Czech the News

March 2002

Contents :

Message from the Ambassador

Czech Team Brings Home Two Medals

Parliamentary Elections Less Than Three Months Away

Havel Alludes to November’s NATO Summit in Prague

Ales Valenta Wins Gold at Salt Lake

Visa Waiver for US Citizens Extended

Two Brothers Meet on Olympic Ice

Milestones in Czech Ice Hockey

Masaryk Memorial to be Placed on Massachusetts Avenue

Vaclav Havel Fellowship at the University of Michigan

News Digest

Power Shifts in Radio Market

Government Steps Up Fight Against Money Laundering

CR Leads in Foreign Investment

Phone Market May Slow Down

US Steel May Invest in Czech Factories

Business Digest

Dark Blue World Shown in USA

Czech Embassy to Host Conference

Arnost Lustig at Politics & Prose

New Exhibition at the NCSML

Sixth Beseda Ball in New York City

Summer Opportunities for Learning Czech

Book Review: Alexander Kliment

Czech Cultural Center Houston

Events at the Embassy

Czech Events Around the USA

Message from the Ambassador

We finally know the location where the statue of T. G. Masaryk will stand in Washington, and it is a prime place, indeed — a small park on Massachusetts Avenue in front of the Cosmos Club. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the American Friends of the Czech Republic, and especially to the efforts of AFoCR chairperson Milton Cerny, the Masaryk statue will stand on the so-called Embassy Row, adding a new and I dare say quite substantive dimension to the Czech presence in Washington. For those who are aware of the weight and depth of history, who connect their own lives to all of human existence as a whole, with all of its triumphs and tragedies, spirit and culture, this is truly welcome news. There may be debates, and even controversies, regarding the meaning and placement of Masaryk’s legacy in our contemporary political thought. There might be questions of our political history in the twentieth century that will require now, in the beginning of the twenty-first century, new examinations and even new answers. However, Masaryk’s permanent presence in Washington will remind us of the everlasting importance of personal integrity in politics and of basic political virtues, such as courage and readiness not only to talk in the times of crisis, but to act. Masaryk as an independent thinker and as a statesman will always be a silent partner to our ”social contract;” he will remain always, as he was in the past, a great challenger for future generations of Czech politicians. And certainly, there is one more aspect to his Washington presence that I would like to remind you all about: T. G. Masaryk will be here not only as a representative of Czechs living in the old country, he will stand as a representative for many generations of Czech Americans here in the U.S. In this capacity, he can and he will be perceived as the best possible guardian of Czech-U.S. relations.

Havel Alludes to November’s NATO Summit in Prague

A special report on the Czech Republic in The Washington Times appeared in late January and featured an interview with Czech President Vaclav Havel. The interview focused on the upcoming NATO summit, which will be hosted by the Czech Republic in Prague, and the president’s ideas about his future and the future of the Czech presidency.

President Havel began by commenting on the symbolism inherent in holding the NATO summit in Prague so shortly after the Czech Republic joined the Alliance, stating that "the summit reconfirms the commitment of NATO to the enlargement process, and demonstrates that enlargement is taken seriously." In response to the question of how far NATO should expand, Mr. Havel spoke about the need for the alliance to have shared values and the importance for its member countries, especially the new countries, to act wisely in selecting new members. He told The Washington Times, "The enlargement debate depends on the behavior of applicant countries as well as those members that recently admitted. They all have a responsibility exceeding their own fate."

In response to a question regarding his successor, President Havel told The Washington Times, "I would find it marvelous if the next president were popularly elected. It bestows legitimacy onto the office and would strengthen the position." As for his future after the presidency, Mr. Havel said that he is planning to read and study and perhaps write a play or a book of reflections from the viewpoint of high politics, as he has had "a lot of experiences from the time when the world changed profoundly."


Czech Team Brings Home Two Medals from Salt Lake City

On Sunday, February 24 the 2002 Winter Olympics came to a close, ending a memorable two weeks in which the world came together to cheer on 2,526 of its greatest athletes.

The Czech Olympic team, made up of 78 athletes, competed in 12 events and brought home two medals. Ales Valenta made Olympic history when he landed an unprecedented five twist triple back flip in the men’s freestyle skiing event, a jump he had never before landed in competition. The incredible move earned him a gold medal, the second Czech medal of the games. Katerina Neumannova, a silver and bronze medalist in Nagano in 1998, won the bronze in the 15 kilometer cross-country skiing competition with a time of 40 minutes and 1 second, 6.9 seconds behind the gold medal score.

The games were a delight to the American home audience, whose team won a record breaking 34 medals, second only to Germany's 35. Following the Americans were the traditional winter Olympic heavyweights: Norway with 24 medals, Canada and Russia with 17 medals each, and the alpine skiing super-power Austria with 16.

The most disappointing Olympic moment for the Czech Republic was the Czech hockey team’s 0-1 loss to Russia. The close game was largely decided by goal-tending, with Russia’s Khabibulin making 41 saves in an amazing performance. Despite the loss, the Czech team played excellent, "I am very disappointed, but I also feel proud because of the way we played," said Dominik Hasek, the Czech goalie who plays in the NHL for the Detroit Red Wings. "Both teams had great chances, and I think we had even more great chances. One goal was the difference."

