Foreign Ministry honours promoters of good name of Czech Republic

Photo: Barbora Kmentová

Since 1997, the Czech Foreign Ministry has been honouring those who promote the good name of the Czech Republic abroad with the annual Gratias Agit awards. Last Friday, October 14, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg handed out the awards to thirteen personalities from around the globe to thank them for their outstanding work.

Antonis Protopapas,  Mirek Smíšek,  Raymond J. Snokhous,  photo: Barbora Kmentová
The atmosphere was emotional at the majestic Czernin Palace, home to the Foreign Ministry, as the laureates, many in their seventies and eighties, received the awards for furthering bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and their respective countries.

Among this year’s laureates were the Czech-born British composer and pianist Karel Janovicky, promoter of Czech classical music, the Czech-born ceramist and painter Mirek Smíšek from New Zealand whose work was seen worldwide in the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, the Serbian translator and diplomat Aleksandar Ilić, the art historian Jana Claverie from France, and Hugo Marom, a Czech-born Israeli military pilot.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
Raymond J. Snokhous is the Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic in Texas. For more than two decades he has been working to promote Czech heritage and culture in the United States, cooperating with the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center in La Grange and a number of other Czech-American organizations in Texas. He told me he was honoured and humbled by the award.

“It’s a result of working with a lot of beautiful people that all have helped me. I’ve been doing this for over twenty years now and everybody has just been so good to work with. We’ve established very good relationships. They all like to come to Texas and we love them to come to Texas. Because Texas is still kind of… it’s a frontier state but we have over a million Czech people in Texas. People don’t generally know that. But Texas is very, very, very heavily populated with good Czech people. So I will bring home this award and try to earn the honour that goes with it.”

Karel Schwarzenberg,  Tom Stoppard,  photo: CTK
Only twelve of the thirteen laureates were present at Friday’s ceremony, as the Czech-born British playwright Tom Stoppard received the award two days earlier in London from Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Like some of the other recipients, Sir Tom was born in Czechoslovakia, but his family left the country in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution. He has maintained close ties with his homeland and supported Czech dissidents and authors during the communist era.