The measure of a man is his heart
John Paul II
Helping others in times of extreme distress is an act of both courage and solidarity with the persecuted. It is only when leafing through books about the 20th century that we realize the true sense of this seemingly trivial observation. Two world wars, bloody revolutions, ethnic cleansings, political repression – all brought suffering and death to millions of Polish citizens. But when we ask questions as to the nature of evil, we should in equal measure reflect on the source of good. For it was during the very same period of history that Polish citizens themselves were the recipients of aid and succor readily provided by others; the fact is corroborated by thousands of pages of memoirs, testimonies, and other documents. This help took various forms and was either long-term or temporary, but what is crucial is that it saved lives or significantly increased chances of survival. Clearly, therefore, it should be our duty to save these stories from oblivion.
The Virtus et Fraternitas Medal is awarded by the President of the Republic of Poland as a token of commemoration and gratitude to persons who provided aid and assistance to Polish citizens. It is also bestowed to honor individuals who, by acting spontaneously and voluntarily, keep alive the memory of those of our compatriots who did not survive the war or the forced deportations, and found their graves in foreign soil. This field of activity is particularly important due to the perforce limited scope of institutional help. In the near future we plan to hold successive award ceremonies, during which we shall present other examples of succor closely intertwined with the 20th-century fates of Polish citizens.
We would further like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the numerous people and institutions that have granted support to our effort. We are especially grateful to the originator of the idea, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who thereby provided us with the opportunity of commemorating the extraordinary stories of people who rescued Polish citizens.
The Director of the Pilecki Institute, having first obtained a positive opinion from the Council of Memory, submits a motion to the President of the Republic of Poland for bestowal of the medal. If the intended recipient does not hold Polish citizenship or resides permanently abroad, the President asks for the opinion of the Minister competent with respect to Foreign Affairs.
Issues concerning the medal are regulated by the following instruments:
► Act of 9 November 2017 on the Witold Pilecki Institute of Solidarity and Valor
► Regulation of the President of the Republic of Poland of 10 November 1992 on the description, material and dimensions of design drawings, and the way in and circumstances under which decorations, orders and medals may be worn, amended by the Regulation of the President of the Republic of Poland of 22 October 2018 amending the regulation on the description, material and dimensions of design drawings, and the way in and circumstances under which decorations, orders and medals may be worn