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Romanian anti-communist icon Doina Cornea dies at 88

© AFP/File | Doina Cornea became famous between 1982 and 1989 for around 30 letters she wrote to Radio Free Europe in which she denounced the excesses of Ceausescu's totalitarian regime

BUCHAREST (AFP) - 

Doina Cornea, icon of the resistance against communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, died on Friday at the age of 88, her son told local media.

"After a life full of challenges she's on her way to the big challenge. She left for a better world, she has entered a land where there is no hate or wickedness," Cornea's son Leontin Iuhas told the news.ro site.

A writer and French language teacher, Cornea became famous between 1982 and 1989 for around 30 letters she wrote to Radio Free Europe in which she denounced the excesses of Ceausescu's totalitarian regime.

Her bravery saw her sacked from the university in the city of Cluj where she lived most of her life, and subjected to interrogation by the feared Securitate secret police.

"I forced myself to live as if the fear didn't exist, even when I was feeling it. We have to remain free and not become slaves to fear," she said in one interview.

Despite facing threats and physical violence, in November 1987 she handed out leaflets in solidarity with workers who rose up in rebellion in the city of Brasov.

She was arrested along with her son and spent several weeks in prison before being placed under house arrest.

In November 1989 she took part in the revolution which overthrew Ceausescu. In Cluj and Bucharest, thousands paid tribute to her courage and chanted her name during protests.

In the 1990s she opposed the "neo-communist" regime of strongman Ion Iliescu, who served as a minister under Ceausescu.

Cornea then gradually retired from political activism.

In 2009 she was made a commander of France's prestigious Legion d'Honneur award, which cited Cornea's "exemplary life" and "admirable journey of simplicity, courage and determination".

© 2018 AFP