On the 16th of November, the Slovak Embassy in Sofia held a solemn ceremony on the awarding of the High State awards of the Slovak Republic to three Bulgarians for their outstanding contributions to the protection of democracy and human rights in the country.

At the event, Mrs. Slávka Benková, an embassy employee, pointed out their contribution: "Today we have gathered to recall the 50th anniversary of the events in 1968 and first of all, the feat of the three Bulgarian History students at the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski ", who in September and October 1968 prepared and distributed leaflets in Sofia and Plovdiv against the participation of Bulgaria in the aggression of the five armies of the Warsaw Pact, which trampled the democratic changes in Czechoslovakia. These were Alexander Dimitrov, Eduard Genov and Valentin Radev. Later the young people were traced by the State Security authorities, arrested and sentenced to several years in prison.

On the 4th of September 2018, on the occasion of the National Day of the Slovak Republic - the Constitution Day, Mr. Andreja Kisku, President of the Slovak Republic, signed decrees for the awarding of the Order of the White Double Cross III degree, civil division, to Alexander Dimitrov, Eduard Genov - posthumously and Valentin Radev - posthumously."

E. Mr. Manuel Korček, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the Republic of Bulgaria, was authorized by the President to award the state awards. In his speech he stressed the importance of the events of 1968 and the merits of the three rewarded.

Recalling an event such as the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops, 50 years ago, is sad but still necessary. Those who have personally experienced this tragic time remember the experience of betrayal and hopelessness, a sense of frustration and loneliness. Then there was no way we could understand that we were not so hopelessly lonely. That somewhere in other countries where people live within the same non-freedom as us, they not only sympathize with us but are able to express their disagreement with the violation of human rights and freedom. And at the cost of their own freedom.

Alexander Dimitrov, Eduard Genov and Valentin Radev are young boys, students of History at the Sofia University, for which we did not know at the time. And though it has been a long time since, and two of them are unfortunately no longer among us, I am glad that today we can express to them and their families our gratitude and our recognition. I am glad that the story that these three men were following at that time was still on the side of the soldiers to defend freedom, righteousness and human dignity.

Dear guests,

Tomorrow in Slovakia, as well as in the Czech Republic, we will celebrate the National Day - the Day of the Fight for Freedom and Democracy. At the same time, this is the International Student Day, in memory of the students from the Prague higher schools, who in 1939 protested against the fascist occupation. The fascist regime punished their courage brutally - many were executed, others were sent to concentration camps. 50 years later, on the 16th of November 1989 in Bratislava and on the 17th of November in Prague, a new generation of students emerged in the streets. A force had been used against the Prague student procession. This is the beginning of the Gentle Revolution and the beginning of the end of the totalitarian regime. At that time in Czechoslovakia there were still Soviet occupation troops against which our rewarded have been protesting. It took 23 years for history to get on the side of the young Bulgarian students; the occupation ended in June 1991. The history of the three Bulgarian students still gives hope that, as the motto of the first Czechoslovak President Masarik said, the truth is winning.

However, its victory should not be accepted as something undisputed. Aside from the courage, which is not only inherent in the young, it is also a responsibility and a desire to learn from history. Allow me to quote the words of the President of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Andreja Kisku: "In today's world, when nationalists, populists and extremists are increasingly coming forward, it is very important to clearly demonstrate our values ​​to our citizens. Because every populism one day degenerates into some kind of fascism. That is why it is very important that today there are people who are not afraid to stand up for freedom, democracy and human rights."

In this context, I acknowledge the assoc. Dr. Stefan Dechev, who has spent a lot of time and labor making sure this part of the Bulgarian, but also of our history, not to fall into oblivion. I also thank the "Marginalia" Human Rights Association for its support of the cause. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to award these awards to three brave men.

Then H. E. Mr. Manuel Korček handed the highest state award White Double Cross III degree, civil division, to Alexander Dimitrov, to Eduard Genov - posthumously, received by his son Geno Genov, and Valentin Radev - posthumously, received by his son Andrey Radev.

Alexander Dimitrov thanked for the awards and shared memories of that time.

Some more information about the three rewarded:

Alexander Dimitrov was born in 1947 in Sofia. For his participation in the protest, he was sentenced to two years in prison, serving his sentence in Stara Zagora's prison. After leaving, he was forced into the village of Ovcha Mogila, Svishtov, for three years. After 1989 he has been actively involved in the democratic change, during the period 1991-1995 he was a municipal councilor in Sofia.

Eduard Genov was born in 1946 in Sofia. For the action-protest against the aggression in Czechoslovakia, he was sentenced to three and a half years in Stara Zagora's prison. There he received a second, eight-year internal sentence due to an escape attempt. In 1987 he signed the so-called "Appeal of the Six" – an open letter to the international conference in Vienna dedicated to meeting the Helsinki Agreements. In early 1988 he participated in the founding of the Independent Society for Human Rights. He was interned in the village of Mihalkovo in the Rhodope Mountains and in October he was expelled from the country. He settled in the United States where he died on the 16th of December 2009.

Valentin Radev was Born in 1948 in Rousse. For his participation in the protest action he was sentenced to one year and two months in prison. After serving the sentence, due to health problems, he was allowed to finish his studies. Later, he worked as a curator at the National Museum of History in the capital. He died in 1995.

Photos: Embassy of the Slovak Republic in the Republic of Bulgaria

Above: H. E. Mr. Manuel Korček, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the Republic of Bulgaria, (right) with Alexander Dimitrov /on the chair on the right/ and the sons of Eduard Genov and Valentin Radev