Czech teacher Dana Vargová, German Manfred Matthies, Hungarian intellectual Janos Kenedi, Polish dissident Kornel Morawiecki, and Slovak priest Anton Srholec received the European Memory of Nations Awards in the National Theatre in Prague
Throughout the 1980s, Czech teacher Dana Vargová selflessly cared for her completely paralysed son, who was described by State Security as “the most dangerous anti-communist figure” in the region. Manfred Matthies used secret tunnels to guide East-German fugitives into West Berlin. Anton Srholec was ordained into priesthood by the pope himself, but even so he returned to normalised Bratislava to help the faithful. Kornel Morawiecki led the “Fighting Solidarity” from illegality for six years, and János Kenedi organised his famous opposition workshops in his flat in Budapest. These five laureates are united in the courage with which they stood up to the Communist totality.
“The Memory of Nations Awards are not an olympics in bravery, all of the nominees deserve to be honoured, not only the five laureates. Our aim with these awards is mainly to inspire courage in our society and the young generation. Based on the great amount of appreciation, which the public expressed towards the nominees at www.memoryofnationsawards.eu, it seems we are quite successful,” says Mikuláš Kroupa, director of the host organisation Post Bellum.
Watch Memory of Nations Awards gala evening in TV
The Memory of Nations Awards were presented on the stage of the Czech National Theatre by prominent European personalities – the writers György Konrád and Thomas Brussig, the philosopher Tomáš Halík, or the former Slovak prime minister Iveta Radičová. This year’s award was created by multimedia artist Richard Wiesner in cooperation with Kryštof Kintera. The award consists of a specially-made USB disc with a recording of the laureates voice. The gala ceremony also included the Concert for Heroes with performances from legendary Welsh musician John Cale (ex-Velvet Underground), famous Hungarian keyboardist Gábor Presser, cult Berlin band Pankow, Slovak keyboardist Marián Varga with singer Jana Kirschner, and the Czech group Pražský výběr in its most famous line-up.
The gala event was presented by Marek Eben, and it was broadcast live by Česká televize, Slovenská televize, Telewizja Polska, and Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. The event was directed by Břetislav Rychlík.
Photography: Lukáš Žentel
Appreciate the nominees!
On 17 November 2014 the Memory of Nations Awards will be presented in the National Theatre in Prague to individuals whose actions help to prove that honour, freedom, and human dignity are not just empty words. The nominees include twenty individuals from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland, five of whom will receive an award. You will not be casting a vote to say which of the nominees is the greater hero. You may however acknowledge and indicate which of the stories is the most inspiring and motivates you the most in today’s day and age. Write them an e-mail, or publish your acknowledgement on your Facebook profile.
The gala evening associated with the presentation of the Memory of Nations Awards for 2014 will take place on 17 November starting at 8:00 pm in the National Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic.
The awards will be presented to individuals who experienced some of the turning point events of the last century first hand, and whose actions help to prove that honour, freedom, and human dignity are not just empty words. This is the first year that the Memory of Nations Awards event is taking on an international character. The nominees include twenty individuals from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland, five of whom will receive an award. As a reminder of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of communism in Central Europe, the common factor uniting all of the nominees is their experience living under communist totalitarianism and their active resistance against this political regime.
The Memory of Nations Awards have been presented annually since 2010 by the Post Bellum civic association. The twenty individuals who have received this award in the past include veterans, dissidents, political prisoners, and Holocaust survivors, who, at some point in their lives, found the courage to stand up against evil and to help others. The nominees are selected by historians, journalists, and researchers from amongst the records stored in the international Memory of Nations archive of witnesses’ recollections, which Post Bellum started in 2001.
The five laureates who will receive the award will be selected by a professional panel comprising Ivan Havel (scientist, brother of the late President Václav Havel, Czech Republic), Tomáš Halík (priest and philosopher, recipient of the Templeton Prize, Czech Republic), Mikuláš Kroupa (documentarian, founder of the Memories of Nations, Czech Republic), Zdeněk Hazdra (Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Czech Republic), Michal Šmíd (Chief Editor of the Memory of Nations archive, Czech Republic), Adrian Portmann (historian, Czech Republic), Peter Baumann (director of the Brücke/Most Stiftung, Germany), György Konrád (writer, Hungary), Helmut Frauendorfer (journalist, Germany), György Varga (translator and diplomat, Hungary), Ladislav Snopko (politician and former Minister of Culture, Slovakia), Štefan Hríb (Chief Editor of the weekly Týždeň magazine, Slovakia), Paweł Ukielski (historian, Institute of National Remembrance, Poland), Jan Rydel (historian, European Network Remembrance and Solidarity).
During the official ceremony the laureates will receive their awards from internationally respected personalities, such as the philosopher and Templeton Prize recipient Tomáš Halík, Hungarian writer György Konrád and the former Prime Minister of Slovakia Iveta Radičová. Currently we are negotiating the participation of German President Joachim Gauck and former Polish President Lech Walesa.
Concert for Heroes
The gala evening includes the Concert for Heroes, which presents a surprising combination of internationally respected musicians and a number of Central European rock stars. The programme includes performances by the legendary musician and composer John Cale (formerly of The Velvet Underground); the famous Hungarian keyboardist Gábor Presser (of Locomotiv GT); the guitarist Ivan Král (formerly of the Patti Smith Group), who is one of the world’s best known musicians of Czech origin; the Berlin-based cult band Pankow; the Slovakian keyboardist Marián Varga together with the singer Jana Kirschner; the Polish band Raz Dwa Trzy; and the music group Pražský Výběr, which will appear in one of their most famous configurations.
Previous years of the Memory of Nations Awards
The organizer of the Memory of Nations Awards is Post Bellum – civic association which unites journalists, historians, and documentarians and which has been recording the eyewitness accounts of war veterans, Holocaust survivors, political prisoners, dissidents, and other witnesses of important twentieth century events since 2001. Post Bellum uses these recordings to enhance the internet Memory of Nations archive. Today the database contains almost three thousand recordings made by witnesses from thirteen European countries and is the largest publicly accessible collection of its kind in all of Europe.Today Post Bellum is working in cooperation with Czech Radio, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, and dozens of other institutions and individuals involved in documenting the memories of witnesses in the Czech Republic and the rest of Europe to further develop this international digital archive. The Memory of Nations project aims not only to record the eyewitness accounts, but also to pass them on and to inspire today’s society, particularly the younger generation.
This is one of the reasons why, for the past seven years, we have been broadcasting the popular documentary cycle Stories of the Twentieth Century on Czech Radio (on Czech Radio Plus every Saturday at 8:05 pm, and on Radiožurnál every Sunday at 9:05 pm). The Stories of the Twentieth Century are also available in book, cartoon strip, and DVD format. In 2014 we started a cooperative project with Czech Television to prepare an audiovisual version of the Memory of Nations. We have already started to tape the witness accounts using the unique Eye Direct documentary method. The final result should consist not only of an original audiovisual witness archive, but also a television documentary series. No less important are our nationwide educational projects for schools (www.pribehynasichsousedu.cz) and the largest documentary competition for the general public in the Czech Republic (www.pribehy20stoleti.cz). We run successful mobile application www.memoryofnationssites.eu.
Post Bellum was established in 2001 and is financed through sponsor contributions, public fundraising, subsidies, and grants.
Do you know interesting witness of the 20th century, who is willing to tell its story to others?
Do you want to support recording of the witnesses and building of the Memory of Nations collection?