Czechoslovak centenary celebrations held the world over

Centennial Gala in Chicago, photo: archive of Czech Foreign Ministry

Celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia on October 28, 1918 are taking place not only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also among Czech and Slovak communities the world over. From London to Chicago, Czechs and Slovaks are highlighting an event in their common history that put them on the road to independence.

Centennial Gala in Chicago,  photo: archive of Czech Foreign Ministry
Several dozen Czech and Slovak expats living in Strasbourg together with the countries’ MEPs, marked the anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s foundation on Tuesday with a mass in the city’s cathedral.

Another event to mark the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia is a concert by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, set to take place on Wednesday evening at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The performance, conducted by the New Chief conductor Semyon Bychkov, will include Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, with soloist Alisa Weilerstein, and Symphony No. 7. Among the guests to attend the event will be Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who is currently in London on a two-day official visit.

The Czech Philharmonic will continue with its series of concerts marking the centenary of Czech and Slovak independence with performances in New York on October 27 and in Washington on October 29.

So far the biggest celebrations of Czechoslovakia’s 100th anniversary have taken place in Chicago, the city which has perhaps the strongest Czech connection outside the Czech Republic. The Centennial Gala to honour city’s role in Czechoslovak Independence took place on September 28, on the occasion of Czech Statehood Day.

The event was co-organised by the Czech consulate in Chicago and was attended by hundreds of people, including a number of important guests. One of them Thomas Crane, the grandson of Charles Crane, an entrepreneur who supported Tomas G. Masaryk and sponsored Mucha’s Slav Epic.

He shared with Czech Radio his memories of the first Czechoslovak president:

“The president was my father’s mentor and he was so honoured to know him that he actually named me after the first president, which is an honour I have taken with me for all my life.

“But the deepest memory that stays with me was what a warm and compassionate person he was and how completely generous he was.”

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk in Chicago in 1917
Other guests included Jan Hamáček, speaker of the lower house of Czech parliament, Charlotta Kotík, the great-granddaughter of the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk or the grandson of the painter Alfons Mucha, Marcus.

The event was also attended by Antonin Cermak Kerner, the grandson of the Czech-born former mayor of Chicago:

“I think Tomáš Masaryk and Antonin Cermak both shared the ambition to bring people together, to bring tribes together and to enfranchise people in ways they wouldn’t be enfranchised if they were left alone in their tribes. We are greater as a community than we are by ourselves. So I toast all the Czech people and wish for continuing democracy and freedom.”

The city of Chicago will continue with the celebrations, with another Czech Philharmonic concert set to take place in the city on the first November weekend.