Overall, Salt Lake City will be remembered for its superb Olympic winter games. Despite the controversy surrounding the judging of the pair skating competition, the athletes shone brightly with amazing moments of record breaking feats and personal triumph. Perhaps Mitt Romney, head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, summed up the games best when he said, "It was more wonderful, more significant than we ever imagined." Now the world can look forward to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, where the Czech hockey team will once more be able to pursue, and perhaps win, Olympic gold.

Parliamentary Elections Less Than Three Months Away

Advance Registration Necessary for Czech Citizens Living Abroad

This year, the elections to the Lower House of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, scheduled for June 14 and 15, will be open for Czech citizens abroad. Those who sign up will be able to cast their votes at Czech Embassies and Consulates throughout the world. The Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Consulates General in New York and Los Angeles will serve as polling stations in the USA.

All Czechs abroad participating in the elections will vote for candidates from the South Moravian region, as decided by a random draw made in February. Those who wish to vote are required to register with the Czech Embassy or Consulate General in their area. Registration must be done by May 5, 2002. By this date, all prospective voters should submit, either in person or in writing, the following documents: proof of identity and Czech citizenship (one of the following: a Czech passport, personal I.D./obcansky prukaz or certificate of citizenship) and proof of residence (a government-issued I.D.). If a photograph does not appear on the citizenship certificate, another photo I.D. must be submitted.

Once registered with the Embassy or Consulate General (no later than May 5, 2002), voters must appear in person on June 14 or 15 to cast their vote. A valid Czech passport must be presented at the time of voting.

For more information on the elections in both English and Czech, please see the Embassy web page at

Ales Valenta Wins Gold at Salt Lake

On February 19, Czech freestyle skier Ales Valenta made Olympic history by landing an unprecedented quintuple-twisting, triple back flip, a move he had landed only several times before, and never in competition. His incredible feat earned him a gold medal, which was an unexpected bonus for Valenta. "I was pretty happy after I landed it -- even for me, the five-twist is still a shock," he said. Salt Lake City is Valenta’s second Olympic games -- he competed in Nagano in 1998 and finished in fourth place. He also qualified for the 1994 Lillehammer games, but was called up for service in the Army and was unable to go. Valenta, who is originally from Sumperk, a town in the northeast part of the Czech Republic, has been hooked on freestyle skiing since a friend introduced him to the sport in middle school.

After trying all three programs (moguls, aerials and acrobatics), he settled on aerials as his specialty. Ales Valenta (born in 1973) currently lives in Vienna, where he trains with his coach Pavel Landa.

Visa Waiver for U.S. Citizens Extended

As mentioned in previous issues of Czech the News, a new visa regime for US travelers to the Czech Republic entered into force beginning January 1, 2002. Under the current regulation, US citizens are allowed to stay on the territory of the Czech Republic for up to 90 days (previously 30 days).

However, the visa waiver does not apply to visitors intending to engage in gainful activities. In such cases (employment, etc.), a visa will be required for visits shorter than 90 days. At the same time, the new regulation does not impact visa requirements for long term visitors (over 90 days) or non US nationals who are temporarily or permanently residing on US territory.

Two Brothers Meet on Olympic Ice

For the second time ever in Olympic history, brother was pitted against brother on Olympic ice when the Czech Olympic hockey team played the Germans on February 15 in Salt Lake City. Robert Reichel of the Czech team squared off against his brother, Martin Reichel, who moved to Germany 12 years ago and came to Salt Lake as part of the German team. Germany’s win over Latvia ensured that the two brothers would play each other, a surprise for Robert Reichel. "He didn’t think we could get into the finals," Martin Reichel said of his brother. However, Germany’s advance was short lived as the Czech team soundly defeated the German team with an 8-2 victory.

Perhaps the Czech team’s success in Salt Lake City can be attributed to the fact that this year’s Olympic hockey pucks were made by the Czech company Gufex. Gufex took over the honor of providing the pucks from the Slovak firm, Vegum, a result of that company's claim to have invented the world’s only smear-free puck. These innovative smear-free pucks spare rink cleaners hours of scrubbing black marks caused by pucks careening off of the sides of the rink.

Milestones in Czech Ice Hockey

1909 Seven Czech players were first introduced to "Canadian Hockey" in Chamonix, France

1911 The Czechs win their first gold medal in a European hockey competition

First World Championship Czechoslovakia takes third place behind Canada and the USA

1936 A Czechoslovak domestic league begins. Prague LTC (Lawn Tennis Club) takes first place in the league and continues to dominate Czechoslovak hockey until the 1948-1949 season (during WW II, however, the championship games were put on hold).

1947 Czechoslovaks gain their first World Hockey Championship title in Prague.

1949 Czechoslovaks again win the World Hockey Championship, this time in Stockholm, Sweden.

1972, 1976, 1977 Czechoslovaks win the gold against the USSR at the World Championships, thus breaking a long series of victories for the Soviet team

1985 Czechoslovaks win the gold at the World Championship in Prague. This is the last ”Czechoslovak” title to be won.

1996 The Czech Republic wins the World Hockey Championship in Vienna, Austria -- its first world title after the separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

1998 The Czech Republic wins the Olympic Gold Medal against Russia, winning 1-0 in Nagano, Japan.

1999, 2000, 2001 The Czech Republic wins gold medals in three World Championships in a row.

Masaryk Memorial to be Placed on Massachusetts Avenue

At a meeting on Friday, March 1, the National Capitol Memorial Commission decided that the Tomas Garrigue Masaryk Memorial Statue shall be located at the site bounded by Massachusetts Avenue and 22nd Street in Northwest Washington, DC.

