FOS Slovak Scholars at the Slovak Embassy

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).”

FOS Scholars 2016

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FOS Co-sponsors Holocaust Remembrance Photo Exhibit “Last Folio”

Photojournalist Yuri Dojc discussing the exhibit

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

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.

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Letter from FOS Chairman

Greetings. I am Joe Senko, Chairman of Friends of Slovakia (FOS). Our organization urgently needs your support for the 2016 FOS Slovak Scholars Program and to keep up its rich offering of programs supporting Slovak-American Friendship.

In 2015 we were able to offer five summer scholarships to outstanding Slovak university students to study at the Fund for American Studies Program at George Mason University and to intern with outstanding Washington think tanks and non-profit organizations.

Reception honoring Friends of Slovakia Scholars at the Slovak Embassy in Washington, DC

Reception honoring Friends of Slovakia Scholars at the Slovak Embassy in Washington, DC

FOS also brought a model of the Aeromobil Slovak-manufactured flying car to the US for display at the Smithsonian and onward travel for a US-wide tour.

We partnered with the Center for European Policy Analysis to sponsor an outstanding forum on transatlantic security.

A top Slovak film maker received our support for films on US pilots shot down over Slovakia in WWII and aided by brave Slovak families as well as his new film on Iwo Jima hero SGT Michael Strank who helped raise our flag on Mt. Suribachi.

And we have again co-sponsored the annual Czech and Slovak Freedom lecture at the Woodrow Wilson Center keeping alive the spirit of the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

FOS volunteers can only maintain our flagship Slovak Scholarship program and other important initiatives in 2016 with your support. Thank you for your tax deductible donation!

Joe Senko
Chairman, Friends of Slovakia

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Friends of Slovakia Model of Aeromobil Goes on National Tour

Boeing CEO DennisMuilenburg at Smithsonian

Boeing CEO DennisMuilenburg at Smithsonian

A scale model of the Aeromobil flying car, designed and manufactured in Slovakia, has begun a 4-5 year tour of the USA. It is part of a spectacular aerospace exhibit sponsored by the Boeing Corporation entitled “Above and Beyond” currently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington, DC until January 3, 2016. The model was brought to the United States by Friends of Slovakia and is on loan to the exhibit.

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CEPA Conference on Transatlantic Security

President A. Wess Mitchell, Rep. Ed Royce, Foreign Minister Zaoralek

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

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.

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First Catholic Slovak Union Celebrates Its 125th Anniversary

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!

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FOS Co-sponsors Talk on Slovak Political Prisoners

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.

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Slovak WWII Film Screened at the Embassy

 

Slovak Film Director Dusan Hudec points out photos of the Praskac and Rehus families who sheltered downed U.S. pilot Owen Sullivan in WWII to FOS members Julie Slavik and Amb. Ted Russell

Slovak Film Director Dusan Hudec points out photos of the Praskac and Rehus families who sheltered
downed U.S. pilot Owen Sullivan in WWII to FOS
members Julie Slavik and Amb. Ted Russell

Dusan Hudec showed and then commented on his brilliant film “Veterans of World War II” May 14 to a SRO audience at the Slovak Embassy. Friends of Slovakia supported production of Mr. Hudec’s companion film, “The Final Mission”, shown at the Embassy last November. A photo exhibit drawn from “The Final Mission” picturing downed U.S. pilots rescued and hidden by Slovak families accompanied yesterday’s film showing. 106 U.S. pilots died and approximately 370 were captured in Slovakia in WWII, but many succeeded in escaping thanks to the Slovaks who hid them.

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Msgr. Tomas Halik Delivers Annual Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture

Msgr. Tomas Halik is a Professor of Sociology at Charles University who was secretly ordained as a priest in the underground Catholic Church during communism. He is a former advisor to President Vaclav Havel and Pope John Paul II. He is President of the Czech Christian Academy and received the Templeton Prize in 2014 for his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”. On October 20 he delivered the annual Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. Previous Freedom lecturers have included Madeleine Albright, Martin Butora and Pavol Demes.

Amb. Ted Russell presents medal to Msgr. Tomas Halik

Amb. Ted Russell presents medal to Msgr. Tomas Halik

Msgr. Halik’s theme was the “Long Period of Healing” and the important role of religion in the transition from Communism to Democracy. Msgr. Halik pointed out that liberation from Communism did not make people “free”. They had been subjected to a system that killed initiative and responsibility and created a “homo sovieticus”. This needed to be overcome before society could be democratically transformed. Economic transformation without moral transformation was not enough and sometimes became a kind of “inverted Marxism”. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn remarked, this democratic transformation process will require a “long period of healing”.

After a totalitarian regime falls the society is disrupted and people are disoriented, either seeking vengeance or ignoring what they had lived through. A process of reconciliation is essential. This is a moral and cultural process. In Czechoslovakia after 1989 many Communists simply migrated to capitalism and then used their capital to influence the political process. What is needed is a role for the Christian Churches and faith based organizations in the process of forgiveness and reconciliation. The truth must be told and a moral renewal is essential to create a successful “ moral biosphere” for democracy.

Msgr. Halik’s masterful presentation is available on the Woodrow Wilson Center website www.wilsoncenter.org (“past events”) and a number of his other lectures are available at www.templetonprize.org.

Contributions from our loyal Friends of Slovakia supporters enable FOS to continue to supports events of this quality.

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Summer 2016 scholarship opportunity available to Slovak students in Washington, DC

Thanks to generous support from several key donors, the Friends of Slovakia is able to once again offer scholarships for Slovak students at the Fund for American Studies summer program in June-July 2016. The program involves coursework, as well as an internship, giving participants practical work experience in an English-speaking environment. For more information on the program download the 2016 FOS scholarship letter [pdf 100kB].

Slovak students who have participated in the past have found the program personally and professionally rewarding (for stories of past program participants see a brochure Summer in Washington, DC [pdf 2MB].)

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