On March 8 it will have been 150 years since the birth of the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. As the person who laid the democratic foundation of the first Czechoslovak Republic, Masaryk's anniversary is of utmost significance to Czechs - although not just Czechs - as his inclusion on this year's list of UNESCO anniversaries indicates. Masaryk visited the United States several times, and the ideas of America's founding had great impact on him.
At the birth of Czechoslovakia, America was the midwife. With the help of Czech-Americans, Masaryk persuaded President Wilson to support the cause of Czechs and Slovaks. It was here in Washington, in the current Envoy hotel on 16th Street, NW, where Masaryk drafted the Declaration of Czechoslovak Independence. He also fondly recalled his horseriding in Rock Creek Park. Last but not least, Masaryk married an American, Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk, whose family name he adopted as his middle name.
It would be fitting to commemorate Masaryk's stay in DC by erecting a statue of him here. We are currently studying available options and would welcome your suggestions and help.
After writing these lines, I will leave for Prague to accompany Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during her visit to the Czech Republic. She will also pay homage to Masaryk by visiting several places associated with him, including the Lany castle where Masaryk stayed. Today it is still a presidential residence - Masaryk's legacy is deeply ingrained in Czech democracy.
I am also glad to be able to report that, thanks to the efforts of Czech-American
organizations, the Czech government and Consul General in New York Petr
Gandalovic, a solution has been found that will bring new life to Bohemian
National Hall. This venerable building at Manhattan, which saw the beginnings
of modern Czech-American relations, will again become a beacon of the Czech
presence in the United States.
On the evening of February 24, the Czech Embassy welcomed a rare concentration of Washington’s foreign policy and human rights community. The event that brought them together was a screening of the documentary film about Chechnya titled "The Dark Side of the World," hosted jointly by the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Committee for Chechnya. The film, mentioned in a Washington Post editorial, provides a rare glimpse of battle-ravaged Chechnya at the height of the conflict last December. One of its authors, Czech reporter Jaromir Stetina, was present at the Embassy screening.
After brief introductory remarks by Zbigniew Brzezinski, representing the nascent U.S. Committee for Chechnya, and NED President Carl Gershman, Mr. Stetina was introduced by Ambassador Vondra. Mr. Stetina has reported from many of the world’s trouble spots, from Somalia and East Timor to Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo. Together with his colleague Petra Prochazkova, he has spent the last several years covering Russia’s upheavals. Not content as a mere observer, Stetina has often combined his journalistic work with the organization of humanitarian aid. He is now affiliated with the People in Need foundation, which co-produced the film with Czech TV.
The Embassy's full house was then given the rare opportunity to observe a scenario few independent reporters have been able to describe. The film makes the destruction of the region and the desolation of helpless civilians clear. Although there was more than enough human suffering visible, the most haunting image was perhaps of a still living horse heavily burned from fire. The desolation contrasted with the quiet resolve of Chechen field commanders, who, heavily outgunned, pledged to defend their country. In a somber moment, Mr. Stetina later mentioned which of the commanders seen on the screen are no longer alive.
In the subsequent discussion, Mr. Stetina explained the difficulties of covering the war in Chechnya and described the real situation there. He also spoke about his friend, the RFE/RL Russian reporter Andrei Babitsky, who disappeared while working in Chechnya and whose fate was unknown at the time of the screening.
Mr. Stetina’s first-hand experience was in high demand during his stay
in the United States, where he met with representatives of the administration,
congressional staffers and NGOs in an undoubtedly high-impact visit, the
first he has ever made to this country.
The Czech Republic backs the EU decision to limit bilateral political relations with Austria following the formation of a new coalition government including the far-right Freedom Party (FPO). Both President Havel and Prime Minister Zeman expressed support for the measures taken against Austria, stressing that the EU action was not an interference in Austria's internal affairs.
Prague's initial reaction was rather cautious, as Czech politicians intended to wait and see whether Austria's foreign policy changes. Having examined the policy statement of the new Austrian Cabinet, Foreign Minister Kavan voiced strong disagreement with certain formulations virtually linking the Czech Republic's admission to the EU with the abolition of measures taken as a result of WWII. According to him, "it is not acceptable to assume a position which does not differentiate between the tens of millions of victims of Nazi atrocities in Europe in which many Austrians participated, and acts of retribution, no matter how inappropriate they often were." He also noted that the ostensible support given to EU enlargement in the policy statement is qualified by so many conditions that is has only relative value.
Minister Kavan decided to postpone bilateral expert talks on the issues
of common past, since this dialogue requires confidence which is now lacking.
He welcomed the assurances of his Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero-Waldner
that she rejects any linking of the Czech Republic's entry to the EU with
problems of common past.