The commission made its final decision between two locations – the originally planned site in front of the World Bank at the intersections of H ST., Pennsylvania Avenue, and 19th Street, or the site on Massachusetts Avenue.

In the end, arguments in favor of the Massachusetts Avenue location prevailed. The crucial argument was based on the view that Massachusetts Avenue is increasingly becoming an area of international note with a high concentration of embassies and a growing number of memorials and statues commemorating prominent statesmen from foreign nations.

Contributions Also Coming from the Homeland

The memorial's existence is aided not only by financial support from Americans of Czech descent: institutions in the Czech Republic are also contributing to the success of the project with indispensable donations. As of today, organizations from the Czech Republic have contributed $27,000, with even more money pledged. So far, the largest contributor is the city of Brno ($11,400), followed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ($10,000), and the city of Prague ($5,600).

Vaclav Havel Fellows Program at the University of Michigan

On September 5, 2000 Vaclav Havel visited the University of Michigan to receive an honorary degree. On that occasion, Lee C. Bollinger, U-M president, inaugurated the Vaclav Havel Fellows Program to honor the Czech president. The fellowships provide assistance for students of exceptional promise in Rackham doctoral programs at the University of Michigan in three categories: The Vaclav Havel Fellowship for Incoming Graduate Students who are Residents of the Czech Republic provides five years of support for an incoming student in a Rackham doctoral program; The Vaclav Havel Fellowship in Czech Studies will provide five years of support for an incoming student to a Rackham doctoral program at the University of Michigan who expects to focus his or her graduate studies on the Czech lands and culture; and finally, the Vaclav Havel Dissertation Award is a twelve-month fellowship for University of Michigan students enrolled in a Rackham doctoral program to conduct research anywhere in the world or to compose a dissertation that focuses on topics that reflect the life, work, intellectual contributions, or spirit of President Vaclav Havel.

For more information about these awards, please contact the International Institute of the University of Michigan at 734.763.3297 or go to

News Digest

Kavan Discusses Bilateral Relations, Terrorism in Indonesia

February 4 Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan held talks with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and other Indonesian representatives on bilateral relations and the fight against terrorism in Jakarta. Minister Kavan welcomed the fact that Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, had condemned the terrorist attacks against the USA last September. The Czech Foreign Minister also held talks with his counterpart, Noer Hasan Wirajuda. Among other issues, they discussed the possible import of Czech-made Skoda Fabia cars to Indonesia. He was also interested in the reconstruction of public transport in Indonesian cities, which could involve deliveries of Czech buses and trams. On his south-east Asian trip, Minister Kavan also visited Thailand and Singapore.

Chamber of Deputies Passes Bill on Referendum

February 7 The Chamber of Deputies passed a constitutional bill on referendum by the necessary three fifth majority of 120 votes, as the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) voted en bloc against it. The deputies increased from 300,000 to 500,000 the minimum number of supporting signatures necessary for a plebiscite to be called. The bill has not yet been discussed by the Senate.

People Deported to Camps in the former Soviet Union to be Compensated

February 7 Czechs who were deported to Soviet camps in the 1940s and 1950s will receive compensation according to a law passed by the Chamber of Deputies. They will receive 12,000 CZK for each month of detention. The bill has yet to be discussed by the Senate, and signed by the President. The bill was supported by 115 out of the 169 deputies present, while only 21 voted against it. According to the group of KDU-CSL and Freedom Union deputies who submitted the bill, the Soviet counter-intelligence deported around 1,000 Czechoslovak citizens; only 150 of them returned. The verdicts issued against the deportees by the Soviet courts were abolished by the Soviet Union in January 1989.

Four-party Coalition Splits

February 8 The center-right Coalition-of-Four (4K) of the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (DEU), and the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) split after a crisis caused by the unresolved ODA’s debts. Cyril Svoboda, Chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, and Hana Marvanova, Chairwoman of the Freedom Union-DEU, announced that their parties would run on joint ballots under the name "Coalition" in the June parliamentary elections. Unlike the former Four-party Coalition, the new alliance will have no joint structures, no joint leader, and no shadow cabinet. The Coalition officials believe that their grouping will be a strong and trustworthy alternative to the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) and the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), which have been bound by a power-sharing opposition pact since the 1998 elections. The ODA will run independently in the upcoming elections.

Chamber of Deputies Approves Free Access to StB Files

February 8 The Chamber of Deputies approved a law that will allow citizen access to any files of the former Communist secret police, upon written request. Files of foreign nationals, as well as files whose content could endanger state security or human life, will remain classified. The vote was 102 in favor and 53 against. The ruling Social Democratic Party's vote was split, with CSSD Chairman Vladimir Spidla voting against the bill and Prime Minister Milos Zeman being absent when the vote was taken. The bill is yet to be passed by the Senate, and signed by President Vaclav Havel.

Czech Court Jails Former Secret Police Members

February 11 A district court in Prague sentenced two former members of the communist secret police to three years in prison for having tortured anti-regime dissidents. Zbynek Dudek and Jiri Simak were acting on orders received within the "Asanace" campaign which was aimed at forcing Charter 77 signatories to leave the country by means of violence or threats in 1977-85. The trial of five former StB officials accused of masterminding the campaign, including former Interior Minister Jaromir Obzina, is still under way. Both the accused and the prosecution, which is seeking a more severe punishment, said they would appeal the sentence.

