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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FOS Slovak Scholars Successfully Complete 2015 TFAS Summer Institute

By Ken Bombara

Friends of Slovakia and the Slovak Embassy honored the 2015 FOS Slovak Scholars with a well-attended reception at the Embassy on July 22.  The reception was co-hosted by Ambassador Peter Kmec and FOS Board Chairman, Joseph Senko, who made remarks honoring the students and scholarship donors.  Also attending the reception were U.S. Ambassador Theodore ‘Tod’ Sedgwick, who had just returned to the U.S. after completing his successful term in Bratislava, as well as TFAS President Roger Ream, FOS Founding Chairman, Ambassador Ted Russell, and Slovak-American Foundation Chairman, Mary McPherson.

The five scholars completed The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) Summer Institute held at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.  They joined students from throughout the United States and a number of foreign countries in attending one of the several programs offered through the Institute. The programs offer seminars and lectures by top professors, and the scholars also benefit from the experience gained by interning with businesses, government and non-profit organizations.  The scholars return to Europe with insight into American concepts of liberal democracy, entrepreneurship, and American culture.  They become part of a growing network of past FOS Scholars who build successful careers, collaborate with other Slovak professionals to contribute to building Slovakia’s economy and civil society, and support FOS’s mission to strengthen the U.S.-Slovak relationship.

Congratulations to the 2015 Slovak Scholars!

Tomas Sakal is from Bratislava, and attends Masaryk University in Brno, Czech republic.  He participated in TFAS’s Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems and interned with the Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Lucia Cerchlanova is from the small town of Skalice (near Cadca), and attends Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.  She also participated in the Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems.  Her internship was with The Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC).

Monika Soltesova is from Michalovce and is attending the University of Economics in Bratislava.  She attended TFAs’s Institute on Economics and International Affairs and interned with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

Juraj Hostak is from Bratislava and is attending a master’s program at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.  He attended the Institute on Economics and International Affairs and interned with the Office of U.S. Congressman John Mica.  He also arranged for the scholars to meet with Rep. Mica at the U.S. Capitol.

Lukas Prvy resides in Zurich but was born in Slovakia.  He recently earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Amsterdam. Lukas participated in the Institute on Business and Government Affairs and interned with the Embassy of the Slovak Republic.

FOS extends its sincere thanks to the scholarship donors: Amb. Sedgwick; FOS Board member Richard Marko; the Slovak-American Foundation, which sponsored two scholars; and the many individual FOS supporters who contributed to the scholarship fund. Special thanks also to FOS Board member Scott Thayer, and his wife Nena, who held a reception at their lovely home in Bethesda, MD on June 21 to welcome the scholars to Washington.

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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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AeroMobil at the Slovak Embassy

Slovak Embassy EU Open House May 9, 2015
The Slovak AeroMobil was presented to an appreciative audience at the Slovak Embassy EU Open House May 9 by Peter Kolesar of the Business and Innovation Unit. Friends of Slovakia procured a scale model of the AeroMobil and is sponsoring its display for the next three years as part of a traveling exhibit aimed at promoting aeronautical technology to young people and the public.

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FOS GALA DINNER A MAJOR SUCCESS

guests at dinner On November 14, 2014, Friends of Slovakia and the Slovak Embassy hosted the fifth Slovak-American Awards dinner at the Slovak Embassy in Washington, DC.   The event marked the 20th anniversary of Slovakia’s entrance into NATO and the European Union, the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising.

            The sold-out event was a banner evening for FOS.  The embassy building and the spacious heated tent over the terrace made an elegant setting to display the silent auction items, tasting area for Double Cross Vodka and a festive, delicious dinner.   The event brought together more than 120 individuals along with corporate and fraternal representatives to celebrate Slovakia’s being a fully contributing member of the EU, NATO, and the transatlantic community of democracies.   

Joe Senko presents Amb. Burian with an award for diplomacy as Ed Zelenak looks on
Joe Senko presents Amb. Burian with an award for diplomacy as Ed Zelenak looks on

 Proceeds from this event support the FOS flagship Slovak Scholars’ Program, the annual Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture and other programs promoting Slovak-American friendship.  Half the income from the silent auction supports the Slovak Honorary Consuls’ Peter Burian Roma Scholarship.

