US astronauts in search of Czech roots

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Two sleepy Czech villages, Dolni Lukavice, near Pilsen and Bernatice near Tabor, are gearing up for a great event: a visit by two famous American astronauts: Eugene Andrew Cernan, who was in command of the Apollo 17 team, which made a successful landing on the moon in 1972, and James Arthur Lovell, in command of the famous Apollo 13 flight which, back in 1970, kept millions of people around the world in torturous suspense as ground control fought to bring the damaged ship back to Earth safely. The movie based on this true story was recently premiered on TV Nova and is still fresh in the minds of millions of viewers.

The two American astronauts are sure to get an enthusiastic welcome from thousands of fans both in Prague and Pardubice, where they are to visit a Czech military airbase, but what is making the villages of Dolni Lukavic and Bernatice swell with pride and bring out their brass bands is the fact that these American heroes were found to have Czech ancestors in the aforementioned villages. In fact, Eugene Andrew Cernan's parents were of "Czechoslovak" origin; his mother has Czech roots, his father Slovak ones.

The two American heroes are expected here at the end of the week. They will be received by President Havel and given prestigious state awards. And if you are listening to us here in Prague, and are eager for a glimpse of the famous visitors, a meeting with fans has been scheduled at Vitkov on Friday and another is to take place at the Prazske Planetarium on Saturday.