PRESIDENT George Bush met with 21 "Champions of Freedom" from 13 Central and Eastern European states on February 24, the SITA news agency reported.
The freedom champions included an 86-year-old Slovak who led a Jewish partisan unit during the Slovak National Revolution, a Byleorussian woman searching for her countries "disappeared", and a Georgian MP who campaigns for press freedom.
On behalf of the group, the director of the Bratislava office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which works for democratic reform, Slovak Pavol Demeš, thanked Bush and said they shared the same fight for freedom and democracy.
President Bush responded by saying that for him, values of freedom and democracy are key issues on his political agenda. He is convinced that all people are born to be free.
Three more champions spoke to the president.
Georgian parliamentarian George Bokeria, who founded the non-governmental organization the Liberty Institute, which campaigns for freedom of the press, spoke about the importance of US help to the Caucasus Republics.
He asked Bush to talk about the independence of these countries during his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Irina Krasovska from Byelorussia, who founded the "We Rembember Foundation" foundation, which searches for the "disappeared" and other victims of political repression in her country, thanked Bush for US support of the country during its fight for democracy.
Sonja Licht, now director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, speaking for the Balkan countries, and especially Serbia, thanked President Bush for helping Serbia on its way to be a part of the "Euro-Atlantic family". A delighted Bush reacted with a greeting to Serbian President Boris Tadic.
Demeš emphasized that Bush met with representatives of three generations who have fought for freedom and democracy against fascism, communism and other dictatorial regimes.
The oldest person present was Slovak Alexander Bachnar, 86, a commander of a Jewish partisan unit that fought against fascists during the Slovak National Revolution.
The American side also invited the former Slovak Ambassador to the US and a key activist in the Velvet Revolution, Martin Bútora, to attend.
Prepared by Spectator staff from press reports
24. Feb 2005 at 17:29