Current Affairs Foreign Ministry honours 12 people for promoting good name of Czech Republic
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Friday presented the 16th annual Gratias Agit awards in recognition of those who promote the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. This year’s 12 laureates of the prize include former figure-skating champion Ája Vrzáňová, UK-based architect Eva Jiřičná, composer Antonín Tučapský, and others.
The annual Gratias Agit awards were presented in the Great Hall of the Czernin Palace to 12 people, Czech expats as well as foreigners, who in their countries work to develop ties with the Czech Republic, and promote the country’s reputation. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said many of the personalities never turned their back on their native country even in the difficult times of communism when Czechoslovakia did not have a good name abroad.
Ája Vrzáňová Steindler left Czechoslovakia in 1950 after winning two world figure skating championships. She settled in the United States where she became involved in the Czech émigré community, and has since 2007 served as the chairwoman of the International Coordination Committee of Czechs Abroad.
“I’m so thrilled to have lived long enough to receive this award, and that they think I deserve this. I’m so proud to receive it from the hands of Minister Schwarzenberg because I think very highly of him. It’s very touching and wonderful.”
Eva Jiřičná left Czechoslovakia for the UK after the Soviet invasion in 1968, and has become an internationally renowned architect. Ms Jiřičná received many awards for her contribution to architecture and design, and in 1994 was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
“It makes me feel really elevated. But I would like to say that I have many colleagues in my profession who deserve such an award more than I do. I was lucky enough because I had an opportunity to work abroad and gain experience which was useful when the Velvet Revolution came. But my colleagues did not have this opportunity so I’m always aware that I am the lucky one and would sincerely like to share it with everyone who deserves it more than I do.”
The composer, conductor and teacher Antonín Tučapský came to London in 1975 after the communist authorities banned him from all artistic activities. He has written more than 350 compositions and popularized the work of his compatriot, Leoš Janáček. Mr Tučapský held a teaching position at the Trinity College of Music in London for 21 years, and says that now he devotes most of his time to composing.
“I have many commissions for compositions and I’m retired so I devote my time only to composing. Now, I compose less and slower, no doubt, because of my age, but I couldn’t be without it.”
The Gratias Agit awards were this year also presented to three foreigners including Nazmi Akiman from Turkey. The former diplomat is the now the chair of the Czech-Turkish Business Council, and also represents the Czech-based car producer Škoda Auto in Turkey.
“I’m on the board of Yuce Auto which has been selling Škoda cars in Turkey for 25 years.”
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The awards for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad were also handed to Jalair Byaruuzana Altan Ochrir from Mongolia, Sylva Berková de Arredondo from Argentine, Vladimír Bláha from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jiří Chmel from Austria, Anna Janků from Egypt, Ladislav Pavlík from Germany, and Natilia Tumarec from Ukraine.
Photo: Barbora Kmentová