On February 21, the Czech government resolved to purchase and renovate the Czech National Building. This historical structure, built in 1897 on Manhattan's East 73rd Street, in the area that used to be the center of the local Czech-American community, was a vibrant center of emigré life. It has however fallen in disrepair in recent decades. The government resolution comes after several years of discussion between Czech-American organizations and the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York, from which a mutually beneficial solution has resulted. While the Czech state will buy the building from its owner, a Czech-American umbrella organization named the Bohemian Benevolent Literary Association (BBLA), for a symbolic price, it has committed to invest $7.5 million over the course of the next three years into the renovation of the building.
As soon as 2002, a section of the building will be ready to use by the BBLA. A quite detailed plan of the activities already exists for bringing new life into the building. Fitness and recreational facilities on the first floor will cater to the Czech-American community, and a restaurant, possibly run by the world-famous Pilsner Urquell Breweries, will be open to the public. There will also be a screening hall with a seating capacity of 80. The second floor will be used by BBLA; we anticipate the establishment there, with the cooperation of the Society for Arts and Sciences, that would be devoted to Czech emigration. The Czech Center, currently sharing a building on Madison Avenue with the Consulate General, will occupy the third floor; these new premises will add to its venues a permanent gallery space. Memorabilia of the American stay of the famous Czech composer will be featured in Dvorak Hall, suitable for chamber music concerts. We hope that a future foundation sponsoring the performances of Czech artists could operate from here.
The fourth and fifth floors will form a large multi-purpose venue, whose space and architecture could make it a unique space in the context of the Upper East Side. Other agencies such as CzechTrade will take up the remaining space.
Many activities will be run by agencies of the Czech state, but there remains significant space which will be available for existing and new non-profit organizations. The advisory committee will be a vehicle for cooperation between the Czech Republic and BBLA, ensuring the best possible use of the building.
I believe that this is a win-win situation for both the Czech Republic and the Czech- American community in the United States. The Czech Republic gains from this venture an opportunity to significantly enhance its presence in the US. I hope the project will create a common ground, where there will be no divisive distinctions between Czechs from the mother country and thsoe from the United States.
President Vaclav Havel addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on February 16. In his speech, his second in this venue, he elaborated upon the ideas of the European identity and the idea of Europe.
He noted that when he asks himself to what extent he feels European, he comes to the conclusion that he has probably taken his European identity for granted, and he suggests that this is probably true for most Europeans. He welcomed the current interest in more European self-awareness, and in defining common European values. The basic set of European values is to his mind clear: "It consists of respect for the unique human being, and for humanity's freedoms, rights and dignity; the principle of solidarity; the rule of law and equality before the law; the protection of minorities of all types; democratic institutions; the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers; a pluralist political system; respect for private ownership, private enterprise, and a market economy; and a furtherance of civil society. The present shape of these values mirrors also the countless modern European experiences, including the fact that our continent is now becoming an important multicultural crossroads."
The idea of civil society, Havel explained, is rising in importance with the approaching enlargement of the EU. "It was no coincidence that Communist dictatorships proceeded shortly after their establishment, with speed and use of force, to tear up the fine tissue of civil society, until they virtually destroyed it. Communist dictators were well aware that as long as there were diverse structures of civic life, growing and operating from the grass-roots level, they would never gain real control over the population," noted Havel.
"The task to help the new democracies in this respect should be an organic part of a wider commitment to a continuous deepening and advancement of civil society on a pan-European scale." The interconnectedness of civic structures will also strengthen the foundation of the European Union.
Among the tasks for the states and the supranational bodies, president Havel focused on security and lessons from the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia. "Respect for human life and human liberty, and consideration for pan-European security, can, in an extreme case, necessitate intervention outside the borders of the European Union," said Havel. "I am not sure whether, until recently, Europe was prepared for such an unfortunate alternative. It is certainly more prepared now, at least psychologically."
After stressing that much more could be done in the field of preventive security, president Havel also highlighted the decisive role of the United States, adding that Europe "must be capable of agreeing on solutions and handling such situations on its own. In the world of today, in which small entities inevitably unite in various international or supranational communities, it is unthinkable that the European Union could stand as a respectable component of the global order if it proved unable to agree on ways of protecting human rights, not only in its own territory, but also in the wider field within the range of its rays, that is, in the area that may one day belong to it."
President Havel then proceeded to the topic of the EU enlargement, which he deems to be in the interest of the EU itself. Europe, in his view, is one political entity whose security is indivisible. "The idea that there could forever be two Europes - a democratic, stable and prosperous Europe engaged in integration, and a less democratic, less stable and less prosperous Europe - is, in my opinion, totally mistaken," said Havel. He then came up with two suggestions for the institutional reforms now being debated within EU:
First, the EU should adopt a constitution that would enumerate the fundamental rights and duties of European citizens as well as of states, and the description of the key EU institutions.
