Klára Orgovánová, Roman Patkoló and Zuzana Kumanová (Collage: Romea.cz)
lovak President Andrej Kiska has given high state honors to three distinguished Romani figures, among others: Klára Orgovánová, the former Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Roma Community, was awarded the Order of Ľudovít Štúr First Class, while double bassist Roman Patkoló and historian Zuzana Kumanová were awarded the Pribin Cross First Class. The honors ceremony was held on the occasion of the state holiday marking the anniversary of an independent Slovakia, which falls on 1 January and is the country’s 26th this year.
Kiska honored a total of 30 persons, including the Czech actor Josef Abrhám, and gave posthumous honors to the late lawyer and politician Dagmar Burešová, the recently-murdered journalist Ján Kuciak, and the late singer Miroslav Žbirka. „It is my personal pleasure to honor, in the name of the Slovak Republic, 30 people thanks to whom our country is more just, more decent, and a better place for us all to live,“ the President said in his speech.
„Today I am able to give these decorations to those who make us proud,“ Kiska said. Orgovánová received her honors for her exceptional service to the development of democracy and the protection of human rights and freedoms.
Originally from Prešov, she graduated in clinical psychology from the Faculty of Arts at the university in Košice. During the 1980s she worked as a registered clinical psychologist at a psychiatric treatment facility in Prešov.
For 30 years she has dedicated herself with great focus to improving the position of excluded Romani communities in Slovakia. In 1991 Orgovánová established the Foundation for the Romani Child and in 1995 the InfoRoma Foundation, which she led until 2001.
From 1991-1993 she worked for the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic in its Section for Nationalities and Human Rights as an adviser on nationalities, and from 1993-2001 she worked as a program director of the Open Society Foundation in Bratislava (NOS/OSF). In 2001 she became the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community.
Ethnographer and historian Zuzana Kumanová received state honors for her exceptional contribution to the social development of the Slovak Republic in the area of ethnography and history and for her activities through the Ma bisteren! project, thanks to which she has disseminated the watchword „Never Forget!“ Kumanová researches the Holocaust and its Romani victims and tells their stories, which have been forgotten for years.
For decades she has aided with restoring the identities of these otherwise anonymous victims. She organizes regular commemorative ceremonies and has installed memorial plaques at significant locations where Romani people died during the existence of the Slovak State (1939-1945).
Kumanová also received the Light in the Darkness award recently. As for double bassist Roman Patkoló, he was honored for his exceptional contribution to the cultural development of the Slovak Republic in the area of the performing arts.
Patkoló studied double bass at the conservatory in Žilina, Slovakia and then at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich, Germany. At the age of 24 he became one of the youngest music professors in Europe.
He is considered one of the best classical double bassists in the world. For many years he has performed as a soloist with Philharmonia Zürich, and last year he won the prestigious German Opus Klassik award in the category of „Instrumentalist of the Year“.
These state honors were the last to be awarded by President Kiska, whose five-year term ends in June and who has already decided not to run for re-election. Last year he gave state honors to 25 eminent figures.