President honours war veterans, scientists, artists, and ordinary citizens
Friday, October 28, was a state holiday in the Czech Republic as the nation marked the 87th anniversary of the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia. High state officials visited the grave of the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and politicians and war veterans came together for a reception at the National Museum. At a ceremony at Prague Castle, President Vaclav Klaus awarded 23 state medals. The highest order was given to two WWII veterans, who later suffered at the hands of the Communist regime.
But the highest state distinction, the Order of the White Lion, was given to WWII veterans who fought to free Europe from the Nazi fist only to suffer a terrible fate under the Communist regime.
Josef Bursik, who miraculously escaped from a Communist prison and fled to Britain, was given the Order of the White Lion in memoriam. The regime had tried to wipe him from the public consciousness, and did not fall short of removing him from photographs of those who had resisted the Nazis.
Ironically, says historian Jaroslav Cvancara, Czech TV itself accidentally showed one of these retouched photographs during its live broadcast of Friday's ceremony. Josef Bursik was not on the picture, because after he fled to Britain, the Communist government dubbed him a traitor and he was carefully airbrushed out of all pictures in circulation.