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EU Open House

Date: 09 May 2015 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Venue: Czech Embassy

Check  out  a  vintage  motorcycle  show,  trained  police  dogs,  and  live  music  while enjoying delicious food and the world famous Pilsner Urquell beer. Be fascinated by Karel Čapek, the writer who introduced the word “robot” to the languages of the world,  through a  reading  in  the  kids’ corner. Commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and learn how you can visit Pilsen – the Culture Capital of Europe 2015.


Welcome to the Embassy of the Czech Republic, representing a land of fascinating history shaped by its geography in Central Europe and people of great intellect and ingenuity.  This year, the embassy celebrates same through the upcoming fall Mutual Inspirations Festival 2015 – Karel Čapek, hereby launching the annual festival’s website and introducing this year’s prominent personality. Karel Čapek (1890-1938) was a Czech short-story writer, political thinker, and playwright. He is known today as an author of science fiction, which became a genre recognized after his time. He penned many of his works with his older brother Josef Čapek (1887-1945), who was famous in his own right as an artist and writer. The two brothers lived to see the political fallout in Europe leading to WWII, with Josef suffering an ill fate at the hands of the Nazis. Today, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the American liberation of a part of Czechoslovakia.  Let the staff at our welcome table direct you to stops around the embassy you can “Czech” out!
Karel Čapek is foremost renowned for introducing the word “robot” to the languages of the world in his 1920 science fiction play R.U.R., which stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots. Suggested by his brother Josef during a brainstorming session, the word robot is derived from the Czech word "robota" or "forced labor.” The futuristic play features nonhumans, who revolt, leading to the extinction of the human race. The play was an immediate hit, adding fuel to the public discussion of the 1920s as being the “machine age.” This modern mechanical progress was reflected in Czechoslovakia, which was one of the world's ten most industrialized states in the interwar period. As an example, founder František Janeček began producing superb motorcycles, JAWA, in Prague in 1929. Quickly becoming popular for reliability and success on the racetracks, JAWA bikes were and to this day continue to be exported all over the world (unfortunately not to the US). At the Czech Embassy, admire a one of a kind presentation of vintage JAWA motorcycle models.

Inventing the term “robot” for a science fiction focusing on philosophical themes is not the only time Karel and Josef Čapek teamed up.  Exploring lighthearted subjects, Karel wrote a year-round guide to gardening, The Gardener's Year (1929), with illustrations by his brother Josef. Both authors also enjoyed producing children’s literature. Karel authored Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in for Good Measure (1932), which is his collection of fairy tales and one from his brother. Josef’s illustrated series about the Doggie and Pussycat are considered classics of Czech children's literature, affectionately passed down by each generation. The collection of nine charming stories includes How They Made a Cake, How They Found a Doll That Cried Very Softly, and How They Washed the Floor.  As Josef explains in his forward in How They Wrote a Letter, “We want you to like all the doggies and pussycats in the whole wide world.” Bring your little one to the Embassy’s kids’ corner for a reading from one of his books.


Known for his great fantasy and wit, Karel Čapek produced several comedies. The Life of the Insects (1921), co-written with his brother, is a satirical play in which insects have various human characteristics. In Karel’s comedy The Robber, a professor is on the verge of losing his daughter, who becomes completely infatuated with a young protagonist. The play was first performed at the magnificent National Theater in Prague in 1920 and was a big hit with the domestic audience. Karel fell in love with the actress Olga Scheinpflugová, who performed its central role and remained the object of his passionate adoration until their marriage fifteen years later.  Karel saw the production for the last time in September 1938, coincidentally on the same night when the Munich Agreement was being signed allowing for neighboring Nazi Germany's annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia. Speak to our public diplomacy staff about the numerous theater, film, and exhibition events planned for this fall during the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2015 – Karel Čapek.


Karel Čapek was politically involved in what was going on in the inter-World War period around him. In 1917, he became a journalist. Soon thereafter, Karel met the then President of democratic Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who took his American wife’s last name Garrigue, a progressive act for his era. Čapek interviewed him over several years, publishing Talks with T.G. Masaryk, recording the President’s thoughts on life, politics, and nationalism. Karel himself took a strong stance in the 1930s against the threat of Germany, ardently condemning fascism. In turn, the Nazis labeled Karel as Czechoslovakia’s public enemy number two. Nevertheless, Karel refused to flee his country ahead of the impending war. He died of pneumonia in December 1938, merely a few months before the Gestapo, unaware of his death, came to arrest him. Joseph, unfortunately, was sent in 1939 to a German concentration camp, where he died in April 1945, just days before the Allied Armies arrived. Discuss our country’s history with our diplomats at the political table.


