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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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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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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“Russian propaganda is also in Slovakia.” — Theodore Sedgwick

Leaving US Ambassador to Slovakia Theodore Sedgwick was a guest to the CD Club hosted by Pavol Demes, which is broadcast by internet television Tablet.tv. The ambassador considers the five-year mission the peak of his career. When talking about the Roma issues, Sedgwick compares it with historical experience of the US with integration of the Afro-American community. It is important to focus on education of the Rom…a since if you offer them opportunity, they will use it, according to the ambassador. Regarding corruption, Slovakia has done many positive changes to fight it, but there is still much room for improvement. This concerns mostly judiciary, Sedgwick said. He also commented on the increasing trend of anti-Americanism in regard of the situation in Ukraine. Russia has violated the international law with its treatment of Ukraine, Sedgwick said, adding that many Slovaks believe Russian propaganda which is spreading across the country.

sedgwick_interview

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Friends of Slovakia selects five scholars for Summer 2015

Five Slovak students have been chosen to take part in the summer program at the Fund for American Studies (TFAS). The TFAS program, which takes place annually in June-July, offers both course work and internships, providing students with real-world experience in an English-language setting. 

Between 2004 and 2014, FOS sponsored 30 Slovak students for the TFAS program. This summer’s program will bring that number up to 35. The FOS scholarships have been possible thanks to generous support from TFAS, as well as from the Slovak-American Foundation and private donors, including Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick and FOS board member Richard Marko.  

Here are the Summer Scholars 2015 and some information on their academic careers:

Lucia Cerchlanova comes from Skalice (near Cadca) and is currently studying international business at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.  She is president of the university’s Entrepreneurship Club and captain of the tennis team.

Juraj Hostak is from Bratislava, and he is currently working on a master’s degree in European Studies at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.  He has worked for Accenture in Bratislava and as an organizer of the 2014 GLOBSEC conference.

Lukas Prvy was born in Slovakia but currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland.  He recently completed a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Amsterdam.  Lukas is now in the training program at Deloitte.

Tomas Sakal is from Bratislava and is now studying computer science at Masaryk University in Brno, the Czech Republic.  He has a wide range of interests, including foreign languages (he speaks Bulgarian and Chinese) and international affairs. 

Monika Soltesova is from Michalovce, and she is currently a student of foreign languages and intercultural communication at the University of Economics in Bratislava.  She has held internships at the US Embassy in Bratislava and at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna.

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NEW BOARD MEMBERS COME FROM SLOVAK-AMERICAN COMMUNITY

Sabina_Sabados_-_headshotSabina Sabados

Sabina Sabados comes from eastern Slovakia and immigrated to the United States in the late 1980s. She received her B.A. in Political Science from Drew University in May 2003 with minors in French and in European Studies. During her undergraduate studies, Sabina participated in the Drew International Seminar which was hosted in Paris and Iceland. In December 2004, she received her master’s in International Relations and Diplomacy from Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

She discovered her passion for leadership studies after participating in the Global Leadership Program in Prague hosted by the organization Leadership exCHANGE. She returned to Prague to intern with that program in 2004. In 2005 she became director and lead instructor of the Global Leadership Program in Cordoba, Argentina where she served for three summer terms. Sabina participated in exCHANGE for Peace program, hosted in Switzerland, and the Women as Global Leaders conference in Dubai.

Sabina is very active in the Slovak community, holding the position of president of the Slovak-American Cultural Center where she also serves as chair of the annual Slovak Ball (this year the 22nd Ball was hosted in NJ) which raises funds for the Joseph Stasko Scholarship Fund. Sabina also serves as Regional Director (Region 1) with the First Catholic Slovak Union.  Among her other activities, Sabina is also active with the NY Chapter of the Diplomacy Alumni Board.

She is eager to bring her experience and love of Slovak culture, language, and history to the Friends of Slovakia Board.

Andrew Rajec
Andrew Rajec

Andrew P. Rajec is Director of External Relations for the First Catholic Slovak Union (FCSU), an international fraternal benefit society headquartered in Independence, Ohio.  Licensed in 27 states, the FCSU specializes in insurance and annuities, with assets over $350 million and annual revenues of approximately $25 million.  He is the head of independent agent recruitment and responsible for recasting the brand and developing new sales, marketing, and social media strategies.

 Prior to joining the FCSU, Mr. Rajec took on a number of significant roles in foreign policy, presidential and state politics, the U.S. Congress and the executive branch.

