Who is Andrej Kiska?
Andrej Kiska is a Slovak philanthropist, entrepreneur and politician who was the President of Slovakia from 2014 to 2019. Influenced by his father at a young age, Kiska studied electrical engineering and had embarked upon a career as a design engineer until the political conditions changed radically in Slovakia. Kiska decided to move to the United States in order to find a better job, but he returned home defeated. He turned an entrepreneur on his return and soon founded a string of companies along with his family. Over the years, they grew profitable and Kiska tasted success as a businessman. However, he decided to abandon the corporate world and immerse himself in philanthropy by founding the charity, Dobrý anjel. He further recognized that any positive change could be achieved through politics and decided to enter the political sphere in the 2014 presidential elections after running a hectic, heart-to-heart campaign at the local level. Kiska was elected as the President of Slovakia after a presidential runoff, where he accrued nearly 60% of the votes; he served his full term as the president for five years. In the end, he decided to not contest again despite winning people’s trust and achieving popularity. He recently launched his own political party, Za ľudí.
Childhood & Early Life
Andrej Kiska was born on February 2, 1963, in Poprad, a city in northern Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia). His parents were teachers, and his father was an active member of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia.
Kiska was influenced by his father and the principles of the communist party and applied for a membership, but he was rejected. He later decided to pursue engineering because of his father’s passion toward physics and mathematics.
He studied electrical engineering at the Slovak University of Technology and graduated with a degree in microelectronics in 1986. Upon earning his degree, he fulfilled his one-year army duty and later taught at the Army University.
After moving out from the Army University, he started working as a design engineer at Naftoprojekt company in his hometown to support his family. Unfortunately, it was around the same time that the Velvet Revolution took place.
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In 1990, Andrej Kiska decided to move to the United States owing to the tense political conditions that plagued his home country. Communism had collapsed in 1989 and Kiska wanted to lead a better quality of life. He started off by applying for jobs in US, but only received rejections.
In order to make ends meet, he decided to work as a shop assistant in a petrol station, and later as a handyman. Despite the struggles and his perseverance, Kiska’s American dream remained unfulfilled as he couldn’t find a suitable job and he decided to return home after 18 months.
Upon his return, he founded his own company, and this marked the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey. Despite failures, tax problems, and complete shutdowns, he persevered and opened several companies with his brother and cousin in 1992.
Gradually, his companies started making profits and expanded globally. He is best known for heading the hire-purchase companies, Triangle and Quatro. He successfully ran these companies until 2005.
In 2005, Kiska recognized the need to help the society and work with the community. He decided to sell his entire stake in his companies and completely devote himself to charity. With this in mind, he founded the charity Dobrý anjel (Good Angel) in 2006.
The charity aimed at helping families whose breadwinners were afflicted with debilitating diseases. Despite a tough start, the company stood strong and continued winning people’s trust. It also expanded its operations to the Czech Republic in 2014.
His charitable endeavors bore fruit as thousands of ordinary citizens started contributing to his charity. He was even awarded the Crystal Wing award for philanthropy. Kiska, however, realized there was more he could do for the society and aimed at standing for the presidential elections.
His motive to enter politics was to help those in need and to eradicate all forms of corruption in his country. He started working on his campaign as early as 2012 by visiting local villages and towns and talking to the citizens about his life and goals.
Andrej Kiska contested for the Slovak presidential elections in 2014. In the first round, he was placed second (24%) after the Prime Minister Robert Fico (28%). However, neither of the candidates received over 50% of the votes and a presidential runoff was announced on March 29, 2014.
In the runoff, Kiska managed to gather 1,307,065 votes, which represented 59.38% of the votes cast. He earned his victory with the help of the defeated candidates and some right-wing parties. He assumed the office as the President of the Slovak Republic on June 15, 2014.
In May 2018, Kiska announced that he will not be running in the 2019 presidential elections as he wanted to spend more time with his family. At the time of his announcement, Kiska had won the trust of the people and was the most popular politician.
He officially stepped down as the president of the nation on June 15, 2019, and handed over the reins to his successor, Zuzana Caputova.
Within two days of Kiska’s departure from the assembly, he launched his new political party, Za ľudí (“For the People”) that would aim at contesting in the national elections in the future. He is currently actively building the party.
Awards & Achievements
Andrej Kiska has been honored several times in his stint as the president. His country, Slovakia, has conferred upon him many titles, including the Order of the White Double Cross, Order of Ľudovít Štúr, Pribina Cross, and Order of Andrej Hlinka.
Apart from Slovakia, many other European countries have expressed their admiration for Kiska’s policies by bestowing prestigious titles upon him. Austria granted him the Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria, while Poland deemed him the Knight of the Order of the White Eagle.
Family & Personal Life
Andrej Kiska has been married twice. His first marriage was to the educator and politician Maria Kiskova from 1985 to 2001. The couple has two children: Andrej Kiska and Natália Kisková.
Kiska later married Martina Kisková, an engineer, in 2003. The couple has three children: Veronika, Viktor, and Martin. Martina became the country’s youngest first lady when Kiska was elected as the president.