Joan Baez among recipients of 2020 Gratias Agit awards 

Gratias agit award, photo: Barbora Němcová

The Czech Foreign Ministry has announced the recipients of its annual Gratias Agit awards, handed out to Czech expats and foreigners for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic internationally. This year’s recipients include US folk singer Joan Baez, Jara Dušátko, a Czech lecturer at Stanford University, and the Polish publisher and the head of Czechoslovak-Polish Solidarity Julian Kazimierz Golak.

In 1989, just a few months before the Velvet Revolution, Joan Baez performed at the Bratislava Lyra festival. During the concert, she openly expressed her support for Czechoslovak opposition groups and to Václav Havel, who had managed to smuggle himself into the venue.

Joan Baez was also present at other important moments in the country’s history and collaborated with Forum 2000, which was co-founded by the late Czech president.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 situation, this year’s recipients of the Gratias Agit Award are unable to attend the traditional ceremony at the Czernin Palace. Instead, they will receive the awards at the Czech embassy in the country where they live.

The only exception is Margita Štěrbová, a mountaineer and humanitarian worker who lives in the Czech Republic.

Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček expressed his thanks to the laureates in a short video address:

“I know how pleasant and inspiring it would be to meet your fellow recipients personally and I am sorry that the ceremony cannot take place this year.

Joan Baez and Václav Havel,  photo: Linda Mastalir
“Let me thank you for all you have done to promote the good name of the Czech Republic worldwide in many fields such as culture, science, support of compatriot life abroad, tourism, business and humanitarian work. This award is only a small token of appreciation for your great work.”

Among the recipients of this year’s Gratias Agit Award are two Scandinavians: Norwegian writer and translator Thorvald Steen and Danish historian and translator Peter Bugge.

The latter spoke to Radio Prague International:

“I am of course flattered, honoured and very happy. It is always nice to have your work and efforts recognised and appreciated.

“Of course I haven’t translated poetry, plays, novels, essays from Czech into Danish to get an award of anything like that. This has never been driving me. It has simply been curiosity and appreciation of Czech culture.

“But after so many years working in the field and giving lectures in Denmark about Czech culture and Czech development, it is nice to feel appreciated.

“It also makes it such a shame that we cannot meet in person in Prague to receive the award, given the circumstances with Covid-19.”

Other recipients of this year’s Gratias Agit Award include the Hungarian founder and Chairman of the Bohemian Friends Club, Ottó Zachár, the founder and director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre Tali Nates and the France-based translator and interpreter Alena Slunéčková.

You can find more information about this year’s recipients at the website of the Foreign Ministry: