Saturday, October 28th, marked the 88th anniversary of the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia. On that occasion, Czech President Vaclav Klaus presented high state honours to twenty-two personalities, among them soldiers who fought in WWII, political prisoners from the communist era as well as academics, artists and athletes.
The country's top officials, representatives of distinguished institutions as well as foreign diplomats gathered on Saturday night at the historic Vladislavsky Hall at Prague Castle to witness the award ceremony.
The highest honour, the Order of the White Lion, was given to Major General Antonin Spacek and, in memoriam, to Colonel Josef Bryks. Both men fought in Britain and France during the Second World War and then suffered at the hands of the Communist regime.
The President awarded six personalities with the Order of T.G. Masaryk: WWII veterans Vaclav Kojzar and Miroslav Standera; Hilda Cihakova-Hojerova who was active in anti-Nazi resistance and was jailed by the Communists; Premonstratensian Abbot Michal Pojezdny, theologian Karel Skalicky and also the chairwoman of the Czech Confederation of Political Prisoners, Nadezda Kavalirova. Mrs Kavalirova has been opposed to the communist ideology all her life. In a 1956 show trial she was sentenced for treason and espionage, jailed and persecuted for many years.
"We had firmly believed the Communists couldn't resurface on the Czech political scene. But here they are, firmly established, and they are making more and more demands."
Among those awarded with the Order of Merit were popular actresses Iva Janzurova and Jirina Jiraskova; cross-country skier and Olympic medallist Katerina Neumannova who flew in straight from a race in Germany; cameraman Miroslav Ondricek, best-known for his collaboration with director Milos Forman, and graphic artists Jiri Anderle and Vladimir Suchanek.
Both chambers of parliament as well as public institutions and individuals can nominate potential candidates for the state awards; the final choice is made by the head of state. Since becoming President, Vaclav Klaus has been awarding fewer people than his predecessor Vaclav Havel, who awarded as many as 89 personalities eight years ago.
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