Navalny gets Poland's renowned humanitarian award

2021-02-16 18:28 update: 2021-02-17, 12:21
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny Fot. PAP/EPA/BABUSHKINSKY DISTRICT COURT PRES
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny Fot. PAP/EPA/BABUSHKINSKY DISTRICT COURT PRES
Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, has received the Jan Karski Eagle Award, a distinction honouring humanitarian service to others, founded by the Polish WWII hero and Holocaust whistleblower, Jan Karski.

The Jan Karski Eagle Special Award was bestowed upon Navalny for his fight "for basic human rights and a democratic reality in his homeland," the Jan Karski Society, which grants the awards, announced.

In a press release sent to PAP, the Jan Karski Society wrote: "We are bestowing (the award) at a time of proclamation by the UN of the International Day of Human Fraternity at the initiative of Pope Francis, quoting his words: "There is no time for indifference today. We cannot wash our hands of it, with distance, with neglect, with disinterest. Either we are brothers (...) or everything collapses. It is the frontier. The frontier on which we must build; it is the challenge of our century, it is the challenge of our times'."

The Society went on to say that "we owe our fraternity to Alexei Navalny, who is unlawfully imprisoned in a labour camp."

Navalny, a staunch Kremlin critic, was recently sentenced by a Moscow court to two years and eight months in a penal colony for allegedly embezzling funds from the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher. The European Court of Human Rights has challenged the ruling. 

In the rationale to the award decision, Father Professor Andrzej Szostek said that Navalny has demonstrated "unusual courage, ingenuity and determination in opposing the totalitarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin."

"Navalny has already survived an attempted assassination, and now he has been sentenced to several years in a penal colony, yet he has not ceased his efforts to uncover and reveal to the world the hidden truth discrediting the Russian president," Szostek added.

On August 20 Navalny was hospitalised in a serious condition after a suspected poisoning on a Tomsk-Moscow flight, in what was possibly a politically motivated attack. After a long time spent in a German clinic, he decided to return to his home country. He was arrested immediately upon his arrival, which sparked a wave of nationwide protests that were brutally supressed by police.

The Karski Eagle Award was established in April 2000 by Jan Karski to recognise humanitarian service to others, with a special connection to Poland.

Jan Karski, a Home Army (AK) soldier and a courier for the wartime Polish Underground State during the Second World War, informed the Allies about the Holocaust. After the war, he remained in Washington, D.C., became an American citizen and taught at Georgetown University for nearly 40 years. In 1994, he was granted an honorary citizenship of Israel. Karski was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. 

Earlier, the award was granted, among other recipients, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Poland's former president and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, Warsaw Ghetto hero Marek Edelman, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, former Israeli PM Shimon Peres, and posthumously to Russian dissident Boris Nemtsov. (PAP)