Every year, the Czech Foreign Ministry presents Gratias Agit awards to those who have helped promote the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. Recipients include individuals and institutions from all over the world; this year, the list of laureates ranges from Marius Sczygiel, a Polish journalist, who published a best-selling book about the Czech Republic, to Pontifical College Nepomucenum, an educational institution for Czech clergy in the Vatican.
At a gala ceremony on Friday, Foreign Minister Jan Kohout awarded 12 individuals and one institution with the Gratias Agit Award for 2009. Among the recipients gathered at Prague’s Czernin palace, home to the Czech Foreign Ministry, was Geoffrey Piper, an English-born translator and amateur musician who lives in Luxembourg. He has been distinguished as a long term promoter and sponsor of Czech music.
“I live in Luxembourg and in 1995 Luxembourg was the European capital of culture. I had an international programme involving many western European countries and I wanted a country in Eastern Europe outside the European Union and because the Czech Republic is so musical I went to Prague to find my musicians.”
Afterwards, Mr Piper set up a non-profit association Music Enterprise, which aims to promote Czech music in Luxembourg. He explained how it works:
“The easiest way is to invite Czech musicians to come to Luxembourg, which is what I do. I have about 30 friends who play in ensembles or who play solo and whenever I can find a concert opportunity I invite them to come to Luxembourg to play. That’s basically what I do. If I am very fortunate I can have an exchange so that a Czech musician comes to Luxembourg and Luxembourg musician comes to the Czech Republic.”
Among this year’s recipients of the Gratias Agit Awards was also Paul Wilson, a Canadian writer, journalist and translator, who came to Czechoslovakia in 1967 and stayed for ten years, until he was expelled from the country for alleged subversive activities. Mr Wilson translated articles by many Czech writers into English, notably the plays of Václav Havel, enabling their work to be published abroad.
Another laureate was 90-year old Ladislav Matějka, who left the country in 1948 and has lived in the United States since 1954. Among other things, Mr Matějka cooperated with Radio Free Europe and contributed to the development of Slavic studies at universities in the United States.
The Gratias Agit Award was established by the Foreign Ministry in 1997 and over the years dozens of exceptional individuals were honoured for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic in the world.
Photo: Milena Štráfeldová
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