The legitimacy of the EU, as well as the concern about the position of smaller member states vis a vis the larger ones, would be served by establishing a second chamber of the European Parliament, filled by an equal number of representatives nominated by the Parliaments of the individual member states.
He concluded his speech by pointing out the double edged nature of European
civilization, which gave the world much of its best as well as its worst,
and pleading that Europe attempts "to demonstrate, through the manner of
its own being, that the dangers generated by this contradictory civilization
can be combated."
Czech-Americans all across the United States will soon celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first President of independent Czechoslovakia. From Minnesota to Pittsburgh, from New York to Baltimore, from Houston to Los Angeles, festivities will commemorate the legacy of the man who represented the humanist legacy and democratic ideals embodied by the First Czechoslovak Republic.
The founding of Czechoslovakia has a particular resonance among Czech-Americans. The ideas of America's founding fathers were a vital inspiration for Masaryk, and President Wilson's support for the Czechoslovak cause was instrumental. It was here in Washington, DC that Tomas Garrigue Masaryk proclaimed the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence on October 18, 1918. He was by no means for the first time in the United States; after all, his wife was an American.
This year, on March 5, 2000, Czech-Americans from the Washington, DC area, in collaboration with the Czech Embassy, present an afternoon event at which the performance of a vocal ensemble will be accompanied by words commemorating Masaryk's indefatigable courage in his fight for truth. In New York, Chicago and Cleveland, this month's celebrations will be augmented by the performance of Czech artists Rene Nachtigalova and Pavel Horacek, accompanied on the piano by Andrea Vlachova, who will present during their mini-tour arias from famous Czech operas, as well as Masaryk's favorite folk songs.
On the actual date of Masaryk's birthday, March 7, a commemorative event will take place in Pittsburgh, where the so-called Pittsburgh Agreement, which sealed the decision of American Czechs and Slovaks to support a joint independent state, was signed.
While in the previous decades Masaryk celebrations were sustained mostly by the members of the post-war political exile, this year they are joined by many Czech Americans of second, third and fourth generations, whose ancestors came to the Land of the Free beginning with the latter half of the 19th century. Although already born in the USA, they also participated in the struggle for the independence of Czechoslovakia, either through financial contributions that enabled the work of the representatives of the independence movement, or through their service in the Czechoslovak Legion in France or in the US Armed Forces.
The unprecedented activity of Czech-Americans provides a testimony of
their continued allegiance to the tradition of the First Czechoslovak President.
On February 2, 2000 the Government of the Czech Republic decided to introduce the Visa regime with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It is anticipated that the new visa regime will enter into force in June or July 2000.
Adoption of those changes reflects the significant development in the
process of approximation of the Czech Visa and Immigration Policy with
the relevant EU standards and regulations. The Russian Federation, Belarus
and Ukraine are among those countries, whose citizens are required to have
a visa to enter the EU territory.
The annual Czech language course in Dobruska, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a part of the Czech Republic's program to assist Czechs living abroad in educational matters, will take place from July 27 - August 25, 2000.
Please note that only those who are of Czech origin and at the same time actively assist Czech American organizations and societies to preserve and promote Czech culture, and whose language skills will in the future contribute to the activities of these societies, are eligible to apply. Therefore, recommendation from at least one of these societies is required.
This year a course for complete beginners will also be offered. The minimum age for participation has been set at 18; Czechs living abroad who will be 18 by July 27 may apply. There will be no exceptions to this policy.
The costs of the four-week course, which includes language instruction, room and board, is completely covered by the government of the Czech Republic. Participants will also enjoy extracurricular activities such as the visiting of historic sites, folklore events, natural beauties, and will experience the life of Czech people. These excursions are also financed by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Participants are expected to cover their own transportation expenses.
Acceptance into the course will be determined by a commission which plans to meet on May 4, 2000. Should additional family members or friends of those accepted to the course wish to arrange accommodation at the student center in Dobruska, the cost is set at approximately 120 Czech crowns (Kc) per night. To reserve this accommodation, it is necessary to send a request with reasonable advance notice to: Studijní stredisko ÚJOP UK, Solnická 777, 518 17 Dobruska, Czech Republic, tel/fax (420-443) 21247.
For application forms to this summer's course, please contact Dr. Ivan
Dubovicky, Cultural Counselor at the Czech Embassy in Washington, DC, at
tel. (202) 274-9114. The deadline for receiving applications is March 31,
This year at the 97th Annual American International Toy Fair (February 13-17), the Czech Republic was very proud to present its very first national exhibit featuring a variety of toys from some of the country's finest and most innovative toy manufacturers.
The Czech Republic boasts a rich history in toy making that has gradually developed from the work of skilled craftsmen to what is now a thriving modern industry. Its imaginative creators have won international recognition for their unique work with marionettes, wooden and plush toys.
