October 28 is a public holiday in the Czech Republic as Czechs celebrate the birth of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918. Events are held around the country to mark the anniversary and politicians and members of the public pay their respects to the co-founder of Czechoslovakia and the country’s first president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. Traditionally politicians, cultural figures and church dignitaries gather at Prague Castle for a gala-ceremony at which the president awards high state distinctions for outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities. Among this year’s laureates are former president Václav Klaus, the last surviving Czech RAF pilot Emil Boček, ice hockey legend Jaromír Jágr, Škoda Favorit designer Petr Hrdlička, Srbian film director Emir Kusturica, the head of the Supreme Audit Office Miloslav Kala or, in memoriam, Corporal Tomáš Procházka, who died last year while serving with the Czech military contingent in Afghanistan.
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