Ambassador Kmec and Friends of Slovakia hosted a farewell reception for the four 2016 FOS Slovak Scholars at the Slovak Embassy on July 22. The FOS Scholars are finishing up their two month studies organized by The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) at George Mason University and their internships with local organizations. Pictured from left to right are Barbara Skoloutova, a graduate student of journalism and a junior reporter for Slovak Public Radio & TV, Lenka Slezakova whose field is international strategic management and energy policy, Ivana Kohutiarova, a graduate student in finance, and Martin Homola, who is working on a graduate degree in business economics.
Attendees at the reception included TFAS Executive Vice President Steve Slattery, Mallie Woodfin, TFAS Recruitment & Admissions Manager, Mary MacPherson, President & CEO of the Slovak-American Foundation, a major supporter of the FOS Scholars program, FOS Chairman Joe Senko and FOS Founding Chairman Ted Russell and SABIC Board Member Thomas Kosik representing Virtual Reality Media (VRM).”
Photojournalist Yuri Dojc discussing the exhibit
On January 28, 2016, Friends of Slovakia co-sponsored the opening of an exhibition of unique photos commemorating the Holocaust entitled “Last Folio”. The opening event was held at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. in cooperation with the Embassy of Slovakia and the Embassy of Canada. The exhibit is open to the public until April 1, 2016.
The creator of exhibit, Yuri Dojc, is a Slovak/Canadian photographer. He discovered that there were long-abandoned buildings and synagogues in Eastern Slovakia that contained artifacts from the period when Jews were deported from Slovakia during the Holocaust. The buildings had been largely undisturbed since WWII and he set about to document this find as an act of remembrance. The exhibit contains photos of the abandoned artifacts, such as the disintegrating books left on the shelves of a Jewish school. Mr. Dojc also pursued contacts with the few remaining Holocaust survivors who lived in Slovakia at the time. Their photos are also included in the exhibit.
Yuri Dojc with FOS Vice Chairman Ken Bombara
Mr. Dojc also compiled a film documentary of the project, with Director Katya Kraus, which was shown at the Slovak Embassy on Jan. 26. A shorter excerpt from this documentary is also a part of the photo exhibit at the Wilson Center. We hope to provide information when the documentary film becomes available for further viewing. FOS urges anyone living in or visiting the D.C.-area to stop by this unique exhibit that documents a dark period in Slovak history, but at the same time, inspires through the power of remembrance.
President A. Wess Mitchell, Rep. Ed Royce, Foreign Minister Zaoralek
Friends of Slovakia partnered with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) to sponsor an October 1 Forum on “Transatlantic Security in a Cold Climate”. The Forum featured distinguished speakers from Central and Eastern Europe and the United States including President Ilves of Estonia and President Vejonis of Latvia, Czech Foreign Minister Zaoralek, former Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski, Slovak State Secretary Slobodnik, the Commander of U.S. Army Europe, LTG Hodges, Senator Chris Murphy and the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Ed Royce.
Latvian President Vejonis, Estonian
President Ilves, Senator Chris Murphy,
Under Secretary Stengel
Major themes of the Forum included the threats to transatlantic security emanating from Russian aggression in Ukraine, massive Russian use of traditional and social media to spread disinformation and efforts to split the NATO alliance, coping with the flood of refugees from the Middle East and the Balkans, empowering European energy diversification and preparing for the Warsaw NATO Summit in July 2016.
The CEPA Forum program is available on the www.cepa.org website.
The First Catholic Slovak Union (FCSU) celebrated its 125th Anniversary with a gala dinner at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland on August 29, 2015. Several members of Friends of Slovakia played key roles in the celebration and/or participated on the festivities.
The First Catholic Slovak Union (FCSU), also known as the ‘Jednota’ (Union) was founded in 1890 by a group headed by Rev. Stephen Furdek in Cleveland, OH. The anniversary evening opened with a Mass celebrated by the Right Reverend Gary Hoover, OSB, Abbott of St. Andrew Abbey, and several concelebrants, which also honored the 100th anniversary of the passing of founder Fr. Furdek. The evening continued with a dinner attended by over 300 FCSU members and guests. Among the speakers at the dinner was former U.S. Ambassador, and FOS Board of Advisors member, Vincent Obsitnik, who spoke briefly and offered a toast. An address by FCSU President Andrew M. Rajec followed. Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec then gave a keynote speech highlighting Slovakia’s accomplishments since gaining independence. A wonderful combined performance by two Slovak folklore ensembles, Veselica from Chicago and Lucina from Cleveland, entertained the attendees. FOS Board of Directors member Andrew P. Rajec, served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. Also participating in the event were FOS Vice Chairman, Ken Bombara and Board member Sabina Sabados, who is also a Regional Director of the FCSU.
The FCSU’s 125th anniversary celebration continued in Washington, DC, on September 12, with a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The event featured a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl, followed by a blessing at the much-revered Slovak shrine of Our Mother of Sorrows. The more than 300 pilgrims from various localities then traveled to the Slovak Embassy for a cocktail reception. The following day the FCSU traveled to Middletown, PA, for the dedication of its newly renovated Jednota Memorial at its Jednota Estates site.
Friends of Slovakia extends its congratulations and best wishes for the future to the FCSU!
On September 19, 2015 Friends of Slovakia in cooperation with the Slovak American Society of Washington, D.C., co-sponsored a talk by Prof. Jana Kopelentová-Řehák of the University of Maryland. Her topic was Slovak political prisoners during the communist-era; the talk was held at the Slovak Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Prof. Kopelentova-Rehak’s research largely derives from her dissertation work, which subsequently led to the publication of the book Czech Political Prisoners. For this talk, she focused on the topic from a Slovak perspective and pointed out several areas where the experience of Slovak prisoners differed from those of their Czech compatriots. For example, while Czech prisoners were typically kept in facilities within the country, many Slovak prisoners were sent to the Soviet Union and were often isolated from other Slovaks, in an apparent effort at ‘ethnic fragmentation.’ Her talk also dealt with the personal stories of survivors and their efforts to re-integrate into society. Their desire to obtain ‘rehabilitation’ and compensation was often not realized until the post-communist era. Those attending the talk gained a deeper perspective of this difficult era of Slovak and Czech history.
FOS would like to thank the Slovak American Society for their cooperation, with special thanks to Helen Fedor for organizing the event. Prof. Kopelentová-Řehák’s book is available online.