New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was host to this year's fair. Among the 2,000 exhibitors from all over the world, Czech toy manufacturers showed why they are fast becoming one of the world's best sources for traditional and contemporary children's toys. Currently Czech toy makers enjoy continued growth in their global sales, and toys are an increasingly important part of exports to the United States.
The products of 25 companies took the stage at New York's fair, among them Art Scena Praha (marionettes), ETS Praha (electric trains), KADEN Ohnisov (metal and plastic toys), Tofa Semily (wooden toys), Toyo Zdar nad Sazavou (puppets), VKS Brdska parketarna (wooden toys) and Vista Semily (toy construction sets). Not only were they all very pleased with the new business generated by their American visit, but they also took advantage of the social side of New York. All agreed that a highlight of their stay was a reception held at the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, where they had the chance to meet with Consul General Petr Gandalovic, former Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, and most importantly, a number of American toy importers.
As the final touch to this groundbreaking event, the toy makers donated
a wide variety of their toys to the Association to Benefit Children in
Manhattan. This Association has been helping New York's young children
in need for more than ten years and its health and education programs have
brought great benefits to some of the city's most disadvantaged families.
The smiles on these children's faces made for a perfect ending to this
As the internet revolution sweeps the world, Czech internet developers and software engineers are increasingly finding themselves in the spotlight. The trend has been highlighted by the high-profile acquisition by U.S.-based Sun Microsystems of Czech Java developer Netbeans and Swedish Spray Ventures' investment into the local search engine Seznam. The investments turned quite a few savvy young Web entrepreneurs into overnight Czech celebrities.
Czech technical prowess, amplified by the ease of moving data around the world, is turning investors' heads for a number of reasons: labor is cheap, loyalty is strong, and ingenuity is remarkable. The turnover rate at U.S.-based Web development and e-commerce companies is 40 percent, while some firms in the Czech Republic had no turnover in nearly a year. Statistics show that U.S. programmers average 7,700 lines of code per year C while their Czech counterparts pump out an impressive 16,700 C so Czech IT specialists end up looking downright sexy to potential employers.
Moreover, annual salaries for Czech Web developers and software engineers
are estimated at 180-480 thousand CZK, anywhere from one-fifth to one-fourteenth
of the U.S. average of $70,700 (roughly 2.5 million CZK), according to
a 1999 survey by online IT business solutions firm DataMasters.
The Czech Banking Association (BA) gave its approval for an international consortium to create and operate a credit bureau intended to allow financial houses to check clients' credit-worthiness, solvency and payment discipline. The winning bid was submitted by local financial information provider Aspekt Kilcullen, Italian Crif and Chicago-based Trans Union. However, the decision received harsh criticism from a potential competitor, the team of local Profira and UK based Experian. They cited the association's unclear selection rules and its authority to make such a selection.
BA's representatives proposed the Czech National Bank (CNB) would manage a portion of the database concerning corporate clients. CNB's senior officials said that their institution had not yet decided whether to participate. The BA's selection enjoyed its strongest support from four participating banks C Komercni Banka, Ceska Sporitelna, IPB and Bank Austria Creditanstalt. Foreign banks' branches will get involved in the process after January 2001, when a new amendment to the Banking Act is implemented.
Proponents of the credit bureau hope that its creation will boost the
economy through more prudent lending. Since 1996, a relatively limited
database of corporate clients has been run by local ISC Muzo. But due to
its dispersed ownership, it only included information on those clients
who gave their consent, and even then only included information from Komercni,
Sporitelna, CSOB, IPB, and Bank Austria Creditanstalt. ISC Muzo unsuccessfully
bid for the Association's new database. The new databases should include
credit records from corporate and individual clients held by non-banking
institutions as well, including leasing companies, phone companies, utilities
and consumer lenders. It should start operations within six months after
contracts are signed with banks and cover information on individuals and
small and medium-sized companies, while the large corporate clients should
be handled by the Czech National Bank.
Shareholders of Czech railway wagon manufacturer CKD Vagonka Studenka have approved restructuring steps that will allow the US-owned Thrall Car to take a majority stake in Vagonka. Vagonka's shareholders agreed to raise its base capital by almost 800 percent, in the form of a debt-for-equity swap and approved plans to sell its passenger carriage division and part of its energy division, in order to create conditions for the entrance of Thrall Car. The Illinois-based railway vehicle manufacturer is only interested in Vagonka's freight carriage division.
The Czech Republic has joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's effort to combat bribery and corruption and ratified the OECD Convention on fighting corruption of foreign public officials in international business transactions. The OECD is convinced that the bribery of foreign government officials in international business transactions is a serious threat to the development and preservation of democratic institutions, because not only does it undermine economic development but it also distorts international competition by seriously misdirecting resources.
