other palpable items of Gyimesi’s intellectual legacy. Worthy of special mention is an undated anonymous typed text, presumably written between 1987 and 1989, which examines the sense of identity of the Transylvanian Hungarians in the form of a questionnaire, and analyses, with the implicit aim of finding a solution, the relationship and connections between Romanians and Hungarians, and their experiences of coexistence. There are relatively few documents dating from before 1989, because Gyimesi did not keep any diaries or notes, as she and her husband were always in fear of a home search, especially after they had actually experienced such episodes in 1985, and again in 1989. Thanks to the collection, one can have a comprehensive picture of the Hungarian civil opposition in Romania that took shape as of the early 1980s, and of the alliances initiated by circles of intellectuals, counting several persons and characterised by group-level manifestations. The fact that Gyimesi refused to emigrate, as so many other Hungarian intellectuals from Transylvania did, makes it possible to gain a unique insight into the details of the struggle against the violation of human rights and minority rights in those years of extreme nationalism in communist Romania.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 10-99
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 500-999
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 500-999
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Cs. Gyimesi, Éva. 2009. Szem a láncban. Bevezetés a szekusdossziék hermeneutikájába (Piece in a chain: Introduction to the hermeneutics of Securitate files). Kolozsvár: Komp-Press – Korunk.
Cs. Gyímesi, Éva. 1993. Honvágy a hazában. Cikkek, tanulmányok, esszék (Homesickness in the home country: Articles, studies, essays). Budapest: Pesti Szalon Könyvkiadó.
Cs. Gyímesi, Éva. 1992. Gyöngy és homok. Ideológiai értékjelképek a magyar irodalomban (Pearls and sand: Ideological value-symbols in Hungarian literature). Bukarest: Kriterion Könyvkiadó.
Author(s) of this page
- Jánosi, Csongor
Arhiva Consiliului Național pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securității (Archive of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives – ACNSAS), Fond Informativ (Informative fonds): file 236674/1-4, file 017980/1-6, file 0235144/2.
Balogh, F. András, et al., eds. 2011. Újrateremtett világok: Írások Cs. Gyimesi Éva emlékére (Recreated worlds: Notes in memory of Cs. Gyimesi Éva). [Budapest]: Argumentum.
Cs. Gyimesi, Éva. 2009. Szem a láncban: Bevezetés a szekusdossziék hermeneutikájába (Piece in a chain: Introduction to the hermeneutics of Securitate Files). Kolozsvár: Komp-Press – Korunk.
Cs. Gyímesi, Éva. 1993. Honvágy a hazában: Cikkek, tanulmányok, esszék (Homesickness in the home country: Articles, studies, essays). Budapest: Pesti Szalon Könyvkiadó.
Cs. Gyímesi, Éva. 1992. Gyöngy és homok: Ideológiai értékjelképek a magyar irodalomban (Pearls and sand: Ideological value-symbols in Hungarian literature). Bukarest: Kriterion Könyvkiadó.
Balázs, József Imre, Berszán, István, interview by Jánosi, Csongor , March 27, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection