Foreign Ministry hands out annual Gratias Agit awards

Gratias Agit

The Foreign Ministry has handed out its annual Gratias Agit Awards to Czech expats and foreigners for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. Among this year’s recipients were eight personalities and one organization, including writer and Holocaust survivor Eva Erbenová and Jana Sommerlad, a translator and editor for the British organisation The Friends of Czech Heritage.

The Gratias Agit Awards for 2023 were handed out by Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský on Thursday at a ceremony traditionally held in the Great Hall of Czernin Palace. They went to personalities who have made their mark in the fields of science, literature, art and culture and non-governmental aid organizations.

Jan Marek a Jan Lipavský | Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

Among this year’s Czech-born recipients was Professor Jan Marek, a lead consultant in paediatric and prenatal cardiology at London’s famous Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. One of the leading world experts in this field, Professor Marek says it has always been important to him to keep close ties with his home country and support his younger colleagues:

“That comes from my early days working with my mentor, who would always say: you need to work with young people and you need to do everything so that they are better than you are. That was something I always kept in my mind.

“That is why I started a project supporting Czech doctors. I am also supporting Czech charities for the families with children who suffer from heart conditions. I am kind of a global person and I am always happy to share my experience and happy to help others.”

Sabine Gruša a Jan Lipavský | Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

Another recipient of this year’s Gratias Agit award was Sabine Gruša, founder of the association “German Friends and Supporters of the Olga Havel Foundation.” Mrs Gruša, who is the wife of the late writer, translator and former ambassador Jiří Gruša, says supporting and promoting Czechia is a rewarding task.

“Olga Havlová asked me to build a sister organization in Germany. We called ourselves German Friends and Supporters of the Olga Havel Foundation. I founded the association in 1992 in Bonn. I told myself that what little I could do, I would do with full force and vigour; that I owe it to the country. And that’s what I have been doing from 1989 until now.”

Eva Erbenová a Jan Lipavský | Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

Perhaps the most closely watched recipient of this year’s Gratias Agit Awards was 92-year-old Eva Erbenová. Born into a Jewish family in the north Bohemian town of Děčín in 1929, Erbenová survived Auschwitz as a teenager. She arrived in the country last week on a government plane carrying Czechs from Israel, her home since 1949. This is what she told Czech Television on the occasion of receiving the award:

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamed that one day I would be in the Czernin Palace. Even if you are an emigrant, you are still Czech.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been handing out the Gratias Agit awards since 1997. Past laureates include such big names as playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, film director Miloš Forman and architect Eva Jiřičná.

This year, the Gratias Agit awards have a new design in the form of a glass prism symbolizing a seal. The authors of the artwork are designers Klára Janypková and Tomáš Kučera.

Gratias Agit Award | Photo: Czech Foreign Ministry