Most countries have laws which make it a crime to bribe domestic public
officials. The Convention aims to stop the "flow" of bribes to foreign
officials in international business and obliges signatories to adopt national
legislation that makes it a crime. The Convention was signed on 17 December
1997 and entered into force in February 1999. So far, 20 out of 34 signatories
have ratified the Convention and adopted legislation necessary to implement
the Convention in national law.
The Czech state's remaining stake in car manufacturer Skoda Auto is for sale. Skoda's majority owner, Volkswagen, has offered 8 billion crowns (or 250 million USD). However, according to the Finance Ministry, the government sees the purchase price at around 12 billion CZK, or more than 330 million USD, for its remaining 30-percent stake in the most successful Czech company.
Talks about the sale began last fall, but were put off due to the ongoing construction of a new engine manufacturing plant which could increase the price. Meanwhile, Skoda's preliminary sales rose by 4.1 percent last year. Its share of the Czech new-car market stood at 44 percent in January. In Britain, Skoda's latest model Fabia became Car of The Year, according to that country's prestigious What Car? magazine. Fabia left behind competitors like Vauxhall, Volvo and other renowned brands. Fabia is the first Skoda car to be based on a new Volkswagen small-car platform. According to the magazine, Fabia elevates the supermini beyond current expectations, especially in terms of accommodation, refinement, comfort and safety. Besides, the magazine highlights Fabia's excellent driving characteristics and points out that Skoda is also offering a tempting selection of price/equipment deals.
"Dear Adolph: I understand that you will be one hundred and eighty-six today. I hope you will live another one hundred years and be as useful to the Republic as you have been in the past one hundred and eighty-six years. Congratulations. Sincerely yours, Harry S. Truman." The very tone of this congratulations, sent by President Truman to Adolph J. Sabath on the occasion of Sabath´s eighty-six birthday anniversary, leaves no doubt that the two men knew each other very well. Unfortunately, not so much is known about this respected personality today.
A typical representative of intellectual emigration from the beginning of the twentieth century, Adolph J. Sabath was born on April 4, 1866 in Zabori, a small town located in today's Czech Republic. In 1881, he emigrated to the United States, where he settled in Chicago and graduated from the Chicago College of Law. He soon became politically active, first as a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party, and later, as a member of the Congress, to which he was elected on March 4, 1907, and in which he served without interruption from that day until his death. He was chosen by the people of his Congressional District to represent them in a total of twenty-four elections. Sabath served under eight Presidents of the United States and ten Speakers of the House. In his Statement by the President of November 6, 1952, the day Adolph J. Sabath died, Harry S. Truman remarked that "Judge Sabath, as he was known to his friends, exemplified in his life the virtues that make America strong. During all of his years of service, Adolph Sabath never forgot his own humble origin. In him the forgotten man always found a champion. He was the sponsor of much progressive legislation and was an unyielding opponent of special interests. He served well both his constituents and his country and he was greatly beloved by all who knew him."
In both World Wars, Sabath rendered valuable service to the Czech and Slovak cause. Sabath was instrumental in amending the census law, whereby the foreign-born in 1910 were classified by mother tongue, instead of by country of birth as heretofore. It was he who in 1912 introduced to Congress Count Lutzow, who came to America to deliver a series of lectures on Bohemia and the Czechs. At the beginning of WW I, Czechs and Slovaks in America quickly realized that Sabath could play a crucial role in presenting their native country's claims for independence to the US Congress. Sabath moved for the adoption of a Joint Resolution for Bohemian independence, nr. 81, of May 5, 1917, "that Bohemia shall be free and independent and shall resume her place in the family of sovereign nations." One year later, on May 6, 1918, Sabath delivered to Congress a speech in which he informed the public about the independence movement of Czechs and Slovaks and urged the US Government to recognize Czechoslovak independence. Three days later, Sabath organized a triumphant welcome of Thomas G. Masaryk in Washington. Twenty-seven members of the US Congress, among others, came to greet the soon-to-be President of independent Czechoslovakia on that day.
While the role of Adolph J. Sabath during WW I has not yet been fully acknowledged by historians, even less is known about his activities during WW II. Since the beginning of 1941, Sabath urged US authorities to recognize the Provisional Government of Czechoslovakia in London. After the exchange of correspondence concerning relations between the United States and Czechoslovakia, the acting secretary finally replied on July 25, 1941, and assured Sabath that "the Department is giving immediate consideration to your suggestions."
In the death of Adolph J. Sabath in 1952, both the United States and
the country of his origin lost a man of rare distinction, who blended the
progressive ideas of his new homeland with the traditional values of his
ancestors to strengthen the rule of law and democracy.
Pianist Radoslav Kvapil gave a recital at the Czech Embassy on February 10, 2000 which was a remarkable demonstration of the evocative beauty and virtuosity of Czech piano music.