He was a member of the 2010 team that produced over 3,000,000 total voter contacts, leading to a switch in the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat, two congressional districts, and the State Senate and Assembly, in one of the most historic elections in the history of Wisconsin.

 Mr. Rajec was also an integral part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where he served as the International Cooperation Specialist for Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Romania and as the Deputy Director for the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

 He was awarded USAID’s Meritorious Honor Award in recognition for exemplary service and leadership in furthering the Europe and Eurasia Bureau’s Foreign Policy Interest and USAID programs. Mr. Rajec also participated as an international election observer for the crucial 2008 presidential elections in the Republic of Georgia, helping to enhance accountability and transparency and thereby boosting both domestic and international confidence in the country’s election process.

 As the West Virginia Director of Coalitions in the President’s Re-Election Campaign in 2004, he was a significant component of the leadership team that delivered West Virginia by a 13% margin, overcoming a 2 to 1 disadvantage in voter registration and increasing the margin of victory by 9% over 2000.

 Mr. Rajec began his career in Washington as personal assistant to United States Senator Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Majority Leader, and eventually became Special Assistant to Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao, and served as a member of the Secretary’s transition team.

 A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he graduated from Marquette University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, specializing in Finance.  Mr. Rajec currently resides in Broadview Heights, Ohio.

 

Friends of Slovakia is pleased to have Sabina and Andy join the Board of Directors.

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Letter from Bratislava

At the Newsletter’s request, Ambassador Tod Sedgwick has contributed the following update on Slovak developments and U.S.-Slovak cooperation:

Amb. Tod Sedgwick dining with Slovak Scholar Adam Sebesta

Amb. Tod Sedgwick dining with 2014 Slovak Scholar Adam Sebesta

Slovakia’s role as a security provider has climbed steeply in the past year given the dramatic events in Ukraine.

Slovakia is playing a pivotal role in annually providing up to 14.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Ukraine through reverse flow on the eastern border. In recent times, Ukraine has been receiving more gas from Slovakia than from Russia. Through its current leadership in the V4, Slovakia is also sharing with Ukraine its transitional experience of becoming an economically successful country with strong democratic pillars. It’s also sharing its expertise in energy efficiency with the goal of reducing the gas demand in Ukraine.

In April, Slovakia is hosting a conference in Kosice to promote trade between Ukraine and Slovakia, which will be a beneficial consequence of the association agreement Ukraine signed with the EU.

US-Slovak relations continue to strengthen. We hope to conclude soon a Foreign Military Sales contract with Slovakia to purchase some Sikorsky helicopters, which will further modernize the Slovak military and make it more interoperable with NATO.

Moreover, in a recent meeting with Prime Minister Fico, I thanked him for his initiative in seeking legislation to fight corruption, reform the judiciary and open the legislative process to more sunshine. I offered to both the prime minister and Speaker of the Parliament Peter Pellegrini our assistance where desired in developing the government’s proposals. Speaker Pellegrini is expected to lead a delegation of members of the Slovak Parliament to the U.S. later this year.

Foreign Minister Lajcak, who is highly regarded on the world stage, recently has had productive meetings primarily on Ukraine with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Secretary of State Kerry recently presented Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Robert Kalinak with a special award for cooperation in counter-terrorism and border security

Finally, let me stress how valuable and important the work is that the Friends of Slovakia do in funding scholarships for Slovak students in the U.S. There is no better way to strengthen our relations with Slovakia then sending Slovaks to study in the U.S. and learn about our way of life. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for your good work. If your travels take you to Slovakia, please let me know.

All the best,

Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick

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Introducing the 2014 Slovak Scholars

Enjoying the embassy reception: (l-r) Alena Cierna, Katarina Minarikova, Adam Sebesta, Ivana Smolenova, Barbora Bodnarova.

Enjoying the embassy reception: (l-r) Alena Cierna, Katarina Minarikova, Adam Sebesta, Ivana Smolenova, Barbora Bodnarova.

The Friends of Slovakia was pleased to have five scholars studying at the Fund for American Studies (TFAS) this summer. The scholars included Barbora Bodnárová (TFAS’s Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems), Katarína Mináriková (Institute on Business and Government Affairs), Adam Šebesta (Institute on Political Journalism), and Ivana Smoleňová and Alena Čierna (both worked at the Institute on Economics and International Affairs). These scholarships were made possible thanks to generous support from several key donors, including the Slovak American Foundation, US Ambassador to Slovakia Tod Sedgwick, and FOS board member Richard Marko, and contributions from loyal FOS members.

