Ana Blandiana, the pseudonym for Otilia Valeria Coman Rusan, was born on March 25, 1942, in Timişoara, Romania. While still a teenager, she developed her pen name from the name of her mother’s native village in Transylvania. Her father was an Orthodox priest who had been jailed as a dissident. Blandiana published her first poems in the Cluj-based magazine Tribuna [Tribunal] while she was attending high school in Oradea. In 1967, Blandiana earned a degree in philology from the University of Cluj-Napoca (now, the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca).
Blandiana is one of Romania’s best known poets, prose writers, and translators, having published fourteen books of poetry, two volumes of short stories, nine books of essays, and a novel. Her work has been translated into twenty-four languages. Her most recent collections of poetry, published in English by Bloodaxe, include Five Books (2021), which opens with “Children’s Crusade,” her most famous poem; The Sun of Hereafter / Ebb of the Senses (2017); and My Native Land A4 (2010). These collections were translated by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Pâtea. Blandiana’s other poetry collections include The Hour of Sand: Selected Poems 1969–1989 (Anvil Press Poetry, 1990); Stea de pradǎ [Star of Prey] (Editura Cartea Românească, 1985); Somnul din somn [The Sleep Within the Sleep] (Cartea Românească, 1977); A treia tainǎ [The Third Sacrament] (Editura Tintertului, 1969); and her first collection Persoana ǐntǐia plural [First-Person Plural] (Editura pentru Literaturǎ, 1964).
Blandiana has been the recipient of numerous international accolades during her career. In 2009, she was awarded France’s Légion d’Honneur in recognition of her contributions to European culture and human rights. In 2014, Blandiana received the Romanian Women of Courage Award, bestowed by the U.S. State Department. In 2016, she received the European Poet of Freedom Prize, awarded by the festival of the same name which takes place in Gdánsk, Poland, for her collection My Native Land A4, which had been translated into Polish and published in Poland that year.
Blandiana started her career in the late 1960s as an editor of poetry journals before then working as a freelance writer and columnist for literary journals, including Contemporanul and România literǎ. Her political dissidence eventually got her banned from all Romanian publications until the mid-1980s. In 1975, Blandiana began working as a librarian at the Institute of Fine Arts in Bucharest. In 1990, she cofounded the Civic Alliance Foundation, a nongovernmental organization created by Romanian intellectuals in the pursuit of a civil and democratic society. Blandiana also served as its president. A year earlier, Blandiana participated in the successful 1989 uprising against Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime. Shortly thereafter, she was elected to serve on the Council of the National Salvation Front but resigned due to its neo-Communist policies. She re-founded the Romanian PEN Club, for which Blandiana also served as president from 1990 to 2004. From 2004 to the present, she has served as the organization’s honorary president. With her husband, fellow writer Romulus Rusan, Blandiana cofounded in 1993 the Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance in Sighetu Marmației.