Gratias Agit is the name of an award presented by the Czech foreign ministry to honour those who have promoted the good name of the Czech Republic around the world. Among the individuals and organizations made laureates at this year's ceremony on Thursday: the industrialist Tomas Bata and Viktor Fischl, a poet who was a close associate of Jan Masaryk, Foreign Minister in the Czechoslovak government in exile during World War II.
In the 1950s Ota Ulc was a young, recently qualified judge. It was a time when Czechoslovakia was under hard line Stalinist rule and he soon realized the huge ethical compromises that such a career involved. He took the risk of an adventurous escape via East Germany. In exile in the United States, he became a highly respected academic, a political scientist at the State University of New York in Binghamton, and Professor Ulc has written many books in both Czech and English. His special interest is in the complex interactions between cultures worldwide,
Ladislav Koran is a Czech American whose life story is almost beyond belief. As a young man he was an accomplished athlete and friend of the greatest Czech runner of all time Emil Zatopek. He was still in his mid twenties when the communists came to power and, like so many bright and energetic young Czechs, he found himself on the wrong side of the new regime. It was not long before he was arrested, and he went through ten years of hell in a Stalinist labour camp. But even this did not break his spirit and energy. Today, in the United States, where
Traces of the earliest Czech-American urban centres are still evident today, in street names recalling Czech patriots and historic towns, Sokol community centres, St. Wenceslas churches, and the like. But it's in America's "heartland" --especially in rural communities in states like Nebraska and Texas-- where Czech traditions are perhaps best preserved and most widely celebrated.
In this week's Mailbox: Report on Slovak nationalist politician Andrej Hlinka on Insight Central Europe; village of Horni Benesov considers giving honorary citizenship to US presidential candidate John Kerry; Radio Prague's listeners' contests. Listeners quoted: David Eldridge, Sharon Curtis, Nooreddin Ahmed.
Vladimir Bejval is a man with an amazing CV. Child actor in Czechoslovakia, cowboy in the United States, tool maker, bodyguard and bounty hunter - Mr Bejval has been all of those things. As a teenager he appeared in the famous 1955 film Cesta do praveku, called in English Journey to Prehistory or Journey to the Beginning of Time. Almost half a century later, Vladimir Bejval is still proud of the film.