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Portrait of a Revolutionary
tagged : women, political
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She was the equal of any man. She was a great gardener, a talented journalist, a literary translator, a writer, and a well-liked teacher. She mastered mathematics and made an important contribution to the development of the jet engine. She was a licenced pilot and a fearless motorcyclist. She was a trouble-maker, too, a Communist revolutionary, and a Bolshevik. Ilona Duczynska was born in 1897 to Polish-Hungarian parents. Her father, Alfred von Duczynski, was a non-conformist and the self-taught inventor of a flying-machine, and her Hungarian mother was from a noble family. Ilona was a rebel by the time she was ten years old, driven by a life-long dream to liberate those who were silenced, exploited and oppressed by those bent on accumulating capital for private gain. When she was an undergraduate student in Zurich, in 1915, she was in the municipal library when she became aware of the exiled Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilych Lenin sitting across from her. Seeing that she was reading a work on radical feminism, he raised his eyebrows critically. This did not deter her from carrying his photograph with her until her dying days. She was barely twenty when she lit the fuse of the revolutions in Hungary that hammered the final nails into the coffin of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There are Hungarians to this day who cannot forgive her for what she did a century ago. Her private life was also turbulent. When she was a young woman, her comrade in arms, Tivadar Sugár, fell for her, and they became lovers. They were arrested in early 1918 for trying to get the Hungarian army to end its participation in World War I. The trial was the talk of Budapest that year, though prosecutors had missed their other illicit enterprise, which was to engineer a workers' uprising. The judge threw the book at them, giving Tivadar an extra year in prison because he was Jewish, while Ilona was described as "a Christian gentry girl." Released from captivity by the armed workers and soldiers of the revolution they started--the Chrysanthemum Revolution--they spent the first week of their freedom in each other's arms before getting married the following week. Tivadar became second-in-command of the Revolutionary Military Council and aide de camp to Béla Kún, the leader of the Commune while Ilona, overcome by tuberculosis and the Spanish flu, spent months at death's door. Once she recovered, in June 1919, she agreed to be sent to Zurich under cover. This was two months before the Commune collapsed and Hungarian communists were banished. The following spring, she went to the global headquarters of the international Communist movement in Moscow, where she met Vladimir Ilych Lenin for the second time. She worked with Karl Radek, Bukharin, Zinoviev and other Bolshevik leaders to organize the 2nd World Congress of the international Communist movement, and they entrusted this very young woman--Ilona was now twenty-three--with the job of coordinating the participation of the German delegation--the most important of the Western delegations. The bureaucratization of the Russian Revolution did not inspire her, however, and she asked to be relieved of her duties after just six months so she could return to Vienna to work with the Hungarian Communist Party in exile. Moscow sent her on a perilous trip back to Vienna with the means needed to finance the exiled Hungarian Communists for an entire year--funds she duly delivered to George Lukács. She then found herself a job, as she herself got not one penny from her comrades. She soon developed the same distaste for communist activity in Vienna that she'd felt both in Budapest and in Moscow. This time, though, she published her views in a left-wing magazine, with the result that she was expelled from the Hungarian Communist Party. Always an irritant in the eyes of the Bolsheviks, she would in due course be kicked out of every Communist Party she joined.

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Bootstraps Need Boots

Bootstraps Need Boots

One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada
also available: Hardcover
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