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Submitted by JP on Thu, 10/12/2023 - 05:36
Slovak DAGMAR BABČANOVÁ awarded the International Custos Virtutum Prize - Guardian of Values
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She is an English and German linguist by education. She belonged to a Catholic family community led by Fr. František Rábek, later the Military Bishop of the Slovak Armed Forces. Her home served as a meeting place and a forum for open discussions for free-thinking and pro-democratic groups for years. Due to her involvement, she was persecuted in communist Czechoslovakia. After 1989, she became the founder of the first Catholic high school in Slovakia. Since 2002, she has served as the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the Holy See. She is actively engaged in the beatification process of János Eszterházy - this is what Professor Maciej Szymanowski, the director of the Felczak Institute, said today about this year's laureate of the International Custos Virtutum Prize - Guardian of Values. The CUSTOS VIRTUTUM – Guardian of Values Award is annually presented by the Wacław Felczak Institute of Polish-Hungarian Cooperation under the patronage of the "Do Rzeczy" weekly magazine. 

Photo by. MO

"It is a great honor for me to address you today on the occasion of receiving the Guardian of Values award. I stand here on behalf of all those who, not too long ago in our part of Europe, stood guard over the memory and values stemming from the Gospel, which was so vehemently hated by communist ideology," said Dagmar Babčanová during the ceremonial event at the Museum of Polish History in Warsaw. She emphasized that thanks to the Christian upbringing she received from her parents, the desire for truth and justice as the highest values in public life has accompanied her throughout her life.

Photo by MO

Learning to live in freedom

"I belong to the post-war generation that experienced the arrival of communism and the erosion of values from childhood. As a student, I lived through the shock of 1968, which my generation in Czechoslovakia saw as a year of hope. Hope that was shattered by the occupation by the Warsaw Pact forces in the August night of 1968. In this situation, what surprised me the most was the quick surrender and the resignation of those we trusted, giving up the values we believed in," said the laureate, lamenting that for many, the highest value at that time became "immediate benefit or material gains resulting from submitting to communist rule." She continued, "The subsequent period of normalization distorted human thinking, and submitting to the influence of power at any cost became ingrained in our genetics. To this day, we cannot reconcile ourselves with the later normalization, which, under the intense influence of communist media, promoted lies, hypocrisy, and insincerity in work and family relationships." Ambassador Babčanová acknowledged that, thanks to the sacrifices of many conscience martyrs, God granted our nations freedom after 1989, but she noted that "to this day, nations tested by communism are learning to live in freedom." She emphasized, "We must admit that freedom is a choice of values - it is up to us to choose between good and evil. And if we choose evil, we are responsible for it.

"I view the privilege of representing my country as an ambassador to the Holy See as an honor for the many individuals who championed the resurgence of Christian participation in Slovakian public life following the collapse of communism. It's also a recognition of the effort to rebuild Catholic education rooted in Christian values and the development of responsible citizens. I consider it a significant blessing that my role at the Vatican coincided with the transition between two momentous papal pontificates," expressed the former Ambassador of Slovakia to the Holy See.

Photo by MO

The recipient of the Guardian of Values award drew attention to the ongoing war in Ukraine, which she described as "instigated by a country that considers itself the heir of the mass murderer Stalin." She expressed "respect for the moral greatness of the Polish Nation, which, in its moment of greatest trial, demonstrated true fidelity to Christian values and continues to open its hearts to millions of Ukrainian refugees into their families." She also mentioned her unwavering commitment to seeking truth and exposing injustice, even in retirement. She began to focus on the topic of genocides that unfolded before the eyes of the world, which the world couldn't stop and would prefer to forget. In addition to the guardian angels sent to watch over us, God also sends guardians of the memory of nations and guardians of their values. These are individuals who diligently assess and document manifestations of unjust violence and strengthen awareness of truth and justice. The countless martyrs who suffered out of love for Christ continue to build bridges between heaven and earth, and the blood of martyrs unites our nations. She concluded by saying, "It is an honor for me to receive this exceptional award on behalf of these guardians from Slovakia."

