BUCHAREST, Romania — Doina Cornea, a Romanian anti-communist dissident who was beaten and arrested after criticizing the destruction of Romanian villages and churches during the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, has died. She was 88.

Her son, Leontin Juhasz, said Cornea died overnight Thursday at her home in the northwestern city of Cluj after a long illness.

Cornea, a French professor at Cluj's Babes Bolyai University, sent her first letter protesting the communist regime to Radio Free Europe in 1982 and went on to send dozens of similar letters, attracting the attention of the Securitate secret police. She was fired from the university in 1983 after her daughter smuggled an open letter to France in which she was critical of Ceausescu.

Along with her son, Cornea was arrested in 1987 after releasing manifestos in support of a workers' uprising in the city of Brasov.

She was later put under house arrest, and was freed during the December 1989 revolution when Ceausescu was toppled and executed.

President Klaus Iohannis called her "the symbol of courage and anti-communist resistance."

"For many Romanians, she was our voice of freedom and hope."

Explaining her decision to oppose communism in an interview with historian Cornel Jurju, Cornea said that "I am nothing special.... just as scared and cowardly as others.

"But every day I practice 'resistance' which enriches and strengthens me."

After communism ended, she briefly became part of the National Salvation Front that came to power during the uprising, but after a month she became disillusioned and left.

Cornea, a member of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church, received several awards, including one from Pope John Paul II in 2003 and the French Legion of Honor for civil merits.

She is survived by her son. Her daughter Ariadna Combes died in 2016.

No funeral plans were immediately available.