Award presented to Belarusian Activist Ales Belyatsy
Photos Online Here.
The Lech Walesa Award Ceremony was held at the Artus Manor in Gdansk. The winner of this 5th award is the oppositionist Mr. Ales Belyatsky from Belarus. As the winner is serving his 4.5-year imprisonment in a high-security colony, the beautiful statuette was received by his wife Natalya Pinchuk. For the first time in the 5-year history of the Lech Walesa Award, the winner was unable to personally receive it. Laud for the winner was delivered by Poland’s former Prime Minister and current member of the Lech Walesa Award Chapter, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki.
Belyatsky was honored with the Lech Walesa Award for his efforts to democratize Belarus, active promotion of human rights, and assistance provided to people persecuted by Belarusian authorities.
‘This award serves as an extremely important support to Ales and Belarusian civil society as it is related to the person of Lech Walesa who has shown the world that he is a politician faithful to the principles and a defender of human rights’, said Ms. Pinchuk. She recalled Walesa’s accomplishments: “Your example inspires all those who wish to change the situation in their countries for the better. It is exceptionally symbolic that the award is presented in Gdansk where the process of democratic transformation of Poland was begun. Let us be hopeful that the Solidarity impulse from Gdansk will lead to freeing all the political prisoners in Belarus.” Ms. Belyatsky concluded her address with “Long live Belarus!” During the ceremony, President Walesa spoke about the Polish experience in the fight for freedom, and the responsibility to promote the idea of Solidarity. “We help and serve the people who are faced with the similar challenges that we once had. I am confident that we will continue doing so, as both in Europe and worldwide, there are many places that need encouragement and change.”
A very moving address was delivered by Stanislav Shushkevich, former Chairman of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet, a signatory of the ‘Belavezha Accord’, and member of the Lech Walesa Award Chapter. “It is indeed true that I signed the accord dissolving the Soviet Union,” he said, “…yet today I feel that I am coming not from Belarus, but from the Soviet Union. The Germans, the French, and other Western countries, are unable to understand what is happening in Belarus.”
President of the Lech Walesa Institute Piotr Gulczyński appealed to the Belarusian authorities to prevent interference with the financial prize given to Belyatsky.
Belyatsky heads the ‘Viasna’ Human Rights Centre and is the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights. These organizations support families of political prisoners, providing them with financial and legal aid. On two occasions, he was a candidate to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 2006 he received the Homo Homini Award from Vaclac Havel.
The Lech Walesa Award includes the statuette, a certificate, and a check for $100,000, funded by the exclusive award partner PKO Bank Polski. The award funds are allocated to supporting the winner’s cause.