The five scholars came from across Slovakia, bringing with them interesting perspectives stemming from work and study programs both at home and further afield. Bodnárová is from Kosice and is currently studying at Sciences Po in Paris, with plans to earn dual degrees in International Energy and Finance and Strategy. She also studied at Oxford University, and she will be spending a year studying energy in Moscow starting this fall. In terms of work experience, Bodnárová previously interned with US Steel in Bratislava, as well as organizations in Kiev, Ukraine and Pristina, Kosovo.
Smoleňová is from Banska Bystrica and recently completed a Master’s degree in Corporate Economics and Development Studies at the Economics University in Prague. She also studied at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. In 2011, Smolenova spent three months in Nepal, where she engaged in teaching and development activities at a local primary school. She is currently working as Communications and Outreach Manager at the Prague Security Studies Institute. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in conflict resolution and crisis management, working on post-conflict development projects around the world.

Mináriková grew up in Poprad and is now studying at the Economics University in Bratislava. During her studies she spent a semester at both the Economics University in Prague and Vrije Universiteit in Brussels. In addition to an internship at the European Parliament, Mináriková has also worked at the Bratislava-based organization Youth Politics Education, where she helped develop an internship program for Slovak students. She currently is working at the PROVIDA Foundation on a project that supports social entrepreneurs in Slovakia. Mináriková is passionate about economic development and growth, and she hopes to pursue a career in international development.

Šebesta is from Bratislava, where he recently completed a law degree at Pan-European University. He has also studied at the University of Vienna. In addition to his legal studies, Šebesta has considerable journalism experience and has served as editor of Like, a leading Slovak university magazine. During his studies, Šebesta has organized and moderated several conferences and debates with prime ministers, ministers, ambassadors, judges, and lawyers. He has additional working experience in legal services, project management, and public relations.

Čierna comes from Liptovsky Mikulas and is a student of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. While completing her undergraduate studies, Čierna interned with the Slovak Atlantic Commission and Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia, worked as secretary of the Czech and Slovak student society in London and founded the blog Sloview.com. She is an alumna of the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute and member of the Youth Advisory Council of the US Embassy in Bratislava.

The five FOS Slovak Scholars were honored at a gathering at the Slovak Embassy hosted by Slovak chargé d’affaires Peter Zelenak on July 18th. It was attended by FOS Board members and representatives of individual scholarship donors, including the Slovak American Foundation CEO, Mary MacPherson, and Richard Marko. The Scholars each gave their positive impressions of their summer academic and internship programs, emphasizing how they had broadened their perspectives. The Scholars then made a gracious presentation of a beautiful certificate of appreciation “to the members of the Friends of Slovakia for being the best friends of Slovakia.” They promised to spread the word about the FOS summer scholarship opportunity in Slovakia and to keep in touch.

The summer program at the Fund for American Studies is the flagship FOS initiative designed to promote US-Slovak friendship. There is no better way to promote this friendship than to provide outstanding young Slovak scholars with study and internship opportunities in the USA. FOS is grateful to our supporters who have made this program so successful. We urge all Friends of Slovakia to continue supporting this important effort.

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Lecture on City Architecture in Slovakia

Amb. Ted Russell, Dr. Toran and Amb. Peter Kmec

Amb. Ted Russell, Dr. Toran and Amb. Peter Kmec

Ambassador Peter Kmec and Friends of Slovakia co-sponsored a lecture at the Slovak Embassy by Dr. Edward Toran of New York City. Dr. Toran is an expert on art history, architecture and interior design and currently works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He came to the United States after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. During his career in the United States, he designed architectural interiors for leading U.S. corporations and for 15 years was in charge of interior architectural space management for MetLife.

Dr. Toran presented a fascinating illustrated lecture on the history of the development of cities and city architecture in Central Europe and particularly in Slovakia. He explained the factors that influenced the rise and character of cities including their location on major trade routes like the Amber Route and the liberalizing impact on society of the move from rural to city life.

The lecture was given to a large and highly appreciative audience of Friends of Slovakia members and others interested in Slovakia in general and architecture in particular. Five U.S. Foreign Service officers in language training prior to assignment to Slovakia attended as well as members of the Slovak American Society of Washington, the Carpatho-Rusyn Society of Washington and members of the diplomatic corps.

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