The Václav Havel Library in Prague follows the US presidential library model in gathering and archiving materials relating to the late Czech dissident turned head of state. In the US, Havel’s legacy is promoted by sister organisation the Václav Havel Library Foundation, which is based at the Bohemian National Hall in New York. The latter is headed by Pavla Niklová, a former director of the city’s Czech Center. When we met, Niklová explained the relationship between the foundation and the library itself.
Dr. Paul Ort’s mother and grandfather were murdered by the Nazis in reprisals that followed the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. A childhood friend of Vaclav Havel’s, the then Pavel Ort escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia via Tunisia after securing a medical degree against the odds. He went on to have a very successful career in the US, where he is still practising at the age of 82.
US-based Czech photographer Marie Tomanová is known for her striking portrait work and often nude images of her own body interacting with nature. Right now Tomanová’s career is on the up and up. She made a splash in New York with a solo show this year, has her first monograph coming out soon and is also set to be the subject of a documentary. When we met, I asked the Moravian-born artist what had led her to the US almost eight years ago.
Novelist and screenwriter Martina Forman settled in the United States in the 1990s after meeting her husband, the great film director Miloš Forman. When we spoke at her apartment overlooking Central Park, the conversation took in her life between New York and Connecticut, her twin sons’ connection to all things Czech, and her husband, who passed away in April at the age of 86. But I first asked Martina Forman about her early days in America.
This year’s Václav Havel Award for the Advancement of Civil Society handed out by the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 has gone to Fred Malek, one of the most successful U.S. businessmen and philanthropists of Czech origin. The prize, presented by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recognises Mr. Malek’s outstanding contribution to Czech-US relations.
Sir John Tusa anchored the top UK current affairs show Newsnight in the 1980s before heading the BBC World Service for seven years. Though today a member of the British establishment, he was actually born in Czechoslovakia and moved to England as a small child, when his father, Jan Tůša, was appointed head of UK operations of the Baťa shoe company.
Celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia on October 28, 1918 are taking place not only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also among Czech and Slovak communities the world over. From London to Chicago, Czechs and Slovaks are highlighting an event in their common history that put them on the road to independence.
Norma Zabka was born 90 years ago in the heart of what was then the heavily Czech district of Yorkville on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Though now possessed of a soft but distinctive New York accent, she actually spoke only Czech for the first few years of her life, despite the fact her parents had been born in the US. Since her early childhood Norma has been attending a branch of the Czech Sokol gymnastics organisation on East 71st St., which she also headed for over a quarter of century. It was there, surrounded by loads of old photos and trophies