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Dr. Charles Edward Proshek and his legacy honnored by H.E. Mr. Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

The personal story of Dr. Charles Edward Proshek is a remarkable reflection of the history of the Czech nation of about 150 years from a perspective of a Czech-American family of Minnesota, which has been actively co-writing it.

Dr. Proshek was born in 1893 as one of 12 children. His parents were brought to the United States from Bohemia as children. His grandparents had established a farm near New Prague around 1870. His desire to become a physician sprang from admiration of his home town physician, Dr. Edward Novak, also of Czech decent. Mr. Charles Proshek graduated from the medical school of the University of Minnesota in 1917. Soon after that, he decided to volunteer for the American Red Cross for duty in the war-devastated Eastern Europe. In Siberia he gave aid to the Czechoslovak Legionnaires, a major force in the campaign for the Czechoslovak independence. For his work done during his next two assignments, he was honored with high decorations by Greece and Yugoslavia. While in Czechoslovakia, he met and in 1922 married Gabriela Preissova, daughter of a prominent Czech writer, Gabriela Preissová. In 1928, Dr. Proshek accepted an appointment as Czechoslovak Honorary Consul for the Northwest. Prior to World War II, he and his wife carried on almost a 2-person campaign to bring young Czech scholars to the United States trying to save at least a few people from the Nazi tyranny, which they saw coming. They enabled more than 50 students to further their education in the United States with the hope that they would assist in the rehabilitation of their home country in the future. When the communists seized control of Czechoslovakia, only few years after the end of the World War II, he resigned the post of Honorary Consul after having served in the capacity for twenty years. However, he kept up close contacts with key scholars, leaders, and patriots in Czechoslovakia. He and his wife established extensive correspondence with refugees from Czechoslovakia and lifted their morale with letters of hope and thousands of relief packages personally purchased, packed, and shipped. Later, they helped many of them after they arrived to the United States. The principles of democracy and freedom were central to his involvement in the U.S. politics, which focused on the U.S. foreign policy. Dr. Charles Proshek passed away on October 20, 1957.

The legacy of Dr. Charles Proshek, however, continues to live on. His name is associated with a project that continues to assist the country of his ancestors. The Proshek Fellowship, since 1996 presented as Proshek – Fulbright Award, has been supporting, for decades, 3-10 months long fellowships of 2-3 Ph.D. graduates in medicine from the Czech Republic at the University of Minnesota every year. Over the years the program has proven to have a great positive impact on professional careers of the Czech fellows and through that on the development of medicine and the medical research in the Czech Republic. The Proshek Foundation was established by the estate of Mrs. Gabriela Proshek to honor her late husband. Mrs. Proshek shared with her husband a strong sense of responsibility for strengthening mutual relations between Czechoslovakia and the United States. The award shall also be an expression of appreciation of her merits, and of the merits of other family members. A key role in the development of the Foundation was played for many years by Dr. Lumír Proshek, the only son of Charles and Gabriela Proshek, a highly respected orthopedic surgeon.

On April 2, 2016, H.E. Mr. Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic honored Dr. Charles Edward Proshek in memoriam with the Karel Kramář Medal for his lifelong tireless support of democratic values and the people of the Czech Republic. The Karel Kramář Medal is a merit award of the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic for exceptional achievements in the defense of democracy, rule of law and human freedom. The award was established on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia and is named after the first Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak Republic, H.E. Mr. Karel Kramář.

The medal was presented to Mr. Charles Alan Proshek, grandson of Mr. Charles Edward Proshek. The medal was awarded in the presence of coordinators of the Proshek-Fulbright Award, Professor Paul Quie and Associate Professor Veronika Bachanova, without whose dedication this program could not have had such an extraordinary impact. Gratitude was expressed also to another Czech-American professor of the University of Minnesota and former Honorary Consul in Minnesota, the late Mr. Josef Mestenhauser, who was instrumental in enhancing the program through the partnership with the Fulbright Foundation. The University of Minnesota has been the most welcoming platform for the Proshek – Fulbright Program. Ms. Meredith Mc Quiad, Vice President and Dean of International Programs represented the University at the ceremony. 


Charles E. Proshek with his wife

Charles E. Proshek with his wife