“Czechs abroad” project to award prize to greatest Czech living abroad

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Who is the greatest Czech living abroad? As part of the “Czechs abroad” project, the Foreign Ministry, together with Czech Radio and Czech TV, is finding the answer to that question. The ambitious initiative also seeks to paint a more vivid picture of those Czechs who do not live in their native country – through reports, conferences and discussions. Sarah Borufka has more.

Miloš Forman
Miloš Forman, Milan Kundera, Ivan Mendl: There are about 2 million Czechs or people of Czech origin who live abroad. Some of them escaped during communism, others were born abroad but have maintained a strong connection to the country of their parents and yet others moved away from home to pursue a career. Now, a unique competition seeks to find the greatest Czech living abroad. Through the end of June, listeners of Czech Radio and viewers of Czech TV can send in their picks. But how did this idea originate? I put the question to co-initiator Milena Štráfeldová, the head of Radio Prague’s Czech section.

“The 28th of September marks the Day of Czech Statehood. This year, that day is dedicated to Czechs in exile. A number of conferences, festivals, exhibitions and other events on that theme will be held this year. Czech Radio is also contributing to this: We wanted to paint a more vivid picture of Czechs living abroad for our listeners.”

The project “Czechs abroad” seeks to portray those Czech personalities who have left their native country. All stations of Czech Radio are involved, as well as Czech TV and the Foreign Ministry, which came up with the idea. Milena Štráfeldová again.

“We launched a competition to find the greatest Czech living abroad. On all our stations, we have called on our listeners to send in their suggestions. We have received about 70 to 80 so far. Among them are of course the big names: director Miloš Forman, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, as well as athletes like Jaromír Jágr and Martina Navrátilová. But also doctors like the US-based plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahač and a number of authors such as Milan Kundera. By the end of the month, we will announce the 20 winners and broadcast radio profiles devoted to these personalities. Listeners can then vote their favorite, who will be given their title on September 28th, in Prague’s National Theater.”

During the last week in September, a number of other festive events will honor Czechs living in exile. And for those who would like to see the greatest Czech living abroad receive their title, it is possible to buy tickets for the special gala evening in the capital’s National Theater.