Building cohesion and cultivating humanity is what people in Slovakia need to overcome the health crisis as well as any future crisis, President Zuzana Čaputová told the inhabitants in her New Year's address.
There is still hope that the crisis can strengthen society and allow people to further appreciate the ordinary things they have not been able to enjoy during the pandemic. "It is a chance to be better than before," the president said.
The traditional annual speech is broadcast by the public-service broadcaster RTVS on January 1, which also marks the emergence of the Slovak Republic in 1993. Čaputová remarked that the demanding times we live in require common sense, discipline and thoughtfulness. If a society is to manage a crisis, it needs cohesion, she stressed.
A nod to Pope Francis
In her speech, she mentioned the children growing up in difficult conditions under the pandemic, the elderly people who have been deprived of contact with their families, and the bereaved who have lost their loved ones over the past year. She also highlighted those who have been able to face the crisis with exceptional determination and even sacrifice their own health to save others.
"I would like to thank all those who have not lost their humanity, who have been showing solidarity and have not lost hope that it is worth trying and uniting our Slovakia again," Čaputová said.
She cited Pope Francis, who said during his 2021 visit to Slovakia that we are all fragile and all need each other.
"Facing the biggest health threat of our times is only possible as humans, as a community - and that requires a contribution from each of us. Every one of us matters," the president said, calling on people to find common ground in the shared desire to be healthy and live their ordinary lives.
Royal understanding of freedom
She also asked the inhabitants of Slovakia to follow their hearts and not be provoked by hatred. The president paraphrased the priest Martin Kramara, who said that people need to free themselves of the plebeian understanding of freedom and relation to power or to society. In this subordinate understanding of freedom, all measures are viewed as a deal given to the people from above.
On the other hand, there is the royal understanding of freedom, which Čaputová also called a mature civic freedom that comes from the possibility of acting confidently and freely, in line with individual interest as well as the interest of the community.
"We choose freely and we freely give things up," she said. "Responsibility, decency and thoughtfulness of our own will is not perceived as a dictate of the measures."
If we can pour oil on troubled waters and do away with conflicts, our cohesion will help us overcome the current crisis as well as in our long-term efforts, the president noted. She hinted at brain drain as one of the problems Slovakia is facing, and from her talks with students abroad reported that they complain about the atmosphere in society.
"Let us cultivate humanity, emphasise it at schools. Let us cultivate relationships in communities and in families. Let us build cohesion and let us feel its value in our closest surroundings, to transfer it higher at the level of all society," said Čaputová. "So that our Slovakia can be strong, resilient and sovereign in facing all challenges."
Heger: we are allies
PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) published his own New Year's wish for Slovakia on social network, in which he too accentuated cooperation and unity.
In his reaction to the president's address, he highlighted her appeal to people to not be provoked by hatred. "[This] makes the two of us allies in calming the atmosphere in society," Heger reacted, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
"Society needs to join forces and strive for better mutual understanding, because it is the only right way out of any crisis, including the pandemic and the fight for justice. I call it cultivating a culture of respect, [the president] calls it cultivating humanity," Heger stated.