The Prague branch of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences has just bestowed its annual awards to nine well-known figures who have served to promote Czech science and culture at the international level. The recipients include filmmaker Ivan Passer and top plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahač.
The head of the association’s Prague branch, Professor Alena Morávková, explains the thinking behind the awards.
“We hand them out because we realised that it’s important to reward the contribution made by important Czech personalities who have enjoyed great success in their fields. In today’s world they are often rather overshadowed by show business stars when it comes to media attention – and we wanted to rectify that a bit with these awards.”
Among the nine laureates this year are film director Ivan Passer, historian Vilém Prečan, actor Stanislav Zindulka, artist Jiří Anderle and chemist Josef Michl. Also honoured have been plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahač, musician and music historian David Eben, organist Jan Hora and opera singer Gabriela Beňačková.
However, a number were unable to attend Tuesday’s ceremony in person.
“For instance, Dr. Pomahač and Ivan Passer both live in the United States and they weren’t able to make it. But they wrote us beautiful letters saying they appreciated it very much and would pick up the awards the next time they are in the Czech Republic. Mrs. Beňačková said the same thing, as she was abroad for work reasons.”
The Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences is commonly known by the acronym SVU, for its Czech name: Společnost pro vědy a umění.
It was originally established by a group of exiles in the US city of Washington in 1958. It expanded its activities to Czechoslovakia – and later the Czech Republic and Slovakia – after 1989 and also has branches in other parts of the world.
And despite the passing of time the SVU still has a purpose today, says Professor Morávková.
“Our organisation’s aim today is to bring together all those who are interested in Czech, or Slovak, issues. Because the question of exile is, thank God, now a thing of the past. Another of our aims is to help young people who are interested in studying abroad and to provide them with contacts in the fields of science and art.”
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