THE GLOBAL SLOVAKIA STORY
Founder Dr Zuzana Palovic and Co-Director Dr Gabriela Bereghazyova are the leaders behind Global Slovakia, a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to promote Slovakia on the global stage. 2018 marks a landmark year for Global Slovakia as the organization launches its mission by releasing three book publications, each mapping a different aspect of the Slovak experience. These are part of a greater goal of strengthening Slovakia’s social, cultural and economic ties with the international community. Global Slovakia has co-facilitated innovation and trade missions as well as knowledge exchanges between Slovakia and the UK. It is currently expanding its operations into the US and Canada where it will take part in an intercontinental roadshow with public and private events to be held in Bratislava, Brussels, London, Toronto, New York and DC. These events, conducted in collaboration with Slovak and foreign governments, NGOs and other stakeholders in the international Slovak community, will raise awareness of Slovakia’s legacy at home and abroad. Global Slovakia has recently participated in a unique media project on the Huffington Post, the world’s largest online newspaper. ‘The Voices of the East: Perspectives in a Divided Europe’ was series of articles that addressed the diverging historical legacies of Europe.
“Global Slovakia is a Slovak-based non-profit organization dedicated to sharing Slovakia with the English-speaking world. We provide cultural and educational programs sharing Slovakia’s rich heritage beyond facts and figures. Our work is also aimed at encouraging business and tourist development and promoting reverse brain drain of Slovakia’s talented workforce.”
Behind the vision are two women with a rich expertise in the region of Central Eastern Europe. Zuzana and Gabriela leverage their knowledge into a diverse portfolio of activities. Their story began in 2015 when they became engaged in the preparatory groundwork for a global inter- faith congress, the first of its kind to be held in Eastern Europe. Zuzana and Gabriela were part of a team engaged in lobbying across multiple levels of government, business and civil society, as part of the Bratislava city bid. It was here that they became acutely aware of the need to raise the international profile of Slovakia, and a fruitful cooperation was born. Their first project was nothing smaller than Slovakia’s first-ever national branding competition. By merging their unique skillsets and insights, Zuzana and Gabriela crafted a clear visual identity for Slovakia, alongside an accessible national narrative. Since then, Dr Bereghazyova and Dr Palovic have spread their wings. They have become involved in a number of international projects based in the UK. They lent their expertise to foreign investors, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the British Czech and Slovak Association among others.
“Without books in English, the world will not know us [Slovaks]. The world will not be aware of us. The world will not be able to benefit from the contributions that we can give the world. One of the contributions is the fact that we have a culture that is a synchronistic culture. The best of the two worlds – the West and the East. Yes, we also have our philosophers who wrote in Latin as well as in Slovak. So we need books to let the world know who we are, and we need to use books because they are a wonderful media for presenting the world with our gifts.” – Ladislaus Bolchazy from the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library
Dr Zuzana Palovic
Born behind the Iron Curtain, Zuzana’s family fled the communist regime as political refugees, before becoming naturalized citizens in Canada. Zuzana went on to study at top international institutions in the United States, the Netherlands and most recently in the United Kingdom, where she completed a PhD in Eastern European migration. Born in the ‘East’ but raised in the ‘West’, Zuzana’s hybrid identity allows her to implicitly understand and embody the perspectives of both worlds. This understanding is further enriched by her experience of living in nine countries across four continents. Fascinated by the geopolitical context of her homeland, Dr Palovic’s work delves deeper than that of most CEE experts. She argues that ‘mental revolution’ constitutes the ‘final frontier of transition’. If there is no ‘freeing of minds’, then the newly freed societies at Europe’s Eastern border will remain ‘democracies without democrats’. She believes, a shift in social organization is indispensable from a shift in individual consciousness. Dr Palovic actively leverages this rich and varied know-how in her consultancy and academic work.
Dr Bereghazyova was born in communist Czechoslovakia, grew up in the transitional Slovakia of the 1990s and witnessed the accession of her country into the European Union during her university years. The emergence of a ‘new Europe’ gave her personal insights into societies undergoing rapid social and economic transformation. Gabriela’s passion for exploring the lesson of the past vis-à- vis the threats of the present, brought her to the United Kingdom to study at world-leading universities. It was there that she completed her doctorate. A scholar in corruption, her work masterfully captured the challenges, falls and successes of a metamorphosing Eastern Europe. Dr Bereghazyova’s work is unique as it combines her personal and academic insights with her experience of living and studying across the Middle East. She had the privilege to explore Egypt and Syria, prior to the conflict, further broadening her understanding of a world in transition. Gabriela actively employs her expert know-how and six years of post-graduate research in her consultancy and global bridge-building efforts.
