Ján Orlovský

    is director of the Open Society Foundation in Slovakia. He has been active in the non-profit sector for over 20 years, volunteering, promoting NGO activities, and serving as a member or chairman of the board of several non-profits. While working for the government and private business he also contributed to NGO capacity-building through counselling or financial support. Between 1992 and 2002, with a year’s break, he served in Slovakia’s diplomatic service. From 2003 onwards, in his capacity as spokesperson for Západoslovenská energetika PLC, one of Slovakia’s largest gas and electricity suppliers, he was involved in the development of joint NGO and business platforms for sustainable development (Foundation for a Transparent Slovakia, Business Leaders Forum). From August 2014 to April 2015 he acted as the spokesperson of Sieť, a political party. In 2014 he was named Cultural Personality of the Year for his contribution to saving a national cultural monument, the derelict power station in his native city of Piešťany. He lives in Bratislava. “The fact that we have received some monies from abroad doesn’t mean that we are bad people. It doesn’t mean we want to trip someone up. We just believe that society is naturally evolving in a certain direction and would like to help it prepare for the changes to come. When [conservative blogger] Milan Krajniak speaks about refugees, the only thing he mentions is fences and all sorts of scary stories, but the reality is much more complex. That’s what we want to talk about. In a TEDx video talk an Indian-American related the story of a Bangladeshi-born shop assistant in the US. Two weeks after 9/11 a white man entered his shop and shot him in the eye, ruining his life. Instead of revenge, this Muslim pledged that if he survived he would dedicate his life to making people understand that Muslims are not bad people. He even fought against the shooter being sentenced to death. He said: don’t kill him, it’s not his fault that he grew up in an environment that didn’t give him a chance. In America, you will find entire communities of socially excluded white people, white trash. You just need to visit former mining regions in Kentucky. White people live there the way Roma live in settlements in this country, abandoned by the system. […] For decades, the political representatives have been insinuating that the Slovaks are a nation that has been beaten and oppressed for a thousand years and needs looking after. We don’t encourage in our adults or children the sense that they are good at what they’re doing. We don’t nurture the best that they have to offer, we want them to be average, to be about thirty per cent ‘good’ at everything.”
    Photo: Tomáš Benedikovič/Denník N