Since Chopin was a major influence on Smetana and Dvorak, it was appropriate that the recital began with two Chopin Ballades. With the very first note, Kvapil established his impressive power and pianistic control. He surmounted the formidable difficulties of these works with ease and grace.
In three excerpts from Dvorak's Poetic Tone Pictures, Kvapil drew on his extensive Dvorak experience -- he was first to record the entire cycle of Dvorak's piano works and plays the original version of the Dvorak piano concerto -- to bring forth the psychological moods and subtle tone colors which are latent in these works.
Suk's Jaro (Spring) chronicles a year of intense happiness, his delight in marriage and the birth of his son. Kvapil's exuberance gave lyric impulse and psychological integrity to the work, producing arches of joyous sound and moments of glowing fire.
A movement from Ullmann's seventh piano sonata, "Variations and Fugue on a Hebrew Song" provided a stark contrast. This work was written in Terezin shortly before Ullmann's death. Kvapil drew on his friendships with Holocaust survivors and memories of repression to portray the actual face of tragedy. He believes that the this work, which intermingles Hebrew, Czech, and German themes, is Ullmann's message to posterity - tolerance, endurance, faith.
Janacek wrote his Sonata 1.X.1905 in reaction to a student demonstration in Brno. In this work, tragedy brings about the resolve to resist. As a direct heir of the Janacek tradition, Kvapil conveyed Janacek's uncompromising will and compelling vision in a masterly, profound interpretation.
This sadness was dispelled by high-spirited excerpts from Smetana's Czech dances. Smetana's extraordinary career as composer and performer is compressed into these small, witty forms. Kvapil's interpretation brought forth their joyous physicality and Czech spirit.
As an encore, Kvapil played a delightful Chopin waltz, again reminding us that Smetana's dances are linked to Chopin's.
SASA GEDEON (1970) is a film director who inspires hopes that, in him, Czech film might follow in the footsteps of the glorious era of the 1960s, when Czechoslovak New Wave cinema, represented by such names as Milos Forman, Ivan Passer, Jiri Menzel, Vera Chytilova, Evald Schorm and Juraj Jakubisko, was a unique phenomenon whose importance extended far beyond the borders of a small country in the middle of Europe. What specifically inspires those hopes is the poetic quality of his films -- his talent for reproducing the atmosphere of ordinary situations involving ordinary people, the delicate mesh of absurdly tuned dialogues, and the work's idealistic message. Gedeon himself openly espouses the legacy of the 1960s. He demonstrated his talent while still a student at the Prague Film School (FAMU), where he directed a number of films that won prizes at festivals at home and abroad, e.g. Tokyo and Angers (France). His debut full-length feature, "Indian Summer", was one of the most successful Czech films of 1995. The comedy "The Return of the Idiot" (1999), inspired by Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot, was equally successful, and its high standard showed Gedeon to be a European-class filmmaker; "Idiot" is this year's nominee from the Czech Republic for best foreign film at the Academy Awards.
The exhibit Projekt Praha 2000, by Washington-based photographer Chad
Evans Wyatt, presents portraits of scores of the remarkable personalities
who have shaped the arts in the Czech Republic during the last decade.
The Exhibit is opened at the Czech Embassy in Washington, DC through August
30, weekdays 9-5 and evenings during events. A book compiling all portraits
will be published in Fall.
On Wednesday, March 29, the Embassy of the Czech Republic and DC's own Politics and Prose Bookstore present an evening celebrating the long-awaited translation of the contemporary Czech novel City, Sister Silver by Jachym Topol.
Winner of the Tom Stoppard Prize for Samizdat Literature for his first book of poetry, the young Czech novelist, poet, songwriter and journalist Jachym Topol has made an even greater splash wih City, Sister Silver -- his first novel and first US release -- which has already won the Egon Hostovsky Prize for best Czech book of the year. City, Sister Silver is also the only post-Velvet Revolution book (since 1989) to be included in a recent writers' and critics' list of the 100 Greatest Czech Books of the Century, ranking ahead of all the works of renowned Czech writer Milan Kundera. Topol's book is a modern epic capturing the emotional dislocation that followed the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
Jachym Topol was a significant writer already in the 80's, when his work was banned from publication by the communist authorities. Together with current Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra, in 1984 Topol founded the still-in-publication samizdat (underground) literature magazine Revolver Revue. Topol has an undeniable artistic background, with a playwright father and a brother who founded and is still the lead singer of the famed Czech cult band Psi Vojaci (translates to "Dog Soldiers").
The evening begins at 7:00 pm at Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015
Connecticut Ave, NW, with a presentation and booksigning with the author.
The writer will be introduced by Czech Ambassador to the US Alexandr Vondra.
Following at 8:30 pm at the Czech Embassy will be a reception in honor
of the author. The entire evening is free and open to the general public.
