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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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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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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