Czech-Slovak KFOR Battalion Starts Transport to Kosovo

February 13 The first soldiers of the Czech-Slovak KFOR battalion left for the province of Kosovo to join the peacekeeping mission. The establishment of the joint Czech-Slovak unit was agreed upon by the two governments last year. The Czech part of the battalion is made up of 400 troops of the 73rd mechanized company, while Slovakia has provided the immediate reaction unit made up of 100 soldiers. The primary task of the joint battalion will be to guard the border between Serbia and Kosovo, ensure a peaceful return of refugees, support humanitarian organizations, and to ensure with the U.N. civilian administration the security of ethnic minorities. The troops will be deployed in the British sector, 90 kilometers from the Kosovo-Serb border, and will replace the 11th reconnaissance company.

Czechs Favor Big NATO Expansion

February 20 Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told the Chamber of Deputies Foreign Affairs Committee that the Czech Republic was in favor of a large expansion of NATO. According to Kavan, at its November summit in Prague, the Alliance should admit up to seven new countries, in light of the changing security challenges that emerged after the September 11 terrorist attack against the United States.

Chemical Protection Unit Leaves for Kuwait

February 26 A ceremony, attended by the Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and US Ambassador Craig Stapleton, was held in Liberec, northern Bohemia, to mark the departure of a chemical protection unit which will be deployed in Kuwait as a part of the operation Enduring Freedom. The unit will be stationed at a US base to protect the personnel. The company comprises 250 soldiers, including 7 women. The mission will last six months and cost 560 million CZK.

Power Shifts in Radio Market

The Czech Radio and TV Broadcasting Council (RRTV) approved the purchase of the Czech Londa Co. by Berlin-based Eurocast Rundfunk BG. Londa runs Radio Impuls, the country's most successful private radio station. Radio Impuls venture adds another country to Eurocast's portfolio. Despite an overall decline in radio listeners, Impuls enjoyed a steady increase last year when it grabbed a 12.5 percent share of the national market with around 979 thousand listeners. The station takes up to 10 percent of total radio advertising. Radio Impuls has reached almost the same audience as public broadcasting leader Cesky Rozhlas 1 - Radiozurnal, the traditional market leader.

Eurocast joins four other foreign investors currently in the Czech radio market: French Europe Development International, which runs Frekvence 1 and Evropa 2; Irish Radio Investments, owning the Kiss radio network; American Metro Media International with Country Radio and Radio 1, and the U.S.-based Clear Channel, which operates the Prague station Radio Bonton.

Czech Republic Leads in Foreign Investment

Nine years after the break-up of the former Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic has harbored more foreign direct investment than any other of the ten EU candidate countries. According to the European statistical agency Eurostat, in 1999, foreign direct investment accounted for over 11 percent of the Czech GDP.

The Czech Republic managed to attract a quarter of all investment in the Central European region. Foreign investors from Germany, USA, Japan, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other developed countries are lured by a complex system of investment incentives and advanced, yet inexpensive, labor.

The country's chief negotiator for EU accession, Mr. Pavel Telicka, said the Czech Republic intends to work even harder to win foreign investors from its regional competitors. Mr. Telicka also stressed that the competition is not fair because the investment incentives granted by the other candidate countries do not comply with EU standards. Czech officials boast that their incentives system has been negotiated with the European Commission and will, therefore, remain intact after the country joins the EU.

Government Steps Up Fight Against Money Laundering

On February 7, the government launched a twinning project between the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic called "Strengthening Actions against Proceeds from Money Laundering." The project is aimed at reinforcing measures to combat money laundering and associated financial crimes and to seize and confiscate proceeds from crime.

Mr. Clive Welsh, the project leader for the United Kingdom and the head of the judicial cooperation unit in the organized crime, drugs and international group of the UK Home Office highlighted the importance of combating money laundering: "Money laundering not only enables organized criminals to keep their ill-gotten profits. It can lead to corruption of people and institutions, to reduce revenue for the state, and it can undermine markets. September 11th gave a fresh impetus to the EU's fight against money laundering as a way of combating the financing of terrorism. Money laundering, particularly as committed by organized criminals and corrupt foreign leaders is constantly developing. The fight against money laundering both at the European Union level and within each country needs to develop even quicker."

Under the project, the Czech Republic will receive assistance in various forms that will enable the country to make the necessary legislative, institutional and technical changes for the fight against money laundering. For example, Britain will send experts to provide technical assistance in the Czech Republic. The desired results of the project include a higher rate of successful prosecutions and increased seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime. Advanced training and analytical techniques will be provided to personnel from a wide range of institutions.

Training both in the Czech Republic and the UK will be aimed at increasing the knowledge of personnel from both law enforcement agencies and the private financial sector about money laundering and counter-money laundering techniques. The Financial Analysis Unit at the Ministry of Finance is to become the main Czech anti-money laundering body.

A new system is to be built for data exchange between the financial analysis department, the revenue offices, and the law enforcement agencies. Changes are also to take place in the legislation. Tax advisors, auditors, and advocates will have the obligation to report suspicious transactions made by their clients.