Thursday, March 9
Modern Czech jazz is primarily associated with several remarkable musicians who have caused the world's heads to turn in its direction. This evening presents a one-time only performance by one of these legends, the Czech jazz pianist Emil Viklicky, together with his band Ad Lib Moravia. The one-of-a-kind project crosses the borders of jazz, folk and classical music, creating a unique blend of jazz music with Moravian soul, as featured during the ensemble's successful 1996 tour of Mexico and the United States. The concert also commemorates the 150th anniversary of the birth of first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. At 7:30 pm at the Czech Embassy. Reservations recommended. Please call: 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets $12 at the door.
Thursday, March 23
The Czech Embassy again participates in the Washington, DC Environmental Film Festival, this year with a screening of the documentary "Dvorak in America." Dvorak arrived in New York on September 26, 1892, to direct the National Conservatory of Music of America, charged with the daunting task of creating a national school of music for a young nation boundlessly confident in its resources, but still looking to Europe for a sense of identity. The film promises to take viewers on a surprising journey from the rendering of plantation songs to the creation of Dvorak's famous "New World Symphony." At 7:30 pm at the Czech Embassy. Admission is free; reservations are not required. The film is in Czech, with English subtitles.
Tuesday, March 28
The Skampa Quartet performs the opening concert of its latest U.S. tour, presenting works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Janacek. One of the most exciting young string quartets on the international scene today, the Skampa Quartet was founded in 1989 at the Prague Academy of Music. The Quartet's excellence was recognized soon thereafter, when they won the 1990 Best Quartet prize at the Premio Vittorio Gui competition in Florence, Italy. More recent accomplishments include the group's appointment as the first- ever Quartet in Residence at London's Wigmore Hall, where they currently give master classes with Walter Levin, and their 1998 American premiere of Czech composer Petr Eben's String Quartet at New York's Carnegie Hall. The Quartet also recently performed in both Prague and Washington, DC at gala concerts in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. At 7:30 pm at the Czech Embassy. Reservations recommended. Please call 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets $10 at the door.
Wednesday, March 29
Winner of the Tom Stoppard Prize for Samizdat Literature for his first book of poetry, young Czech novelist, poet, songwriter and journalist Jachym Topol introduces his novel City, Sister, Silver (titled Sestra in the original Czech edition). Topol's first novel and first US release has already won the Egon Hostovsky Prize for the best Czech book of the year, and was the only post-Velvet Revolution book to be included in a writers' and critics' list of the 100 Greatest Czech Books of the Century. Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra will open the evening with brief remarks. Presentation and booksigning, at 7:00 pm at Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave, NW. Reception in honor of the author, at 8:30 pm at the Czech Embassy.
Tuesday, April 18
Jan Burian, son of the renowned Czech composer and avant-garde theater director E.F. Burian, is the Czech equivalent of the American songwriter and composer Randy Newman. His career as a songwriter and pianist has spanned over 3000 performances in clubs and theaters around the Czech and Slovak Republics. Burian gained popularity primarily as a result of his clever, funny and poetic songs and comments on public life. During the last decade, Burian published several books, comprising short stories, poetry and travelogues, started his own successful TV show, and released four CDs. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations recommended. Please call: 202/274- 9100, x. 3413. Tickets $10 at the door.
Czech Center New York
March 2 Exhibition Josef Sudek - The Brumlik Collection - 30 years of writing on photographs: 1946 - 1976. Exhibition of a rare collection of photographs. Venue: Alan Klotz Photocollect, 22 East 72nd Street, NYC; phone: 212-327 2211. Opening: Thursday, March 2, 6:00 - 8:30 pm. The exhibition will be on view through April 15; Wed - Sat: 11 am - 6 pm, Tue by appointment only.
March 7 Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. Dr. Vlado Simko will give a lecture on Masaryk’s stay in the US and the relationship between TGM and his son, Jan. Following the lecture will be a musical performance by a group of Czech artists (Dvorak, Smetana, Friml etc.) Venue: Consulate General of the Czech Republic, 1109 Madison Avenue, NYC; phone: 212-717 5643. Beginning at 7 pm.
March 16 Video screening. Lion With a White Mane, a film by Jaromil Jires (1986). A period of the famous Czech composer Leos Janacek’s life from the premier of his opera Jenufa to his final days. Venue: Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, NYC, phone: 212-288 0830. Beginning at 7 pm.
March 28 City Sister Silver. A celebration of the release of the English translation of Jachym Topol’s debut novel. Reading from the novel followed by a discussion with the author, book signing & more. Books sold at half price discount. Venue: The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, NYC; phone: 212-255 5793, ext. 11. Beginning at 8 pm.
Eva Fuka: The Faces of Time. Exhibition of Photographs from Fuka’s
APrague period’, the 1950’s and 1960’s. Venue: Czech Center New York, 1109
Madison Avenue, NYC; phone: 212-288 0830. On view through March 31; Tue,
Wed, Fri: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Thur: 9:00 - 7:00 pm.
