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In Service of His Countrymen - Article on Czech Honorary Consul General Peter Rafaeli

The Consulate General proudly presents an article on Peter Rafaeli, Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic in Philadelphia, originally published by Views from the Park.

In service of his countrymen

Rydal resident stepping down after years of standing for others

Being dedicated to one’s country is something a lot of people talk about. But like they say, there are those who talk the talk and there are those who walk the walk. Rydal Park resident Peter Rafaeli is definitely one of the latter. After decades of fighting tirelessly on behalf of his fellow countrymen of the Czech Republic, and 15 years serving on American Friends of the Czech Republic’s (AFoCR) Board of Directors, Rafaeli will step down by the end of this year.

It was a long road from the former Czechoslovakia to becoming President of the Board. Born and raised in Bratislava, Rafaeli received his elementary and high school education there before moving to the U.S. He followed that up with an American high school diploma earned by attending classes in Montgomery County, Maryland. It was there, while living and working in Baltimore area in 1969, that news of the increasing unrest in his home country reached him.

Unlike many who would have simply counted themselves fortunate to have left when they did, Rafaeli could not sit idly by. “Many thousands of people were going to be placed in harm’s way. I knew I had to do something,” he recalls. So as troops of the Warsaw Pact invaded his native Czechoslovakia, he took action. With help of the Catholic Conference, the Tolstoy Foundation, and the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria, Rafaeli devised a plan to help his countrymen emigrate to the U.S.

Incredibly, he was able to help 19 families in refugee camps in Austria come to the U.S. and get them started on a new life with housing and employment.

Successful as it was, the magnitude of his endeavor would come as no surprise to those who know Rafaeli. He has excelled in every avenue of his life. In his business career, he rose to top leadership positions in several dealerships in the mid-Atlantic region for VW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche + Audi Divisions.

He joined the Czech Republic’s Board in 2001where he would be able to further assist those of his homeland. He became Treasurer in 2002, then Vice President and finally President in 2008. In those roles, he led the way on many projects, including flood relief in the Czech Republic and a number of projects in support of the Jewish Museum in Prague.

In the Winton Educational Project, he translated and arranged publication of the Czech educational book Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life by Matej Minác. He then established a fundraising program that was able to procure enough funds for the AFoCR to publish 17,000 copies. These books have since been distributed free of charge to educational institutions throughout the U.S.

What’s next for Rafaeli after retirement? Although he’s stepping down from his role as President, he’s not quite finished. He has agreed to become a Director Emeritus for the AFoCR, where he can continue serving as Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic for Philadelphia as well as do more traveling with his wife Naomi.