The US Embassy in Prague has honoured Šimon Pánek, a Velvet Revolution
student leader and founder of People in Need, one of the largest
humanitarian aid NGOs in the region.
Pánek was presented with the Alice Garrigue Masaryk Prize on International Human Rights Day. The distinction, named after the American-born wife of the first Czechoslovak president, is awarded to personalities for their work in that area.
People in Need (Člověk v tísni) is an internationally recognized Czech humanitarian organisation active in the fields of humanitarian aid, development and education.
Pánek founded the NGO in 1988 by organising a collection to aid victims of a devastating earthquake in Armenia.
Recently, Russia’s Ministry of Justice declared the Czech NGO “undesirable”, effectively banning it from operating in that country.
The murky death of Jan Masaryk in 1948 has been back in the news recently, after the discovery of fresh evidence prompted the reopening of the case. The new investigation is welcomed by Masaryk’s great-niece Charlotta Kotik, who says that if he had wished to kill himself he would have done it in his characteristic style.
Thanks to a unique sound recording acquired by Czech Radio, the state attorney’s office has ordered a new investigation into the death of foreign minister Jan Masaryk, son of the country’s first president T.G. Masaryk, in February 1948. His great niece Charlotta Kotik has welcomed the news and is hoping to help the investigation.
Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Ministry of Culture will designate seven sites as ‘national cultural monuments’. All of them are tied to the Czech nation’s struggle to secure freedom or rid itself of Nazi or Soviet oppression. Among them is the Czech Radio building in Prague, a focal point of resistance both in 1968 and at the close of WWII.
Czech Immigrants first started settling in Chicago in the 1850s and continued in several waves in the 20th century. Today the city has the biggest number of Czech-Americans living in the US, with localities known as ”Prague” and “Pilsen”. I recently visited Chicago for the 80th Moravian Day celebrations and took the opportunity to stop by the University of Chicago, where the tradition of Slavic studies is almost as old as the university itself.
President Miloš Zeman lit a bonfire at Lany chateau to mark the 82nd
anniversary of the death of Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš
Garrigue Masaryk on Saturday.
The traditional ceremony was also attended by Cardinal Dominik Duka and the honorary chairman of TOP 09 Karel Schwarzenberg.
The tradition of Masaryk bonfires goes back to 1935 when they were lit around the country to celebrate the president’s 85th birthday. The tradition was cut off by the communist regime and renewed in 2001.
We start this series with one of the great European democrats of the 20th century, Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Born in 1850, he was already in his late sixties when he became president in November 1918. He took inspiration from the western democracies, in particular the United States and Britain, having spent time in both countries during his First World War exile. But he was also a passionate European.
T.G. Masaryk’s daughter Alice was imprisoned in 1915 for treason, a charge that carried the death penalty. Her time in a grim jail in Vienna is the focus of Charlotte and Alice, a freshly published and highly illuminating collection of over 200 letters between her and her US-born mother, Charlotte Masaryk. The book is the work of Anne Johnson, an American editor and translator who lives in Brno. She explained its genesis when we spoke recently in the city.
The Czech National Bank re-issued 30,000 sets of six 20-crown coins on
Wednesday to mark the centenary of monetary separation from the former
The six coins featuring famous First Republic politicians such as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, as well as the first central bank governors, were first issued in 2018.
At that time, collectors could exchange them for coins of the same value. Now the cost for six coins has been set at CZK 590. Another 20,000 sets of the coins are due to go on sale this autumn.
Countless statues of Tomáš Garrique Masaryk, the founding father of Czechoslovakia and the country’s first president, were erected in town squares in the first two decades of the new democracy. Scores were torn down under the German occupation, melted down in Third Reich forges to make bullets and artillery shells. But the fate of a handful of others remains a mystery.