This year’s Petőfi Prizes, named after Hungary’s 19th-century national poet Sándor Petőfi, were handed out in Budapest’s House of Terror Museum on 15 December to the two recipients, Mária Filep, chief organiser of the famous ‘Pan-European Picnic’ in 1989 and Father Imre Kozma, chairman of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service. Winners of the Petőfi Prize are successors to Petőfi, who died in battle in defence of his country, and its founders remind us of bringing sacrifice, Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog said at the awards ceremony.
It was a result of engineer Mária Filep’s persistent work that the ‘Pan-European Picnic’, following which tens of thousands of GDR citizens hit the first stone out of the Berlin Wall, could become a reality. East Germans could head to the West freely, rendering the Berlin wall obsolete, historian Mária Schmidt said of Ms. Filep. Father Kozma, who was ordained a priest in 1963, was only able to establish the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service in 1989 because it was permitted to found such an organisation in the Eighties. His humanitarian work has been honoured on several occasions both in Hungary and abroad, the historian said of the second winner of the prize.
Although most of the 1989 regime changes Central European did not claim human sacrifice and dictatorships collapsed like a stack of cards, the nature of transformation was far from peaceful. Those who accepted the role unspokenly entrusted on them by the community acted knowing that those in power know no mercy. However, freedom as a common value penetrates the past of the region’s peoples to such an extent that heroes such as Jerzy Kościuszko, Sándor Petőfi, Jerzy Popieluszko, Mircea Dinescu, Gabriel Andreescu and László Tőkés have become the symbols of belonging together irrespective of ethnicity.
It was for this reason that the Public Foundation for the Research of Central European History and Society founded the Petőfi Prize in 2009, to acknowledge sacrifices and achievements for the freedom of Central European peoples. The award was co-founded by the Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, which stresses the message that just as one of the Hungarian economy’s most successful companies, the Petőfi Prize is also worthy of the highest attention both in the region and internationally.
Previous recipients of the award:
2013 – Vladimir Bukovsky
2012 – Miroslav Kusý
2011 – Mart Laar
2010 – Anne Applebaum
2009 – László Tőkés and Gabriel Andreescu