Fearing the growing power of Germany, Karel Čapek warned against the forces of evil in his works.  In the satirical science fiction The War with the Newts (1936), sea-dwelling newts are discovered. In time, the newts demand more living space, a reference to Nazi Germany desiring more “Lebensraum.” A global war for supremacy ensues. After over six long years of Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the 16th Armored Division of US General Patton's 3rd Army liberated the city of Pilsen (Plzeň) from the Nazis on May 6, 1945. The Americans remained in Pilsen to assist with rebuilding until November 1945. Although the communists seized power in 1948 and prohibited all recognition of the US Army’s role in liberating the city and surrounding Western Bohemia, the Czech people did not forget. Since the fall of communism in 1989, Pilsen has organized an annual Liberation Festival in May, attended by thousands including many American and Allied veterans. View exhibitions on the liberation of Pilsen, namely "WWII - War and Peace" a photo collection by James H. Duncan and "Broken Wings" and direct your questions to our special guest speaker. 


The year 2015 marks extraordinary days in Pilsen in the Czech Republic. The city celebrates both the 70th anniversary of its liberation at the end of World War II as well as its praiseworthy recognition as the European Capital of Culture 2015. With the first written record of a castle called Plzeň in 976 AD, Pilsen offers its visitors a vibrant history, embedded in wars over its Catholic heritage. Today, its most prominent sights are the Gothic St. Bartholomew's Cathedral with the highest church spire in Central Europe, the Renaissance Town Hall, and the Moorish Revival Great Synagogue, the second largest synagogue in Europe. As the European Capital of Culture 2015, Pilsner will offer more than 50 large shows and over 600 events year round, featuring circus tents, art exhibitions, theater, and the World Championship in Ice Hockey. Learn more about the celebrations and upcoming festivals from CzechTourism, the official Czech travel agency, and plan your visit to Pilsen - the European Capital of Culture 2015!


Located just 50 miles from the Czech capital of Prague and close to the border of Germany, the royal city of Pilsen was founded in 1295 on the crossing of four rivers. This geographic location on important trade routes has led Pilsen to become a thriving center for business and research.  Its Science and Technology Park is a key development providing a modern infrastructure for the support of research and innovation. The University of West Bohemia has excellent Schools of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Science, making Pilsen a lively college town. Still, Pilsen is foremost known for its most famous creation, pils beer. Brewed in Pilsen since 1842, Pilsner Urquell is the world’s first pale lager with nine out of ten beers today being made according to its style. Appropriately, Pilsner Urquell translates as the Pilsner from the original source. Indulge in a delicious draft while savoring our goulash and enjoying a mix of folk, dance and jazz by the DC based Czech band, Orchester Prazevica.

Being an immensely thematically diverse writer, Karel Čapek was able to captivate both the adult and young reader. As the Nazis gained power in neighboring Germany in 1933, he turned to a carefree theme in his children’s timeless tale of Dashenka: The Life of a Puppy.  The book is a chronicle of the early months of a puppy through words, drawings and photographs. Čapek’s fascination with the dog resonates with the Czech people, who have a long tradition of owning canines, with the most popular breeds being German Shepherds. Due to their high intelligence and loyalty, this breed was used in WWII by both the Allied and Axis powers.  Today, many fine bred and rigorously trained German Shepherds are imported from the Czech Republic to work alongside American anti-terrorist and crime fighting forces. Watch a demonstration of such skills and partnership by the Rockville City Police K-9 Unit, Cpl. Kyle Dickerson and Cpl. Heath Marshall and their Czech born German Shepherds.


With the inevitable war looming, Karel Čapek produced his last play, The Mother (1938). The antiwar drama focuses on a mother losing her husband and four sons to war, ending with her sending off her last living son to join the struggle for freedom and humanity, with the word, “Go.”  Czechoslovakia suffered under the Nazi rule, emerging as a democracy, then falling under forty years of communist rule. The Velvet Revolution re-established democracy in 1989. Czechoslovakia split into two sovereign states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Today, the Czech Republic is a staunch NATO ally and member of the European Union. Due to the hardships endured, the Czech people strongly advocate for democracy and human rights around the world, politically and militarily. This past year, our country rejoiced in twenty-five years of freedom and democracy. Tour the Ambassador’s beautiful residence.


EU Open House 2015