100 years of independent Czechoslovakia celebrated in Washington

November 1, 2018

Another major celebration of the centennial of Czechoslovak independence took place on 1st November at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The American Friends of the Czech Republic and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in the USA were hosting a gala evening to celebrate perhaps the most important event in modern Czech history. The celebration of this anniversary, but also of the Czech-American relationship and friendship, was attended by a number of dignitaries, including the USA ambassador to the CR Stephen B. King (and four of his predecessors) and the Czech ambassador to the USA Hynek Kmoníček. Guests and at the same time the main partners of this exceptional evening were also Michaela and Zdenek Bakala.

Václav Havel award for Frederic Malek

As the highlight of this gala evening, Frederic Malek (pictured above, photo by Lillis Photography) was honoured with the Václav Havel Award for the Advancement of Civil Society in appreciation of his lifelong contributions to enhancing the Czech-American relations, which was presented by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was born in Czechoslovakia. In her emotional speech, she accentuated the qualities a true leader should have and which include respect for truth, free media, and an endeavour to promote understanding between people of different nationalities, religion, and ethnicity. Even though Madeleine Albright and Frederic V. Malek have each worked all their lives at the opposite ends of the U.S. political spectrum, their firm viewpoints and protection of democratic principles made them lifelong friends.

Michaela Bakala at the 100 Anniversary of Czechoslovak Independence

“Without the United States there would be no Czechoslovakia. That country gave us hope – and not only that, it gave us also an opportunity to make our dreams come true. I was born in Brno, in Czechoslovakia controlled by communists and I never thought I would be standing here today and celebrating this anniversary with you all,” emphasised Michaela Bakala in her speech on the long-term relationship of the two countries. “In its history of hundred years our country was free only for a half of that time, and so we still need to remind ourselves that a free society and democracy should not be taken for granted, that it is something worth fighting for incessantly.”

“We would like to thank our dear and long-time friend Fred Malek for his lifelong endeavour to promote and develop the Czech-American relations. His persistent attitudes and the values he represents resonate with those we also support – courage, freedom and education.  Fred is a great inspiration for us,” congratulated the Bakalas their long-time friend Frederic Malek during the evening. The Bakalas and Frederic Malek are linked not only by friendship but also by long co-operation on a whole range of philanthropic projects over many years, including setting up the Aspen Institute Central Europe and installation of the bust of Havel in the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.

Zdeněk Bakala with Fred Malek

A favourite song of T. G. Masaryk was sung

The gala evening programme included a performance by gifted pianist Tomas Kaco, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and recipient of Bakala Foundation scholarship, who is enjoying yet another success after his recent concert at Carnegie Hall. On the day of the 100thanniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia he released his debut album called “My Home”. During the evening, Tomas played two pieces from this album, including the beautiful improvisation of “Ach Synku, Synku”. To the surprise of many participants, Tomas played this favourite song of the first president, T. G. Masaryk together with his long-standing supporter Michaela Bakala and they got the whole audience to sing along. They played this song for the very first time just a few weeks ago at the Scholarship event of the Bakala Foundation in Prague (and you can see it in a video here). “Tomas is yet another example of an American dream coming true. Despite of coming from an environment where the conditions were not ideal, he never gave up trying and we are proud to be able to support him on his journey,” added Michaela Bakala. “Thus he is following in the footsteps of my husband Zdenek, who has never forgotten what the United States enabled him to achieve in his quest for freedom and education, and this is his way to repay for the favour.

USA ambassador to the CR Stephen B. King and four of his predecessors (photo by Lillis Photography)

Michaela Bakala and Tomas Kaco playing together Czech traditional song Ach synku, synku (photo by Lillis Photography)

Zdenek Bakala, Michaela Bakala and Tomas Kaco (photo by Lillis Photography)

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