Phone Market May Slow Down

The leading Czech mobile phone operator Eurotel posted a lower-than-expected profit in 2001, prompting analysts to revise their estimates down to account for slowing growth in a saturated market. Eurotel, a subsidiary of the dominant Czech fixed line operator Czech Telecom, said net profits rose to CZK 6.1 billion ($165 million) from CZK 4.8 billion in 2000. Analysts had originally forecast profits of around CZK 6.2 billion.

The Czech Republic has an almost 70 percent mobile market penetration, making the country the most developed in Central Europe. Eurotel beat its rivals in attracting new clients during the peak Christmas season to sign up a total of 1.07 million new users in 2001. Its client base stood at 3.24 million at the end of 2001, or 31.5 percent of the Czech population.

All operators gained most of their customers by offering inexpensive pre-paid services and subsidizing the cost of phones. According to Eurotel, many of the new clients had not subscribed to a mobile phone service earlier because of the costly down payments.

Market analysts said that Eurotel's best years were over and the other two Czech operators, Deutsche Telekom's RadioMobil and Cesky Mobil of Canada's TIW, would also show weaker revenue figures.

Business Digest

February 1 Czech Railways announced an increase in passenger transport revenues of CZK 100 million year-on-year in January 2002, twice the estimated total. A recent hike in tariffs should bring in an additional CZK 650 million by the end of 2002. The CZK 3.4 billion loss in 2001 was lower than the expected CZK 5 billion.

February 4 The Czech Republic major steelmaker Vitkovice Steel announced that it had launched production of nearly 60,000 tons of steel sheets worth $20 million (CZK 730 million) for Croatia's two leading shipyards. The contract is to be fulfilled this year.

February 6 According to a Shopping Monitor Central Europe poll carried out by GfK Praha and Incoma Research, Hungarian shoppers are the most satisfied with retail prices (45 percent), followed by Czechs (42 percent), Poles and Slovaks. Czechs prefer hypermarkets (29 percent), Hungarian’s and Slovaks smaller self-service markets (33 percent/52 percent), and Poles over-the-counter shops (49 percent).

February 7 Czech sugar beet farmers will file a lawsuit against the Eastern Sugar Co., which recently closed down a sugar-processing factory in Praha-Modrany, claiming that the company abused its monopoly powers and drove 61 sugar beet suppliers out of business. According to the Agrarian Chamber, the farmers are asking for CZK 200 million in damages.

February 7 CSOB Bank, owned by Belgium's KBC Bank, has announced that beginning on March 1, cash withdrawals from ATMs will no longer be free. Withdrawals from non-CSOB terminals will cost CZK 25 ($0.70) per transaction and CZK 5 ($0.14) for withdrawals from its own machines. ATM transactions overseas will remain free for CSOB clients.

February 8 Skoda Auto, a part of Volkswagen Group, intends to launch its new upper-class sedan "Superb" onto selected European markets in March. Germany and Switzerland will be the first to get the new model. The Czech manufacturer intends to increase the current output of 30 Skoda Superb cars per day to 150 by the summer.

February 13 In 2001, revenues in the service sector increased 4.3 percent. Retail revenues, including sales and repairs of motor vehicles and sales of fuels, also increased 4.3 percent annually, according to the Czech Statistical Office.

February 14 The government approved a pension bill that increases the amount of retirement pensions per year. The bill compensates pensions for inflation by 2 percent every January. The bill also stipulates additional hikes, provided that the inflation rate exceeds a certain level.

February 15 The Czech Republic will receive more than CZK 1 billion ($28 million) from the EU's ISPA program for the support of large infrastructure projects, the Finance Ministry announced. The money will also be used to prepare the country's administration for EU standards.

February 18 The Lower House of the Parliament passed an amendment to the Law on Public Tenders aimed at making selection procedures more transparent. The current law granted the government an exception from the obligation to call a public tender for investment projects in the state sector.

February 19 The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic reached 9.4 percent in January, up from 8.9 percent in the previous month. This is the fourth consecutive rise and the January figure is the highest in almost two years. Employment offices throughout the country registered 27,000 new job applicants since the end of December. The Labor Ministry said a slowdown of domestic economic activity and lower foreign demand were behind the increasing number of jobless people.

February 20 The cabinet approved an 11 percent increase in the fixed portion of pay to state workers, effective as of March. For state healthcare workers, the increase will be 18 percent. The fixed amount accounts for about 70% of the employee's paycheck and will translate into a monthly increase of about CZK 1,000 - 2,000. This will lead to extra expenses of CZK 6 billion a year. Some schools and hospitals will reportedly lower bonuses, benefits, and other wage components to be able to afford the increase.

February 21 Construction output rose 9.6 percent in 2001, the highest growth since 1989. The overall industrial production increased by an estimated 6.0-6.5%. The strong annual growth in construction came despite a 6.8 percent decline in December caused by cold weather and the recession in Western Europe.

February 25 The Lower House passed a commercial-code amendment to extend the required warranty on consumer goods from six months to two years. If given final approval by the Senate, the legislation will take effect in 2003. Consumers will be able to choose to accept a refund, a discount, a replacement, or a repair. Currently, the only options available to consumers are to seek a replacement or a repair. Retailers said the extension of the warranty could lead to higher prices.

February 27 The Czech foreign trade balance finished last year with a CZK 119 billion deficit, 1.8 billion less than compared to 2000. Exports increased by 13.1 percent, while imports grew by 11.7 percent. The trade surplus with Germany fell 50 percent in 2001. Slower trade with Germany was compensated in part by trade with Slovakia, Poland, Austria, Italy and Belgium. Many Czech companies suffered the effects of the German recession near the end of last year.

