Active retiree receives award for services to Czech-US relations

Jirina Zizkovska LaVine, photo:

Jirina Zizkovska LaVine recently received the Czernin Palace Memorial Bronze Medal. Every year the Czech ambassador to the United States confers the prize on an individual or body that has made significant contributions to fostering Czech-US relations. Mrs Lavine, who is 82, was actually presented with the award by the Czech consul in Kansas City, where she has lived since leaving Czechoslovakia over five decades ago. On the phone from there, she told me a little about how she began promoting Czech culture in local schools.

"In 1984 there was reform of the Czech and Slovak Club here...and there had already been established the ethnic enrichment cultural commission, sponsored by the mayor of Kansas City.

"I promoted our Club to it and they appointed me to be a commissioner. The purpose of the cultural commission is to promote our heritage. And to teach children in public schools what we are."

Do the school kids know much about the Czech Republic? And when you speak to them, what are they most interested in?

"Well, they are interested - especially small children - they are interested in what we do, what kind of costumes do we wear. I made my own costume - Chodsko from Domazlice, because I was born in Stankov, close to Domazlice.

"Then of course I've accumulated a lot of pictures of costumes from the whole region, from the whole Czech Republic."

I understand yourself also helped people here in the Czech Republic when there terrible floods here in 1997 and 2002.

"That is correct, yes. When I heard about that I just started calling all my friends and I collected at that time three thousand dollars and took it there personally in 1997. I gave it to the Olga Havel foundation for senior citizens in Moravia. I figured they are the ones who cannot work any more and they need help."

Recently you were awarded the Czernin Palace Memorial Bronze Medal for promoting the Czech Republic and Czech culture. What does that award mean to you?

"Well, I didn't expect that and I didn't work purposefully for that. I didn't even know that it existed. But I guess somebody noticed my work so they promoted me, so it's quite an honour."