Slovak President Čaputová awards Romani doctor and human rights activist with state honors
Yesterday Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová awarded high state honors in memoriam to Ján Cibuľa, the first Romani community member in the former Czechoslovakia to graduate from Bratislava's Comenius University and its Faculty of Medicine. She awarded high state honors to a total of 20 public figures, including in memoriam to Milada Horáková, a Czech politician murdered by the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, and to Slovaks who contributed to the Velvet Revolution leading to the fall of that same regime in 1989.
Two resistance fighters from the Second World War were also given honors, as were representatives of artistic and social life. The gala awards ceremony was held on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the birth of an independent Slovakia, which the country marks on 1 January.
Cibuľa was given the Order of Ľudovít Štúr First Class in memoriam for his exceptional service in developing society and spreading the good name of the Slovak Republic abroad; the award was received on his behalf by his son, David Cibuľa. A native of Klenovec, he worked as a general practitioner in Bern, Switzerland after successfully graduating from the Faculty of Medicine at Comenius.
In addition to his profession, Cibuľa gave time to fighting for the rights of Romani people and improving their position in civilized society. He was a co-founder of Czechoslovakia's Union of Gypsies-Roma (Svaz Cikánů-Romů) in Slovakia and among the co-organizers of the very first congress of the International Romani Union (IRU), of which he also later became president.
Cibuľa is said to have most valued receiving the Swiss Prize for Culture from the canton of Bern in 1985. He is one of the most eminent Romani figures of the 20th century not just in Europe, but worldwide.
In the year 2001 the Association of Czechoslovak Roma in Canada nominated Cibuľa for the Nobel Peace Prize. Čaputová said in her speech yesterday that Slovakia has exceptional people who have been of extraordinary benefit to their homeland.
Her predecessor, Andrej Kiska, gave state honors last year to 30 figures. Among those receiving the Order of Ľudovít Štúr First Class last year was the former Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Roma, Klára Orgovánová, while historian Zuzana Kumanová received the Pribin Cross First Class.
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