U.S. Steel May Invest in Czech Factories

U.S. Steel plans to expand to the Czech market soon through acquisitions of some of the country's steel mills. America's leading steel maker showed a growing appetite for the steel industry in the Czech Republic, having established a dominant position in neighboring Slovakia. U.S. Steel has not yet specified the target companies or size of the planned acquisitions.

Czech media reported the U.S. steel giant had expressed interest in buying into the Nova Hut, Vitkovice and Vysoke Pece Ostrava steel companies. However, the company declined to comment on the claims. U.S. Steel adopted the troubled Slovak steel maker VSZ Kosice's core steel making operations in late 2000, the first and so far the only European acquisition. The American investor then re-focused the plant's production on value-added goods like steel sheets used in car-making. The plan is to attract the region's car makers, such as Volkswagen, the Czech Republic's Skoda, General Motors, and Russian AutoVAZ. It is not yet clear whether the potential Czech acquisitions would be carried out and managed by the Kosice unit, or directly from the company’s headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Dark Blue World Shown Around the USA

The Czech film, "Dark Blue World," which set box office records in the Czech Republic last spring, was recently released in the US by Sony Picture Classics. The film, directed by Jan Sverak, tells the story of two Czech pilots, Franta Slama (Ondrej Vetchy) and Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hadek), who escaped Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia to fight the Germans with the RAF. The story is artfully told through a series of Franta’s flashbacks from a labor camp in 1950 communist Czechoslovakia, where he was sent by the communist regime upon returning to his country after the war. Despite his patriotic fight against the Nazis, the regime maintained that he had been tainted by democracy and he was therefore imprisoned.

The story of the two pilots begins with the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and Franta and Karel's subsequent decision to escape and fight for their country from abroad. We next see them in England where Franta, Karel, and a few other Czech pilots fight the Battle of Britain with the RAF. However, the plot gets complicated when Karel meets and falls in love with a beautiful Englishwoman, Sarah (Tara Fitzgerald), whose husband is missing in action. Karel introduces Franta to Sarah, and before long Franta and Sarah fall in love, leaving Karel out in the cold. Now the war is not only between the Luftwaffe and the RAF, but between two best friends. The film presents this love triangle as a microcosm of the larger ironies and betrayals of the time, while paying tribute to the bravery of the Czech pilots who fought for their country, only to be imprisoned upon their return.

Czech Embassy to Host Conference

The Czech Embassy in Washington will host a two-day conference entitled "The Czech Republic and Czech Americans - Mutual Ties and Joint Partnership," which will focus on a discussion regarding the strengthening of ties and enhancing the cooperation between the Czech Republic and Czech Americans.

The conference will take place on May 17 and 18, 2002 on the premises of the Embassy in Washington, D.C. The event will begin informally with a reception on Friday, May 17, at the Embassy.

The conference's official opening, which is scheduled for the following Saturday morning (May 18), will be attended by Mr. Martin Palous, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the USA, who will greet the participants and begin the conference with his introductory remarks.

The panel discussions will include topics such as politics, media, culture and education, as well as business and trade.

The gathering will conclude on Saturday afternoon, May 18, 2002.

Arnost Lustig Presents his Latest Novel at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC

On February 17, author Arnost Lustig presented his latest work, House of Returned Echoes, to a packed house at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC. Lustig and a reader presented a chapter from the novel, a fictionalized yet haunting memoir of his father who perished in Auschwitz. The reading was followed by a fascinating and quite animated ”Q & A” session and booksigning.

New Exhibition at the NCSML

On April 12, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa will open a special exhibit entitled, "Kroje-Dress for the Dance of Life." This colorful exhibit will feature a large range of textiles and artwork, including traditional folk costumes and accessories, beaded garments, hand painted glass lantern slides, and paintings by Joza Uprka. The exhibit will run through October 13, 2002.

Sixth Beseda Ball in New York City

The 6th Beseda Ball in New York will take place this year on April 19 at the Colony Club on Park Avenue. This annual event is a social gathering of the Czech and Slovak community in the greater New York area, initially benefiting the Bohemian National Hall, and currently Columbia University’s Czech Studies program. This year, the white/black tie event is limited to 200 guests. The Czech and Slovak ambassadors will be the guests of honor. Mrs. Betty Lee Knorr is the ball’s chairmen. The event will be co-chaired by the Consul General in New York City, Mr. Petr Gandalovic. For further information, please call or fax to 212.628.0214.

Summer Opportunities for Learning Czech

As per tradition, a number of opportunities exist this year to study the Czech language in the Czech Republic during the summer months. Perhaps the most well-known of these courses are the Czech Summer Courses for Foreigners, organized by the Institute of Linguistic and Professional Training of Charles University in Prague. This year’s courses will run from July 8 - August 2, 2002; they are offered for students of all levels, from complete beginners to those who are advanced. For more information, please refer to the Institute’s web site at, or contact: Univerzita Karlova, Ustav jazykove a odborne pripravy, Vratislavova 10, 128 00 Praha 2, Czech Republic, tel 420.2.2499.0411, fax 420.2.2499.0440, email:

