Czechoslovak Society for Sciences and Arts presents its 2007 awards

Tomas Halik

The Prague branch of the Czechoslovak Society for Sciences and Arts awarded their annual prizes for 2007 at the Senate on Thursday. Among those distinguished this year were Jan Sokol, professor of philosophy at Prague's Charles University and a former presidential candidate, and Tomas Halik, religious studies professor and a Catholic priest.

The 17th century Main Hall of the Valdstejn Palace in Prague's Lesser Quarter, the seat of the Czech Senate, was the venue for the annual award ceremony of the Prague Chapter of the Czechoslovak Society for Sciences and Arts on Thursday. The prizes are presented to people who work to promote the good reputation of Czech arts and sciences both at home and abroad.

The Czechoslovak Society for Sciences and Arts was founded in the United States at the end of the 1950s. Its primary goal was to maintain continuity of the country's sciences and arts in exile. Tomas Halik, one of this year's laureates, told me about his first encounter with the institution back in his student days.

Tomas Halik
"During the Prague Spring of 1968, I had for the first time the opportunity to travel abroad to visit Great Britain and the family of Dr. Bohumila Bradebrook. My first week in Great Britain I spent reading the magazine of the Czechoslovak Society for Sciences and Arts called Promeny, and since that time I have acknowledged our exile community as a very important part of our society and culture."

Today, the Society's branches are active all over the world including Australia and New Zealand and its mission is to associate anybody with interest in Czech and Slovak issues. After 1989, it began to be active inside Czechoslovakia and it even ignored the split of the country as its members are both Czechs and Slovaks. Tomas Halik explains the organization's significance.

"I think it is a very important society and it was, because during the communist totalitarian system, there were many Czech artists and scientists all over the world, and the Czechoslovak Society for Sciences and Arts was the platform to bring all those people together and to create a sort of symphony of the Czech culture in the world."

Among past recipients were such prominent figures as Vaclav Havel, writer Ivan Klima and violin virtuoso Josef Suk. This year, the prizes have also gone to Bohuslava Bradebrook, a Czech-born literature professor at Cambridge, actress Jana Hlavacova, opera singer Libuse Domaniska, piano player Ivan Klansky, writer and dissident Alexandr Kliment, visual artist Karel Malich and archivist and editor Zdenek Pousta.