Ladislav Bielik's “Bare-Chested Man in Front of Occupiers’ Tank” is not only a famous picture listed among 100 Photographs That Changed the World by Life Magazine. The photo was turned into a postage stamp and in 2019 it won several awards at the NexoFil Best Stamp in the World competition in Madrid.
In fact, the Slovenská pošta postal service received a record number of awards, not just in that year, proving that Slovak postage stamps belong among the most beautiful in the world.
For Slovak collectors and artists, December 18 has become the day they evaluate the last twelve months and give out awards to philatelists and creators. It also presents the opportunity to remind people of the value of stamps and the exceptional successes they have achieved at the international level.
The day continues the tradition of the Czechoslovak Day of the Postage Stamp, which was celebrated until 1992 as the commemoration of the very first Czechoslovak postage stamps created by Alfons Mucha and issued on December 18, 1918. In the present-day Slovenská pošta presents awards in three categories - the most beautiful stamp of the year, the best stamp design, and the best engraving.
Even though Slovakia has yet to issue a stamp in the vein of the Mauritius "Post Office" or the British Guiana 1c magenta stamps, when it comes to technology there is one rarity Slovakia and the Czech Republic can boast of. In 1956, engravers from both countries developed a special type of steel engraving that uses colours.
The technology is used to create stamps in the prominent issue category of Art. The aforementioned “Bare-Chested Man in Front of Occupiers’ Tank” stamp in this very category earned several prestigious awards in various competitions in 2019, including the one in Madrid. The creator of its graphic design, Vladislav Rostoka, and its engraver, Rudolf Cigánik, belong among the best contemporary stamp creators.
The fact that another of Rostoka's stamps won third place in the 2019 NexoFil competition in Madrid is a testament to his skill.
Of course, Slovak postage stamps have received many awards and gold medals, including for the most beautiful stamps, before a record number in 2019, and continue to do so to this today. In fact, Slovenská pošta has just recently received a gold medal at the Cape Town International Stamp Exhibition 2022.
Slovakia is one of the few countries that build on the talent of artists from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. Under the influence of Albín Brunovský, one of the greatest Slovak painters of the 20th century, a strong generation of artists emerged, who belong among prominent postage stamp creators.
Every year a selection of stamps celebrating anniversaries, important personalities, and events is issued. For example in 2022, there was a stamp depicting the astronaut Eugene Cernan who had Slovak roots, or the stamp symbolically named “Solidarity with Ukraine”, capturing the portrait of a weeping Ukrainian refugee.
Even though times are changing and we may be sending less and less letters, postage stamps still remain relevant and Slovak ones are capable of charming both collectors and the broad public.