For language study outside of Prague, courses are taught at a number of other Czech institutions, most notably at Masaryk University in Brno and Palacky University in Olomouc. For the program in Brno, contact Eva Rusinova at: Kabinet cestiny pro cizince, Filozoficka fakulta Masarykovy univerzity, Arne Novaka 1, 660 88 Brno, Czech Republic, tel 420.5.4112.1130, fax 420.5.4112.1406, internet: Finally, this year’s Summer School of Slavonic Languages, offered at the Philosophical Faculty of Palacky University in Olomouc, will take place from July 21-August 16. For more information, contact: Milada Hirschova at: LSSS FFUP, Krizkovskeho 10, 771 80 Olomouc, tel. 420.68.563.3172, fax 420.68.522.9162 or visit

For a completely different type of study, the U.S.-based Fund for American Studies will hold its American Institute on Political and Economic Systems from July 11-August 4, 2002 in Prague. AIPES brings emerging leaders from universities throughout Central and Eastern Europe to Prague to study important political and economic concepts (for details on this program, please see Czech the News - February 2002 ). Using the American experience as a starting point, the participants examine several models for organizing their economies and governing their societies and are encouraged to apply these concepts to the transitions already underway in their home countries. Interested students can refer to the web site at or contact: The Fund for American Studies, 1706 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel 202.986.0384, fax 202.986.8930.

Book Review: Living Parallel by Alexandr Kliment

Living Parallel is the first novel to appear in English by Alexander Kliment, yet one more member of the incredible Prague Spring generation of Czech writers that includes Milan Kundera, Vaclav Havel, Josef Skvorecky, Ivan Klima, and Vladimir Paral. Living Parallel tells the story of Mikulas, an architect permitted to design only high-rise developments, who has been able to lead a parallel life, turning his anger into indifference and seeking satisfaction in nature, aesthetic experience, unrequited love, and ideals of architecture. He has lived in what he considers an oasis of the soul. But to get to this oasis, he has capitulated so often and so deeply, it is nearly impossible for him to make the most important decision of his life: to move to Paris with the woman he has loved for twenty years, or to stay in the land he loves, in whose countryside he has found a spiritual refuge. It is, in short, the story of an unusual love triangle.

Living Parallel is a contemplative novel about the conflicts of conscience, in the spiritual more than the political sense, which makes it just as relevant here and now as it was under Czech communism. The story is a melancholy reflection on how to live so that one’s life has meaning. But most of all, Living Parallel is a work of beauty. It is filled with striking images, fresh metaphors, and colorful language, a story meant to be read aloud. It is this novel’s art rather than its story that makes it worth reading long after the political situation has improved. To obtain this and/or other books by various Czech authors, please contact Catbird Press, or call 1.800.360.2391.

Czech Cultural Center Houston

Just recently, on February 26, 2002 the Board of Directors of the Czech Cultural Center authorized a contract for a new building to house the Center. Two days later, a ground breaking ceremony was held on the future site of the new building, which is to be located in the prestigious Museum District of the city of Houston at 4900 San Jacinto at Wichita Street. Present at the ceremony were Mrs. Effie Rosene, Chairman of the Board, Mr. Raymond J. Snokhous, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic and Capital Campaign Co-chair, Dr. Art Jansa, Capital Campaign Co-chair and Mr. William E. Bill Souchek, who at a young 96 and holding has been waiting a long time to see this dream come to fruition.

The Czech Cultural Center Houston celebrates the culture, language, scholarship and arts of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, and Silesia through a full calendar of events for 2002. The Center, which is currently located at 562 Northwest Mall in Houston, Texas, offers an extensive list of events for the upcoming months. In addition, the Center also offers Czech classes on: April 1,8, 15, 22,29 7:00-9:00 p.m.; October 7, 14,21,28 7:00-9:00 p.m.; and November 4,11,18,25 and December 9, 7:00-9:00 p.m. For more information, please contact the Czech Cultural Center at 713.682.4608.

2002 Season of Events at the Czech Cultural Center Houston

March - June

March 15, 7:00 pm

Annual Members Dinner, Junior League of Houston, 1811 Briar Oaks Lane

April 9, 7:00 pm

Monthly Social

The Czech Cultural Center Houston, The Market Place, Northwest Mall290 at Loop 610

April 19,24,30, May 3

The Makropulos Case

(In Czech with English subtitles)

Houston Grand Opera: Janacek

May 6, 13,20,27, 7:00 pm

Film, The Czech Cultural Center


June 17, 7:00 pm

Lecture (Distinguished Lecture Series)


Events at the Embassy

Thursday, April 4

Film•Throughout the upcoming months, we would like to introduce a cycle of films fusing remarkable Czech music and visual splendor. The Music and Film cycle offers its first installment with Jana Chytlova's documentary, The Plastic People of the Universe. This film tells the story of the legendary band whose members, though they insisted that their music was non-ideological, came to symbolize the yearning for cultural and artistic freedom in Czechoslovakia and found themselves in the center of a dissident movement. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are not required, admission is free. In Czech with English subtitles.

