According to the Czech Foreign Ministry there are now more than two million Czechs living abroad. The people making up the country’s expat communities in different parts of the world include those who fled the communist regime in several waves during the 20th century or those who escaped the Nazi threat. Some married abroad or used the opportunity to live and work abroad with the return of democracy close to 30 years ago. I spoke to the government’s special commissioner for expats Jiří Krátký about the process of renewing broken ties after 1989,
Tomáš Bísek spent 11 years as a clergyman in Scotland before returning to his native Prague in the mid-1990s. An early signatory of the Charter 77 protest document, the Protestant cleric had been a victim of Operation Asanace (Clearance), under which the Communists used mental and physical pressure to force dissidents to leave Czechoslovakia. Mr. Bísek had studied in the US and – in the second half of a two-part interview – told me the secret police may have expected him to return there rather than opting for Scotland in 1985.
Protestant cleric Tomáš Bísek was forced to leave Czechoslovakia in the 1980s for his dissident activities and spent over a decade ministering in Scotland. His family had been active members of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and – despite the communist regime – he himself had eventually become a clergyman in a small town in the Bohemian Moravian Highlands. However, his life became increasingly difficult after he and his wife signed the Charter 77 protest document. I began the first half of a two-part interview by asking the now retired
Prague-born Otto Jelinek became Canada’s ambassador to the Czech Republic in 2013, six and a half decades after his family moved to the North American state from communist Czechoslovakia. After becoming figure skating world champion in his early 20s, Mr. Jelinek was also successful in his next venture as a skating goods manufacturer. That was followed by a political career with the Progress Conservative party that included a string of ministerial positions.
Otto Jelinek (75) is in the highly unusual position of being ambassador to the city of his birth. Canada’s envoy to the Czech Republic was born in Prague during WWII but fled with his family after the Communist takeover of 1948. Fourteen years later, he returned to the city as a Canadian – winning gold with his sister Maria at the World Figure Skating Championships in front of a delighted “home crowd”.
Professor Otto Pick was one of nearly 700 Jewish children who escaped the Nazis on a transport to the UK organised by Nicholas Winton, a British diplomat based in Prague. He says he only became aware relatively recently that he was on the now famous “Winton train” and does not know how his family managed to get him on board and save his life.
As managing partner for the central and southeast Europe region for the global accounting giant Ernst & Young, Magdalena Souček has frequently topped lists of the most influential women in Czech business. With her doctor parents coming and going from Czechoslovakia, she spent part of her childhood and youth in Western Europe before studying in the U.S. and beginning her career there with Arthur Andersen. But when Communism fell in her native country, she soon returned to set up a Czech branch of the firm – at a time when even basic amenities were
The international consultancy firm Ernst & Young on Thursday forecast a 0.3 percent growth of the Czech GDP next year. The main factors include a lower GDP forecast for Germany and the Czech government’s austerity measures. The company said that in 2013, the Czech economy might grow by 1.3 percent and the GDP growth could reach 2.5 to 3 percent in the following years. The Czech Finance Ministry estimates that next year, the country’s economy will grow by around 1 percent.