The "CUSTOS VIRTUTUM – Guardian of Values Award."

Ambassador Dagmar Babčanová is not the first woman to receive this honorary recognition. In 2020, the statuette was presented to Hungarian Minister of Justice Judit Varga. "It is an honor to be the first Hungarian to receive the Guardian of Values Award from the Wacław Felczak Institute of Polish-Hungarian Cooperation," said Minister Judit Varga on social media at the time.

Source: YouTube

Last year, the Guardian of Values Award was presented to Daniel Obajtek, the President of the Management Board and CEO of PKN ORLEN. He was recognized as an individual who demonstrated the ability to build a large and strong Central European multi-energy conglomerate and, with great personal commitment, shifted the focus from competition, as it had been for years in Central Europe between the Orlen and MOL conglomerates, towards cooperation. This contributed to strengthening something that is still lacking in Central Europe, the growth of mutual trust.

In 2021, Ákos Engelmayer, a 1956 uprising participant born in Szeged, a founding member of the Polish-Hungarian Solidarity Association, and the first Hungarian ambassador in Warsaw after regaining independence in 1989, received the Guardian of Values Award. He also served as the head of the Ukrainian mission in Minsk and was a long-time chairman (currently honorary) of the Hungarian Society in Poland.

Ambassador Ákos Engelmayer received the statuette and the order from the hands of Director Maciej Szymanowski of the Felczak Institute and Paweł Lisicki, the Editor-in-Chief of the "Do Rzeczy" weekly magazine.. Source: / Piotr Woźniakiewicz

The first laureate of the CUSTOS VIRTUTUM – Guardian of Values Award in 2019 was Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow. At the time, the director of the Wacław Felczak Institute of Polish-Hungarian Cooperation reminded that, "Either we, the nations of Central Europe, will learn to cooperate with each other, or it's only a matter of time before we become passengers on a train whose direction, stops, and even the route we have no influence over."

Marek Jędraszewski. Photo by Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

During the 2019 gala, Professor Maciej Szymanowski praised Professor Wacław Felczak as a remarkable expert on Hungarian and Central European matters and highlighted that Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, the laureate, shared Felczak's dedication to upholding values. He credited Jędraszewski with establishing the tribunal for the beatification process of János Esterházy, a Soviet labor camp and communist prison survivor who helped Polish refugees in Hungary. "Our Laureate, as a courier from Krakow, a messenger, and a guardian of values, is just like that. His words of opposition to destructive forces against humanity, family, and the family of families - that is, the nation, and pseudo-truths, spoken on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, shone this year like the light of a lighthouse over the Vistula, but also over the Danube and the Vltava, and in many other places in the world." - Szymanowski said.

Who is the award for?

The CUSTOS VIRTUTUM – Guardian of Values Award is annually presented by the Wacław Felczak Institute of Polish-Hungarian Cooperation under the patronage of the "Do Rzeczy" weekly magazine. It serves to recognize the contributions of individuals who actively work to strengthen the bonds between Poland and Hungary, especially in the present day.

The recipients of this award, like Professor Wacław Felczak, a Tatra courier, a member of the Underground State, and a prominent promoter of Polish-Hungarian and Central European cooperation, are individuals who:

  • Are actively engaged in public life, serving their own nation and society.
  • Demonstrate patriotism and a commitment to the ideals of freedom.
  • Possess a "mountain gene" akin to the Tatra couriers of World War II. It activates when necessary, enabling them to reach the peaks of human potential, regardless of external circumstances, even when it affects their closest family and friends.
  • Contemplate modern approaches to Polish-Hungarian and broader Central European cooperation.

The CUSTOS VIRTUTUM – Guardian of Values statuette was designed by Piotr Bies, a renowned Polish sculptor, playwright, poet, and prose writer, born in Rabka. He is known for his idea of creating the world's longest gallery, a unique exhibition spanning three thousand kilometers, equivalent to the length of the Via Carpatia route, which he presented during the Europa Karpatia conference in Krasiczyn.


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