Speech by the Rector at Matriculation

Announcements of Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava.

Dear colleagues, dear students, dear friends,


The matriculation of freshmen at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava is every year associated with the ceremonial opening of the new academic year. The main content of such speeches is usually an introduction to the structure of the school, its teaching staff, an explanation of the study trajectory or the set of services that the school provides for its students. Responsibility, conscientiousness, developing talent and theoretical thinking are often mentioned in speeches. You will gradually acquire all this information at different levels of the school, and I do not think that the purpose of the speeches should be to review everything that the school provides. You will gradually figure this out yourself, under the guidance of your teachers, the study department, and older classmates.

Rather, I think that the way we think about life and our society is important for us. You will gradually discover that our school is the one that is interested in the external environment, perceives the needs of our society and at the same time tries to correct some situations. It is usually said that colleges and universities should be apolitical. However, I do not think so, political attitude is important, under the term politics, we understand a wide range of problems that affect us and about which we form a certain opinion.

There were parliamentary elections in Slovakia two weeks ago. The citizens of the Slovak Republic expressed their opinion in the democratic elections. The currently forming political coalition will not be inclined to the development of education and culture in Slovakia, it will not take humanist positions, because it bases its political rhetoric on an aggressive and populist form. It is highly likely that we will go back not just a few steps, but years. In a situation where we are watching Russia's war aggression against Ukraine in the East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, and in many other European countries we are observing how freedom and democracy are disappearing, it is necessary to think about what we can do in this situation.

Yesterday, after some time, I again picked up a small book by historian Timothy Snyder entitled On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the 20th Century. It inspired me to formulate six lessons from governments that falsely presented social democracy, with extensive corruption scandals as well as abuse of political power.


  • The first lesson is not to submit to a repressive government, not to hand over power to it just like that. Do not be afraid of threats and vengeful words. Demand the implementation of the government's programmed statement and at the same time create civil pressure in favour of a transparent and clear interpretation of political decisions.


  • The second lesson is to stand by the institutions that should be the background for a democratic state. Communication with institutions is very important, thus creating a network of people who are professionally competent and humanly consistent. The denser this network is, the more difficult it will be for politicians to hijack this state.


  • The third lesson is to verify the truth. Not to be blinded by simple explanations, to be able to analyse different opinions, on which we let our own attitude grow. Share this attitude with others who can be helpful in uncovering the truth.


  • The fourth lesson is to take responsibility for the right thing. Choose a program in which we will fulfil some kind of mission, it can be cooperation with the third sector, supporting a foundation, saving a monument, volunteering in some sector, anything that will fill us with the meaning of life and at the same time it will strengthen our common reciprocity.


  • The fifth lesson is to perceive the regions in Slovakia as your potential partners. Cities and regions are equally important, no one is less and no one is more. Whenever we enter the territories of the regions, we enter with respect and open communication. The point of it is to lift each other up and support each other so that no one is left behind, no one feels frustrated. Slovakia is a small country, where in reality the differences between cities and regions are small, but mentally too big.


  • The sixth lesson is to stick to the motto that living in Slovakia today means not giving up. Do not leave Slovakia, devote time and space to it. Maybe you sacrifice a piece of yourself, but the Slovak country is worth it, it's a small big world in which things happen, in which we get to know each other more deeply through crises, and belonging here is not understood as a phrase. Unity in attitudes and values will unite us forever.


To these six lessons, we can add more and more that will strengthen the democratic structures in our country, in which education and culture will gradually rise.

The next four years will not be easy, they will be difficult, but it is not something we cannot overcome. At our school, you will develop your talent, theoretical thinking, but at the same time you will learn what it is like to be an active citizen of our country, what it is like to be able to make the right and brave decision and at the same time make some kind of correction. Not only will your future depend on it, but also the future of our entire country.


Dear students, I wish you success in the upcoming academic year, not only in the field of your studies, but also in the field of your personal life.

Dear colleagues, I wish you a lot of energy and strength in your demanding teaching and artistic practice, I wish all of us to have as much peace and quiet as possible for our work in the coming period.


Matriculation, October 20, 2023

Bohunka Koklesová, rector of the AFAD