Tuesday, April 16

Concert•Czech songwriter, minister, and writer Svatopluk Karasek will perform a concert at the Embassy, accompanying himself on the guitar while presenting famous tunes to his own Czech lyrics. Prohibited from working as a pastor in the 1970's, Svata Karasek began performing his sermons as songs. He subsequently spent twenty years in exile in Switzerland, where he was able to pursue his ministry. Returning to Prague in the 1990's, Karasek continues his work at the Church U Salvatora and performs with his band Pozdravpambu. Please call: 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Friday, April 26

Film•In another installment of the Music and Film cycle, the Embassy hosts a screening of the Tomas Vorel directed 1990 Czech cult classic Smoke (Kour), a post-modernist black farce, symbolizing the totality of Communist rule. This film, which will be presented by the director himself, introduced the new form of cinema called "rhythmical." Incidentally, the film also stars many actors who have come to the Czech Embassy to perform over the last few years. Please join the Embassy for this engaging evening, which will also be the last event presented by the departing Cultural Attaché, Marcel Sauer. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are not required, admission is free. In Czech with English subtitles.

Thursday, May 30

Theater•Washington's SCENA Theatre presents a workshop production of Franz Kafka's Castle, directed by Robert McNamara on the occasion of the upcoming anniversary of the author's death. Kafka's final novel, unfinished at his death in 1924, tells the haunting tale of a man's struggle with an inscrutable and threatening authority to gain entrance to the Castle. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are recommended. Please call 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets are $12 at the door. W

Czech Events Around the USA

March 26 - April 27

The Czech Center hosts "Questions of Space," an exhibition by Kveta Pacovska including graphic art and objects. Opening March 26 at 6:30 PM at the Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10028. For more information, please visit

March 28 - April 27

Kveta Pasovska presents "Paper Talk," a slide show and opening for the book exhibition. At 6 PM at the Jan Van der Donk Gallery, New York, NY.

April 11

The Czech Center hosts a video screening of An Ambiguous Report about the End of the World (Nejasna zprava o konci sveta), a 1987 feature film directed by Juraj Jakubisko. At 7 PM at the Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10028.

Every Weekend

Czech Voice of Cleveland with Joe Kocab on WERE AM/1300 Saturdays 2 - 3 PM

WERE AM/1300 Sundays 1 - 3 PM

March 21 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts Learn at Lunch, "Symbolism and Motifs in Czech and Slovak Easter Egg Decorating," by Marj Kopecek Nejdl, Master Folk Artist. Bring a sack lunch and learn the meanings of the various symbols and colors commonly used in the egg decorating art of the Czech and Slovak cultures. WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA, 12 PM. Admission is free. For more information, please call 319.362.8500

April 12 - October 6 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library presents Kroje - Dress for the Dance of Life! -- A colorful display exploring the significance of folk wear as it relates to politics, geography, nationalism, and local resources. At the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. For more information, please call 319.362.8500

April 14 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library presents Life Long Learning with "Beaded Glory -- Treasures from Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia" by Helene Cincebeaux, owner of the Baine/Cincebeaux Collection with a presentation about the variations of beadwork in Kroje and lead a gallery tour. At the WFLA Heritage Hall, 30 16th Avenue, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2 PM. Admission is free of charge. For more information, please call 319.362.8500

April 6 – 7 Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic Philadelphia Mr. Peter Rafaeli announces a performance by the Pittsburgh Opera Theater of Victor Ullman’s ”Emperor Atlantis,” a piece originally written and performed at the Terezin concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. At the Hazlett Opera Theater in Pittsburgh, PA. Further information and tickets can be found at More information about the activities of the Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Philadelphia can be found by calling 215.646.7777 or visiting

April 7 The American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club hosts a screening of Murder Czech Style, a 1966 film directed by Jiri Weiss. At 3 PM, for more information, please call 305.891.9130 or visit

April 14 Sokol South Omaha hosts the Czech/Slovak Folklore Festival with a Czech dinner, free Polka dance, the Czech queen introduction, marionettes, contests, prizes and much more. Sponsored by the Czech Cultural Club at the Sokol Auditorium, 13th & Martha Streets. From 10 AM – 6 PM. For more information, please visit or call 402.346.9802

April 21 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library presents Life Long Learning with ”Collecting Czech Glass 101,” by Joe Mattis, member of the Czech Collectors Association. Learn about the facts and fiction of collecting Czech decorative glass in all its various forms. At the WFLA Heritage Hall, 30 16th Avenue, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2 PM. Admission is free of charge. For more information, please call 319.362.8500

April 25 – 28 The Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota announce the Festival if Nations, held at the River Center. For additional information and other activities, please call 612.920.5949, email or visit

May 2 The Cornell University Wind Ensemble performs Karel Husa’s Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Orchestra at Cornell University, Ithaca New York. For more information, please call 607.255.4097.

May 13 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library presents Kava a Knihy (Coffee and Books) with a presentation of Commies, Crooks, Gypsies, Spooks & Poets by Jan Novak. . For more information, please call 319.362.8500.

May 17, 18 & 19 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library presents Houby Days, beginning on May 17 with the 2nd Annual Taste of Czech & Slovak courtesy of the Museum Guild of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. The NCMSL will hold a May Pole dance at 2 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Other activities include music, button accordion contest, folk dancing, games and the Miss Czech-Slovak Iowa pageant. For more information, please call 319.362.8500.

May 27 The Czech and Slovak Heritage Association will hold Memorial Day ceremonies at the historic Bohemian National Cemetery with speaker Ron Bartek, Secretary of the American Friends of the Czech Republic and a decorated Vietnam veteran. At 1300 Horner’s Lane in Northeast Baltimore, MD. At 11 AM, for more information, please visit

May 31 The Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota host a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at the C.S.P.S. Hall. For additional information and other activities, please call 612.920.5949, email or visit