Ceremony of Presenting the Lech Walesa Award to Ales Belyatsky
The Ceremony of presenting the Lech Walesa Award was held at Gdansk’s Artus Manor. The winner of the 5th Award Edition is the Belarus oppositionist Ales Belyatsky. As the Winner is serving his 4.5 years’ imprisonment in a high-security colony, the statuette was received by his wife Natalya Pinchuk. For the first time in the 5-years’ history of the Lech Walesa Award the Winner was unable to personally receive it. The laudation for the Winner was delivered by Poland’s former Prime Minister, member of the Lech Walesa Award Chapter, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki.
Belyatsky was honoured with the Lech Walesa Award for his activity to democratize Belarus, active promotion of human rights, and assistance provided to the individuals persecuted by the 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 to the world that he is a politician faithful to the principles and a defender of human rights’, said the wife of the Belarusian oppositionist receiving the prize. Pinchuk 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. Long live Belarus!’, concluded her address the wife of Ales Belyatsky. During the ceremony, President Walesa spoke about the Polish experience with 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 were. I am confident that 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 from interfering with the financial prize given to Ales Belyatsky.
Ales Belyatsky is a Belarusian social activist, politician, and a human rights defender. He heads the ‘Viasna’ Human Rights Centre and is the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights, the organizations which support families of political prisoners providing them with financial and legal aid. Twice a candidate to win the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2006 he received the Homo Homini Award from Vaclac Havel.
The Lech Walesa Award comprises a cheque for $ 100, 000 founded by PKO Bank Polski, the exclusive Award Partner, and allocated to supporting the Winner’s activity, a diploma, as well a statuette.
Lech Walesa in honor of Laureate Ales Belyatsky:
Actions that should be acknowledged and admired are not always given proper recognition. A courageous deed may put you in prison; sometimes you may pay a high price for caring about others. You may be persecuted for dedication that gives hope for a better future. Despite all this, there are many people who still believe that it is possible to live in a free and democratic society. Such an attitude should be respected. It is hard not to admire and value a person who acts for democracy and dignity of human life. It is difficult to overlook somebody who has the strength and resolve to fight for the freedom of speech as a paramount value.
This year, we have the honour to bestow the Lech Wałęsa Award on Ales Belyatsky, the man who infected his people with the dream of freedom. Not only did he promote ideas but also wholeheartedly put them into practice, for which he was imprisoned and persecuted. Despite all the hardship he experienced, he has never stopped believing that his actions meant something; He has been persistent in striving to fulfil his biggest dream: the free, democratic and justly governed home country. If not him, who is worthy of this Award? He is a symbol of an invincible, consequent and courageous aspiration for freedom and respect for human rights, and, at the same time, the exponent of all those who believe in universal values of the democratic world. I am proud to give the Award to somebody who, in times when courage and honour are put to the test, not only can stand for principles but also face the consequences and keep doing good job. It is thanks to people like him that those who dream about democracy can walk tall and speak out for themselves. Every revolution needs a leader, somebody who, instead of feeding the crowds pipe dreams, fills the people's hearts with hope for real change and leads them to a better reality. This is the path Ales Belyatsky chose and have been walking ever since.
I am sure that the activities of this year's winner of the Lech Wałęsa Award will inspire all men and women who dream his dream of living in a free, just and democratic society governed by the respect for human rights as the crucial value. May this Award be the symbol of acknowledgement of and support for all brave people fighting for freedom, dignity and human rights.