             This year’s keynote speaker was Peter Burian, First Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic and formerly Slovak Ambassador to Washington.  Minister Burian emphasized the economic, cultural and political ties binding the U.S. and Slovakia.

Those honored with awards were:       

Amb. Peter Kmec with Dr. Jan Vilcek, Man of the Year

Amb. Peter Kmec with Dr. Jan Vilcek, Man of the Year

Dr. Jan Vilcek, Slovak-American of the Year. 

Dr. Vilcek is a true renaissance man: a scientist, an educator, an inventor and a philanthropist. Born and educated in Bratislava, he and his wife defected to the West in 1964 and came to New York City. He has been on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine since then. He not only did groundbreaking work on interferon but also developed methods for using it. His work led to treatments for a number of chronic diseases, including Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. In 2000 the couple created the Vilcek Foundation that awards grants to immigrants making contributions in biomedical science and the arts; thanks to royalties from the drug he helped develop, Remicade, the Vilceks are major donors to NYU School of Medicine. 

Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick, Diplomacy Award.

Amb. Russell presents diplomatic award to Amb. Sedgwick at Awards Dinner

Amb. Russell presents diplomatic award to Amb. Sedgwick at Awards Dinner

In his travels throughout the country Ambassador Tod Sedgwick has underscored the vital U.S. interest in supporting Slovakia’s success as a reliable trans-Atlantic partner in NATO and strong member of the     European Union. He has fostered U.S. – Slovak cultural and educational exchanges, including personal support for the FOS Slovak Scholars program. He has worked tirelessly and effectively to strengthen U.S.-Slovak commercial ties and to encourage Slovakia’s efforts to create a more effective judicial system and to fight corruption.  In recognition of his notable contributions to         building U.S.-Slovak friendship, Friends of Slovakia awarded Ambassador Sedgwick its Award for Diplomacy.

Peter Breiner, Cultural Award 

Ken Bombara (l.) presents the culture award to Peter Breiner

Ken Bombara (l.) presents the culture award to Peter Breiner

An internationally acclaimed musician – conductor, pianist, arranger, and composer – Peter Breiner studied music in Bratislava.  Among his many musical projects, he arranged all the national anthems of countries participating in the Olympic Games in Athens and in London. He is perhaps best known for his baroque arrangements of Christmas music and Beatles and Presley songs. He is currently working on a major piece based on Slovak dances. He has conducted many of the most prestigious orchestras and has recorded and released over 210 CDs.

The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), Educational Award.

Dr. Sharon Wolchik presents Mary Stankus of TFAS its award

Dr. Sharon Wolchik presents Mary Stankus of TFAS its award

It is FOS’ partner for the FOS Summer Scholars Program.   TFAS and FOS, thanks to our generous donors, have provided over $200,000 for 30 FOS Slovak Scholars who participate in the eight-week summer academic and internship program at George Mason University.

 This year’s dinner attracted a record number of benefactors who purchased full tables and a record number of program ads. FOS thanks to all who helped so generously to make this the most financially successful Slovak-American Awards Dinners held in the U.S. We are particularly grateful to Ambassador Peter Kmec and the Embassy staff for their hospitality and assistance with the event.

FOS SALUTES AND THANKS TO FOLLOWING SUPPORTERS:

BENEFACTORS
AT&T
BAE Systems
ECO-Invest, s.a.
ESET North America
Honeywell
Richard Marko
Slovak American Foundation
U. S. Steel Corporation

PATRONS
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Dewitt
Double Cross Vodka
First Catholic Slovak Union of the US and Canada
Google
Peter and Monika Kmec
Laura Robinson
Cecilia Rokusek and Robert Petrik
Ted and Sally Russell
Alexander Toma
Washington Capitals

SPONSORS
Peter Breiner
First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association
Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union
National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library
National Slovak Society
Vince and Annemarie Obsitnik
Theodore Sedgwick
Joseph and Albina Senko
Slovak League of America
Slovak Catholic Sokol

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