One hundred years ago this autumn, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk stood atop the stairs of Independence Hall in Philadelphia – where both the American Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were adopted – to proclaim the creation of a new sovereign state, Czechoslovakia. But the seeds of liberty first took firm root in the spring of 1918 with the May 31st signing of the “Pittsburgh Agreement”, a memorandum of understanding between the Czech and Slovak immigrant communities to create an independent republic.
An annual showcase of contemporary Czech films called Czech That Film is currently underway across the United States. The festival is the largest Czech cultural event in the country and offers both Czech expats and local film enthusiasts a unique chance to get acquainted with present-day Czech cinematography.
The Prague-born rock musician and songwriter Ivan Král turned 70 on
Saturday. Král emigrated to the United States with his family in the 1960s
and became involved in New York’s punk scene in the following decade,
performing with an early incarnation of Blondie and becoming bassist with
the Patti Smith Group. He later played guitar with Iggy Pop.
In the 1990s Ivan Král released solo albums with some success in the Czech Republic and produced a number of Czech musicians. He continues to reside in the US.
Zuzana Wienerová emigrated to the United States in the 1960’s with her late husband, RAF pilot and World War II hero Jan Wiener. Mr. Wiener was imprisoned by the Communists for five years after returning from Britain. We spoke today about their romantic love story, their life in the U.S. and the challenges they faced. I first asked her how she and her husband met.
Artist Sonya Darrow spends her time in the Czech Republic and in Iowa, two places where she feels at home. Her interesting exhibition “Stezky/Pathways” recently opened at the American Center in Prague. I spoke to her about how she explores the questions of identity and cultural connections though her work and started off by asking her how she become involved in the Czech community.
Sylva Šimsová was 18 when her father, a Social Democrat politician, told her the family had to escape from Czechoslovakia. It was 1949, a year after the Communists had taken power. The young Sylva insisted that her fiancé, whom she had met through her beloved scouts only six months earlier, come with them. Remarkably, almost 70 years later she and her husband – a composer and broadcaster who goes by the name Karel Janovický – are still together.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that there are some million and a half Americans of Czech ancestry (and about 300 thousand more who declare Czechoslovak ancestry). Although few of them still speak the language of their forefathers, they still keep their traditions alive. Vít Pohanka visited some of the Czech communities in Oklahoma.
Ladislav Hornan, who is chairman of the British Czech and Slovak Association, has enjoyed a very successful career and led one of the UK’s top accountancy firms for many years. He came from a relatively privileged background in Prague, where his mother Magdalena Horňanová was a music professor and writer. Unusually, Mr. Hornan returned regularly to Czechoslovakia after emigrating in 1968. Until, that is, he spent almost a month in a Prague jail on spying charges in the mid-1980s. In a meeting room at his company’s City of London building he shared
Some Czechs abroad have already been voting in the presidential polls.
In the United States, Czechs could vote from Thursday 8 pm Central European time. Voting is possible in person in New York, Chicago, Washington, and Los Angeles. Interest in the vote is said to be higher than in October’s elections to the lower house of parliament.
The Czech consul in Washington said around 1,000 Czechs were registered to vote with participation at around 70 percent. Many can also cast correspondence votes.