Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec welcomed the five 2017 Friends of Slovakia Slovak Scholars to the Embassy together with program supporters including FOS Chairman Joe Senko and President of The Fund for American Studies Roger Ream. TFAS runs this intensive two month summer program at George Mason University. The FOS Scholars also have internships with local organizations relevant to their interests.
Contributions from individual FOS supporters and from the Slovak-American Foundation and Slovak American Business and Innovation Council have made the program available to 44 Slovak Scholars thus far.
Featured in the photos above from left to right (*=FOS scholar): Mária Sofia Takáčová*; TFAS President Roger Ream; FOS Chairman Joe Senko; Jeff Reid, Adjunct Professor and Director Georgetown Entrepreneur Initiative & Matúš’ sponsor; Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec; Jaroslav Leitmann*; Andrea Ratkošová; Matúš Záhradník; Michaela Halásová*; Roger Kodat; Amb. Ted Russel; Ken Bombara; and Miroslav Ivan of the Slovak Embassy.
Behind the group is the FOS Wall of Honor which thanks contributors that support FOS’ cultural and educational activities.
On May 10th, US Ambassador to Slovakia Adam Sterling met with Slovak-Americans in Pittsburgh at a reception organized by FOS Chairman Joe Senko and his wife Albina. Ambassador Sterling gave an informative presentation on Slovakia and personally greeted the guests and took individual photos with them. The next evening, the FOS Board of Directors hosted a dinner for Ambassador Sterling in Washington, DC. The Ambassador briefed the FOS Board on his work in Slovakia and discussed cooperation on FOS projects including our FOS Slovak Scholars program. Thanks to contributions from our supporters, this FOS initiative has awarded grants to 44 outstanding Slovak students for a two-month study and internship program in Washington, DC. Our five 2017 grantees will arrive in June.
Become involved at the ground level of an important new film project. This endeavor will not only document the life of a Slovak Holocaust survivor in her own words, but also bring honor and recognition to the Catholic priest and ordinary Slovak citizens who risked their lives, in allegiance to an authority higher than that of the Nazi regime, to rescue one Jewish family. Friends of Slovakia has partnered with Klara Sever Studios in documenting this moving story of Klara’s childhood and of the bravery of Slovak villagers who enabled her family to survive the Holocaust and prevail through WWII.
Preliminary filming for the epilogue of this docudrama has already begun in Slovakia. If you would like to contribute to the production of this important film, please send a check to Friends of Slovakia, P.O. Box 8033, Falls Church, VA 22041-9998 marked “film project” or contact Patricia Wood at: email@example.com
If you are in the Washington DC area, come see The Teacher (Ucitelka), a dramatic comedy about a middle school teacher that manipulates her student’s parents into doing favors for her in exchange for previews of test questions and good grades for their children.
The Teacher (Ucitelka)
Directed by Jan Hrebejk
(Slovak Republic, 2016, 102 min.)
Read more about it on IMDB.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.