Ladies and Gentlemen!
It’s a great honour for me to be here today, and to receive the prize named after the Great Litvin, Chancellor and Grand Hietman Leu Sapieha who was born exactly 455 years ago.
I am very grateful to those who initiated this prize, as well as to the honourable Council and to the President of the Republic of Poland under whose auspices this prize has been awarded.
I know that at first a well-known Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialatski was chosen the winner of this Prize. And I am particularly honoured to be among the former winners and the future winner of this Prize Ales Bialatski who is behind the bars now as the result of a very unfair sentence. We know why – for his civic-mindedness and for his help for others, for his informing people of good will on the situation in Belarus, and for his mobilising in the name of solidarity with the victims of the current authoritarian regime.
Bialatski is today’s hero of Belarus. He isn’t losing courage and optimism even behind the bars. In his recent postcard that he wrote to me on March 18, Bialatski is telling about the warm sun and the feeling of spring coming. I believe together with him that the thaw, and then the spring, would come to Belarus – and not just as a change of seasons.
The dream of a better Belarus and the faith in Belarus encouraged many prominent personalities of my country. What is the Belarusian dream? The European dream of Belarus is “to take its honourable place among nations”, as the famous Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala said.
For me, a Belarusian who was born 415 years after Leu Sapieha who had an opportunity not only to study but also to teach at European universities, the Belarusian dream today, in 2012, means the revival of Belarus, both national and cultural, through returning to or, more precisely, involving Belarus in European integration relations as an independent, dynamic, and prosperous country that respects the rights and freedoms of its citizens, and is building friendly relations with all of its neighbours. The components of my Belarusian dream are: national revival of Belarusians and of their language, sustainable economic development, dynamic and self-sufficient civil society, responsible and efficient public service, as well as national concordance, and consensus concerning the European path of development...
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For your reference – The Leu Sapieha prize was established in 2006 by the Warsaw University East European Research Studium and by the Wrocław Collegium of Eastern Europe. The prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in developing the civil society in Belarus and in building an independent, democratic state focused on European values and guided by the best traditions of the Commonwealth of the Two Nations – Belarusians and Poles.
The main component of the prize is an opportunity for the winner to do research and to read lectures at the renowned universities of Poland during the academic year. Moreover, a book may also be published with the support of universities based on the results of the winner’s creative work.