Promoters of good name of Czech Republic thanked at Prague ceremony
Gratias Agit is the name of the award the Czech Foreign Ministry hands out every year to individuals and organisations who promote the good name of the Czech Republic around the world. This year's laureates included everyone from the founder of the Israel-Czechoslovakia Friendship League to a Vietnamese Czech studies specialist.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the assembled that while ministers and ambassadors did their jobs, the real picture of the Czech state was created by the very people honoured on Tuesday evening.
Another awardee absent on Tuesday was the great film director Milos Forman, who had already received his award in March on his 75th birthday.
The oldest recipient present was Chanan Rozen, who was born in 1918 in north Moravia and has been working to further Czech-Israeli relations for almost six decades.
"I am still the chairman of the Israeli Society of Friends of the Czech Republic [formerly the Israel-Czechoslovakia Friendship League], which I founded. All contact between our two states contributes to the further development of Israeli-Czech relations, co-operation and friendship, which links our two countries and nations."
John Polasek represents the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Centre, one of two organisations to receive the Gratias Agit this year.
Charles Merrill was born in 1920 and first came to this country in 1939. A noted philanthropist, Mr Merrill maintained ties with the country over the decades and following the fall of communism established a fund to send Czech students to his native USA. What does receiving this award mean to him?
Kerry Stratton, who is from Canada, received a Gratias Agit for his work conducting Czech orchestras and performing Czech music with other orchestras around the world.
"Recognition, what could be better than recognition? It's not an elaborate answer. It's really touched my heart. And a surprise! A great surprise - I had no idea...I don't even know who nominated me. I don't know who to thank, so I thank the Czech people."
Photo: Martina Stejskalova