March 11 Czech & Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois presents a special event on the life of the first Czechoslovak president Thomas G. Masaryk. At 10:30 am, T.G. Masaryk School, 5701, Cicero, IL.
March 18 The Czech Heritage Society of Texas (http://czechheritage.org) presents the 16th Annual Czech Heritage Festival. At Bayfront Plaza Convention Center, 1901 N. Shoreline, Corpus Christi, TX. For information, call (361) 882-9226.
March 25 Czech & Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois presents a presentation by the genealogist Sandra Luebking. For information, call (708) 755-7652.
March 25 The May Association of Czechs and Slovaks in Seattle presents Josefska Zabava. Musical entertainment by II. Liga. Food and drink provided. Tickets $ 12. At Veterans’ Hall, 615 C St. SW, Auburn. For information, call (425) 556 1912 or (253) 946 3362.
March 26 The Czech Heritage Society of Texas (http://czechheritage.org), Harris County Chapter will present its fifth "Czech SpringFest" at the SPJST Lodge #88, 1435 Beall St, Houston, beginning at 11 AM until 7 PM. A typical Czech Sunday dinner will be served from 11 AM till 2 PM and sausage and sauerkraut will be available throughout the afternoon. Kovanda's Czech Band of Fayetteville & Bobby Jones Czech Band will be the musical entertainment. Demonstrations of Czech egg decorating "kraslice" will show one of the specialties of the Czech Republic. Other exhibitors will have imported items for sale as well as genealogy books for visitors to peruse. For additional information or directions to the site, contact Dan Hrna at 281-564-9800 or email@example.com.
Through March 26 The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (www.crma.org) presents the exhibit The Magical World of Peter Sis. At 410 Third Ave., SE. For information, call (319) 366-7503.
April 7-9, 2000 Davis Cup - United States vs. Czech Republic, at the Great Western Forum, Los Angeles, CA USA. For tickets, call (213) 480-3232.
April 9 Nebraska Czech Festival in Omaha, Sokol Hall, 13th & Martha St. For information, call: (402) 435-6914
Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic U.S. tour
March 1 Columbia, SC; 2 Atlanta, GA; 5 Danville, VA; 6 Elon College, NC; 10 Wabash, IND; 16 Rock Island, IL; 18 Houghton, IL; 19 Green Bay, WI; 20 Rockford, IL; 26 Indianapolis, IN; 27 Tiffin, OH; 28 Detroit, MI; 29 Pittsburgh, PA; 30 Washington, PA; 31 Lancaster, PA; April 1 Carlisle, PA; 2 Winchester, VA; 4 Williamsport, PA; 5 South Orange, NJ; 8 Merrick, NY. For time and venue, call (212) 581-8478.
ALPHONSE MUCHA Exhibition Itinerary
October 16 - January 2, 2000, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA; January 29 - March 26 2000, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN.
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids
Call (319) 362-8500 for more information.
Permanent exhibit: Homelands: The Story of the Czech & Slovak People. This exhibit tells the story of the Czech and Slovak people from the days of Slavic tribes wandering into Central Europe, through the Velvet Divorce in 1993. Homelands features art, a 1935 Czech-made motorcycle, folk costumes and military artifacts. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m to 4 p.m., Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Feb. 27: Sunday Lifelong Learning Series. Matthew Kollasch, director of Instructional Resources & Technology Services at the University of Northern Iowa, will present an overview of his work with the Slovak library community. 2 p.m. Free. Heritage Hall. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 30 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Call (319) 362-8500 for information.
March 13: Kava a Knihy (Coffee and Books) Reading Discussion Series, 7-9 p.m. Free. The month’s book title is Dvorak in Love, by Josef Skvorecky. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 30 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Call (319) 362-8500 for information.
March 15: Learn at Lunch. Celebrating the Saints, by St. Mary Lechtenberg. Learn about the saints of the spring calendar, particularly St. Patrick and St. Joseph and the different ways their special days are celebrated. Bring a sack lunch and learn about Czech & Slovak culture. Noon. Heritage Hall. Free. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 30 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Call (319) 362-8500 for information.
March 14-19: Celebrating the Saints, culminating in the March 19 St. Joseph’s Day celebration. Parade in Czech Village at noon. On March 14-19, museum visitors who are wearing Czech red or who are named Joseph, Josephine or some variation thereof will receive $1 off admission. Offer extended to anyone wearing a St. Patrick’s Day button and anyone wearing green.
March 22: Pardubice Orchestra. Sinclair Auditorium, Coe College. 7 p.m. Call (319) 362-8500 for ticket information.
March 26: Sunday Lifelong Learning Series. 2 p.m. Free. Heritage
Hall. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 30 16th
Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Call (319) 362-8500 for information.