Czechia prepares to celebrate Czechoslovak Independence Day
Czechoslovak Independence Day celebrates the founding of the independent state of Czechoslovakia on October 28, 1918, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I. Events are held around the country to mark the anniversary and honour Czechoslovakia’s first president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.
The first big event of the day is usually a commemorative ceremony at the Vítkov Memorial in Prague. This year the ceremony starts at 10 a.m. and will be attended by President Petr Pavel, Chief of the Army General Staff Karel Řehka, and a number of other high-ranking officials. After the arrival of the president, there will be a ceremonial military parade, as Defence Ministry spokesperson Simona Cigánková details.
“There will be a ceremonial parade and the ever-popular flypast of military aircraft, including two Gripen fighter planes and two helicopters. The ceremony will end with the laying of wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to pay homage to those who laid down their lives for the country.”
The president will indeed have a busy day, as following the ceremony at Vítkov he will then be appointing new generals at Prague Castle at noon. This will be followed in the evening by the traditional state awards ceremony at 8 p.m., where the president hands out honours and decorations to people who have contributed "outstanding services" to the Czech Republic.
The ceremony is distinguished this year by the fact that President Pavel will be distributing the awards for the first time. His predecessor, Miloš Zeman, caused political controversy in years past by selectively inviting government ministers based on his personal preferences, meaning some failed to receive an invitation from him and others refused their invitations in protest, with the result that the majority were not present at what should be a state occasion.
Many recipients also refused to accept an award from his hands, for example Jiří Brady, who survived two concentration camps and refused an award from Zeman in 2016, and Zdena Mašínová, who last year refused to accept an award from Zeman on behalf of her father, World War II resistance fighter Josef Mašín. Both Brady and Mašinová are expected to receive awards this year (Jiří Brady in memoriam, as he has since passed away.)
Eva Hromádková from Prague Castle's communications department told Czech Radio that the president received hundreds of suggestions for awardees this year, with parliament alone suggesting over 200 people.
“It won’t be possible to give all of the nominees an award this year, so the president will draw from the nominations list in forthcoming years as well. However, the number and names of the people that President Pavel decided to award this year won’t be made public before the ceremony.”
The Czechoslovak Legionnaire community in Prague are also holding commemorative events at Emauzy Square in Prague 2 and in Běchovice, a suburb of Prague where in 2018 an entire avenue of trees was planted for the Czechoslovak legionnaires. But the main attractions will undoubtedly be the Legionnaire's train at Masaryk station, a mobile replica of the real train that the Czechoslovak legionnaires used in Russia, and the Museum of the Czech Legions, which is open for the whole of Saturday for the occasion (usually it is only open Tuesday to Friday).