Mária Wittner, a 1956 freedom fighter and former Fidesz MP, has died at the age of 85, her family announced on Wednesday. Wittner died early on Wednesday in Budapest after a brief illness, according to her family. Her funeral will be arranged later.
Born on July 9, 1937, Wittner was raised in a Carmelite convent and later went into state care. She dropped out of secondary school and worked as a typist in Szolnok, central Hungary, before moving to Budapest in early 1956. During the 1956 Hungarian revolution, Wittner participated in the siege of the radio station and tended to the wounded in Corvin Circus, the site of ferocious fighting. She was hospitalised with shrapnel wounds on November 4 as the Soviet Army overran the city.
After the revolution, she spent a few weeks in Austria but returned to Hungary and worked as a manual worker until her arrest in the summer of 1957. She was sentenced to death on July 23, 1958 and spent 200 days in prison before her sentence was reduced to life in 1959. Wittner was released in March 1970, but was not granted an amnesty. She worked as a seamstress and cleaning lady until she retired in 1980 on a disability pension. After the 1989-90 change in political system, she took an active role in the work of various 1956 organisations. From 2006 to 2014, Wittner was an MP of the now ruling Fidesz party. She wrote several memoirs of her role in the revolution and of her years in prison.
Wittner received the Grand Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit in 1991, along with the 1956 Medallion. She was decorated with the Hungarian Order of St Stephen, the highest honour in Hungary, in 2006.