Gabriella Lengyel Hungarian sociologist
Born in Budapest in 1948. Her father was a radio-mechanic, the supervisor of a small radio shop in the 8th district of Budapest until the communist regime nationalized all small businesses. During her primary school years she was a member of the choir of the Hungarian Radio, as a teenager she acted as supernumerary in the National Theater. She graduated from high school in 1966, and was accepted to the College of Theatrical Arts in 1967. After two years she switched to the Faculty of History of ELTE University. In the communist Hungary sociology was a nonexistent science, the Sociological Research Department of the Hungarian Academy of Science was only formed in 1963. In the beginning of the 1970’ies, Gabriella Lengyel became a close member of the circle of young researchers working under the leadership of István Kemény, a well-known Hungarian sociologist. In 1971 she took part in the first sociological rounds of research among Roma people, visiting segregated areas in Zala and Veszprém counties. Upon the encouragement of Kemény, she applied to, and was accepted as a student of the first Sociology MA training course in 1972. During her studies she took part in various research activities. In 1978 she completed her Masters in History. Due to a small misdemeanor (graffiti) she was suspended from the university, and could only complete her sociological training as a correspondent in 1981. At the end of the 1970’ies, among others, she started to take part in research in segregated Roma settlement of Nógrád county. Throughout the Kádár-era she remained an independent researcher – first because she had desired to remain so, and later she could not find employment due to her anti-communist activities. Her passport had been withdrawn. In 1979 she was one of the founders of the Fund Supporting the Poor (SZETA) – for several years the organization held its monthly meetings in her home. Apart from her research she also took part in several activities of the democratic opposition. After the birth of her first child in 1984 she temporarily withdrew from her public life, but in the years before the change of system she was already active again. She was a founder of the Menedék Bizottság (Refuge Committee) set up to help those fleeing the Ceausescu-regime in Romania – her home was the seat of the organization. She was a member of the first trade union formed after the fall of communism, the Democratic Trade Union of Academic Employees (TDDSZ). During the first parliamentary cycle after the change of system she was an assistant of two MPs, Ottilia Solt and Gábor Havas, two of the co-founders of SZETA. In 1993, together with Ottilia Solt among others, she set up a social work training at John Wesley College in Budapest. After 1999 she became a freelance sociologist, teacher of practical social work, who still actively visits and researches faraway hidden corners of poverty.