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Kiska awarded five people fighting for freedom

PRESIDENT Andrej Kiska granted state awards to five people who were active in the anti-fascist movement and devoted their lives to protect democracy on November 17, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

PRESIDENT Andrej Kiska granted state awards to five people who were active in the anti-fascist movement and devoted their lives to protect democracy on November 17, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

The president awarded the Medal of the President of the Slovak Republic to Jaroslav Fabok, Ján Zeman, Alexander Bachnát, Marcel Strýko in memoriam and Agneša Kalinová in memoriam.

“These personalities were connected by the same aims: the fight for freedom and democracy, i.e. for values we celebrate with the national holiday of Slovakia, the Day of the Fight for Freedom and Democracy,” Kiska said in his speech, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

Kiska said he is pleased that the ceremony was attended by people who will be the first to receive the award and will help to establish the tradition to remember those who deserve our honour at the November 1989 anniversary.

Fabok fought against two dictatorships. Before the start of the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) he worked in the resistance organisation Flora with links to Great Britain. He served as interpreter of SNP participants, for which he was imprisoned by the Nazis. After the war he helped to establish the Democratic Party and became its secretary, TASR wrote.

After the communists took the power he was imprisoned and convicted, but he managed to emigrate. In Germany he joined the intelligence service. When he returned to Czechoslovakia in 1949 he was caught and sentenced to death. His punishment was later changed to life imprisonment. Fabok spent 16 years in prisons and uranium mines, TASR wrote.

Zeman was a member of the anti-communist resistance movement. He was first sentenced to death, with the verdict being confirmed also by the Supreme Court. He spent about nine months in a cell waiting for execution. His punishment was later changed, and he spent 14 years in prison. Together with him the courts also convicted his wife who was imprisoned eight years, TASR reported.

Bachnár, according to TASR, is the last living commander of the Jewish unit fighting in the SNP. The group was established in the concentration and working camp in Nováky. It secretly collected weapons and kept contacts with other SNP participants. After the SNP started Bachnár served as commander of the troop. After the war he worked as a journalist, but in the 1950s he was sent to work in production. He lost his journalist job for the second time in 1969, after the occupation of the Warsaw Pact armies.

After November 1989 Bachnár served as the secretary of the Slovak Association of Fighters against Fascism, TASR wrote.

An underground artist, philosopher and dissident from Košice, Strýko was copying and distributing samizdat pieces and was organising informal exhibitions and philosophical seminars in Košice. The communist police ŠtB invited him to a total of 282 hearings. He joined the Velvet Revolution right in the beginning, co-founded the Civic Forum in Košice and was also MP in the Slovak parliament, TASR reported.

Kalinová was a journalist and significant cultural personality. She went through various hardships in her live, being pursued by two regimes. Because of her origin she was not allowed to study and in spring 1942 she fled from deportation to Budapest where she was hiding in a monastery.

After World War II, Kalinová worked as a journalist, also in Cultural Life magazine which was prohibited after the August 1968 Warsaw Pact armies occupation. Thousands of people can remember her voice from Radio Free Europe where she was commenting on domestic affairs and encouraging those who opposed the regime, as reported by TASR.

Source: TASR

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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