Dr Gabriela Bereghazyova
Dr Cecilia Rokusek
Dr. Cecilia Rokusek, honorary chairman of Global Slovakia NGO, is the President and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids Iowa. This is the premier Czech and Slovak museum & library in the U.S. and an affiliate of the Smithsonian. Dr. Rokusek has held top academic and administrative positions at numerous colleges and universities for more than four decades. In addition to serving as Florida’s Slovak Honorary Consul for the past 10 years, she has established many academic affiliations with institutions in the Czech and Slovak Republics, in several other European countries, and in South Korea. Fluent in the Czech and Slovak languages, she holds a doctor of education degree from the University of South Dakota and a Master’s of Science in nutrition research from the University of Nebraska.
“As a fourth-generation Czechoslovak, I am especially proud of my ancestral heritage. I am passionate about preserving and celebrating our rich cultural history and in laying a foundation for the future that will strengthen our footprints for all generations and all peoples. Seeing the energy and spirit of those involved in Global Slovakia is truly inspiring for the present and the future!”
Julie is drawn to the mission of helping others succeed. She has thirteen years experience in the US higher education system helping university students gain global experiences in order to lead and serve in increasingly complex environments. Her work as an education abroad professional included building and maintaining global partnerships, managing programs, strategic planning, gap analysis, program assessment and data collection. Before moving to Slovakia, Julie was Assistant Dean for Global Education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts and held positions at Valparaiso University in Indiana and at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. Julie has a Master’s of Science (M.S.) degree in International Commerce and Policy and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in International Economics and Cultural Affairs and French Language & Literature from from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana, USA. During her bachelor’s and master’s programs, Julie studied and interned in China, France, Germany and Poland.
Jakub came to the Global Slovakia team after he felt a personal connection to the mission. After leaving Slovakia at the age of 2, he began his life in the suburbs of Chicago in the United States. While his family struggled in the new world, he never gave up hope that one day, he too would have his Great Return to his homeland. It took 20 years of hard work and dedication to finally step foot onto Slovakian soil, and he immediately fell in love with the country he could hardly remember. Jakub recently completed his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Science and plans on returning to Europe to pursue a master’s program. The stories of the Global Slovakia founders showed him that he was not alone in leaving Slovakia under difficult circumstances. His hope is to one day be like one of the many inspiring Slovaks from the Great Return, and return to his homeland and help his country prosper even further.
John is a member of the Slovak diaspora, having escaped from his home country during both the Hitler and the Stalin eras. His professional career was as a professor of biology, but in recent years he has written and spoken often about Slovakia, its history and culture, and its place in European integration. He is the grandson of the Czechoslovak Prime Minister Milan Hodza.
Growth and Strategy
Sabina has over 10 years’ senior experience working for a world leading intergovernmental organization. She is also a force of nature, community beacon and key actor in the the Slovak-America community. President of the Slovak-American Cultural Center, she is also the Regional Director for the First Catholic Slovak Union and engaged on the Boards of Drew and Seton Hall Universities.
Dr. Michael Kopanic is an Adjunct Professor of History and Course Coordinator of Modern European History at the University of Maryland Global Campus, formerly UMUC. A specialist on Slovak history, he has spent his academic career learning, teaching, and writing about history, culture, and the Slovak language. He undertook his dissertation research in communist Czechoslovakia and lived there for nearly a year. He also has studied three summers at the Slovak language school at Comenius University in Bratislava, Studia Academica Slovaca.
His passion for Slovak culture flows from his love of history, combined with a desire to learn more about his ethnic roots. His Slovak mother emigrated from Czechoslovakia before World War II, and both his paternal grandparents also came from Spiš County prior to World War I. He grew up speaking only English, but hearing the Slovak Spiš dialect spoken by his parents and extended family sparked his interest to pursue Slovak studies. Today he is fluent in Slovak and spoke only in Slovak with his two daughters from the time of their births.
Dr. Kopanic writes a regular column in the First Catholic Slovak Union’s newspaper, Jednota and contributes to other fraternal publications. He has also written for the CzechoSlovak Genealogical Society International’s (CGSI) quarterly publication, Naše rodina, and serves on the Board of the CGSI and the Czech and Slovak School of Pittsburgh. He has published numerous articles online, in scholarly journals, books, and encyclopedias. He frequently posts translations online and extended Slovak vocabulary definitions on the Facebook site, “Učíme sa po slovensky” (We are learning Slovak). He is planning to publish a series of his articles on Slovak traditional customs in book form.
One may view a partial list of some of his publications at: https://umuc.academia.edu/MichaelKopanic