Foreign Ministry awards people for promoting good name of Czech Republic

Photo: Miloš Turek

The Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday handed out Gratias Agit awards to fifteen Czech expatriates and foreigners for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. This year’s recipients included Jiří Bělohlávek, the late conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, or speed skater Martina Sáblíková.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  Georgina Sehnoutka Steinsky,  photo: Miloš Turek
The Gratias Agit awards for 2017 were handed out by the Minister of Foreign Affair, Lubomír Zaorálek, at a ceremony traditionally held in the Great Hall of Czernin Palace, home of the foreign ministry.

Among the Czech-born recipients who attended the event was Georgina Sehnoutka Steinsky, who has been actively supporting the Czech-Canadian community in Toronto.

“I am very grateful, I am very honoured and I am very humbled. I did a lot of these things simply because I think one should do these kinds of things for one’s society but I think it’s very nice that somebody says you have done a good job. I have always enjoyed making people happy and so if people think that I have done a good job, I am very humbled to receive the price.”

Photo: Miloš Turek
Georgina Steinsky, who was the first person of Czech descent and one of the few women to hold the office of deputy minister in the Canadian government, has been involved in supporting Czech Studies at the University of Toronto.

She also supports educational projects in the Czech Republic and volunteers with a foundation created to advance the role of civil society in the country. Among other things, Mrs Steinsky has also contributed to preserving the legacy of Václav Havel in Canada.

Another recipient of this year’s Gratias agit award is Paul Millar, the honorary consul of the Czech Republic in Scotland. Mr Millar, who is 84, was a member of president Václav Havel’s group of consultants and together with other volunteers, he has organised the setting up of a monument to Czechoslovak paratroopers in Arisaig in Scotland.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  Paul Millar,  photo: Miloš Turek
I met with Mr Millar ahead of Friday’s ceremony and asked him what the Gratias Agit Award meant for him:

“Firstly what it meant was a tremendous surprise, because I never expected anything like this. It’s a group of people who in various ways of life made a contribution to the knowledge of the Czech Republic in the outside world. So I think for me to be among those 14 people who will get a crystal globe is an honour.”

Other laureates of this year’s Gratias Agit awards given to those promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad include Miriam Kama, president of the Haifa branch of the Association of Czechoslovaks living in Israel, Doris Kumarová, promoter of Czech culture in India and Jaroslav Kynčl, who created the Czech Exile Art Archive in Chicago which for decades presented Czech fine art in the United States.