Belarus` first formal head of state, Stanislaw Shushkevich, has been honored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation based in Washington.
The 77-year-old Dr. Shushkevich, who chaired Belarus` Supreme Soviet between 1991 and 1994, visited Washington on March 26 to collect the Foundation’s 2012 Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.
The annual Medal of Freedom is awarded by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to those individuals and institutions that have demonstrated a commitment to freedom and democracy and opposition to Communism and all other forms of tyranny.
Dr. Shushkevich was presented with it for his role “in helping to dissolve the USSR, and for withdrawing nuclear weapons from the territory of Belarus,” said the Foundation in a statement.
The awards ceremony was held at the memorial built by the Foundation in pursuance of an Act of Congress to commemorate more than 100 million victims of Communism, reported the Belarus service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
"Out of those 100 million people, I feel the most pain for 30 people, my relatives whom I have lost", said Dr. Shushkevich after accepting the medal. "My mother had 11 brothers and sisters, and my father had 10 brothers and sisters. After [Stalin’s] purges, only three sisters of my mother and a sister and a brother of my father survived. The rest were killed. My father survived, too, but he spent 20 years in Siberia".
"I want to live to see in my Belarus, in particular my Minsk, a memorial to victims of both sides – Nazism and Communism – horrendous dictatorships", said Dr. Shushkevich.
Dr. Shushkevich is among a dozen politicians, human rights defenders and journalists who were placed by the Belarusian authorities on a foreign travel ban list earlier this month. He had to fly to Washington via Russia and Latvia. According to him, neither Russian nor Latvian border guards paid any attention to the "Exit Denied" stamp put in his passport by their Belarusian colleagues when Dr. Shushkevich attempted to cross the border into Lithuania a week ago.