Dimitar "Dimi" Panitza

  • "Just learned of Dimitar's passing. I only recently..."
    - Michael Seidenstricker
  • "Thank you, Dimi, for the trans-atlantic airline ticket you..."
    - Blagovesta Momchedjikova
  • "May you find comfort and hope at Psalms 121. My deepest..."
    - M. Jones
  • "A great son of Bulgaria, we can only wish there were more..."
    - Marin Dimitrov
  • "I can't thank you enough for everything you did for me! ..."
    - Mariana Lenkova/Neisuler

Dimitar "Dimi" Panitza (AP Photo)
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) - Bulgarian journalist Dimitar "Dimi" Panitza, a former managing editor of Reader's Digest in Paris who later returned to his country to help restore democracy, has died. He was 80.

Family friends said Panitza died Friday in Paris "after a long illness," the BTA news agency reported.

Born in Sofia on Nov. 2, 1930, Panitza emigrated from communist Bulgaria at the age of 18. He eventually settled in the West, first in France and later in the United States.

Panitza began his career in journalism in the Paris office of Reader's Digest. He stayed with the magazine for more than four decades, where he retired in 1994 as a managing editor.

After 42 years in exile, Panitza returned to his home country to help restore democracy in the post-communist society.

Together with his wife, Yvonne, he established the Free and Democratic Bulgaria Foundation in 1991, whose goals are to support the process of democratization of Bulgarian society.

Panitza played a major role in the establishment of the American University in Bulgaria in 1991, to which he donated regularly over the years and on whose board of trustees he served until the end.

Panitza became an honorary member of Bulgaria's Academy of Sciences, but publicly resigned in 2010, after it was disclosed that a large number of communist-era secret police agents were still working at the academy.

He was a long-time member of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), of the Advisory Committee of the annual International Civic Courage Prize in New York, and the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE).

Panitza was also a Chevalier (Knight) of the French Order of the Legion of Honor and a recipient of the Council of Europe's Pro Merito medal for his contribution to the democratic development in Eastern Europe.

Funeral plans were not immediately known.

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