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Czech Republic: Romani activist Čeněk Růžička nominated for state honors

Prague, 2.4.2014 18:46, (ROMEA)
Čeněk Růžička
Čeněk Růžička

The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament has received 25 suggestions of figures to propose for state honors so far this year. In addition to eminent figures such as cardiologist Jan Pirk, clergyman Josef Toufar, who was tortured to death by the communist State Security services, and veteran Pavol Švec, one of those nominees is Mr. Čeněk Růžička, who has been fighting for redress for the Romani victims of the Holocaust. 

Individuals and organizations were able to propose names to the lower house until the end of March, and deputies themselves will now be able to add to that list until 30 April. Rudolf Kubát, secretary of the Chamber of Deputies subcommittee in charge of the nominations, confirmed the deadlines today. 

"I have just learned from you that I was nominated for state honors and I was not expecting it," Čeněk Růžička admitted to news server Romea.cz. "I have dedicated myself to matters involving redress for the Romani Holocaust since 1972. My entire family essentially perished in the concentration camps. This struggle has become my fate and I have gained a lot of experience during this time, but this work should mainly be done by the various commissions and funds entrusted by the state with such tasks. Unfortunately, that's not happening." 

When asked what it would mean to him to receive state honors, Růžička gave a humble answer. "I have never given any particular thought to that and I am very surprised. For me the greatest appreciation is knowing that I am helping the people who became the victims of something as terrible as the Holocaust was," he said. 

Another candidate for state honors is expected to be the late Russian dissident Natalya Gorbanevskaya, one of the "Eight Brave Ones" who demonstrated on Red Square in Moscow in August 1968 against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by troops from the socialist bloc. Ms Gorbanevskaya passed away last November; shortly before her death she visited the Czech Republic and met with Czech President Miloš Zeman, who will grant her state honors posthumously this October. 

Jiří Ovčáček, the President's spokesperson, said today that "nothing at all would prevent" Zeman from awarding state honors to Gorbanevskaya. "The President said last December that Madame Natalya Gorbanevskaya was on the list of those to be honored for this year and noted that such honors may be granted in memoriam," Ovčáček said.

The President's spokesperson noted that it would be up to Zeman to decide whether to grant state honors to the other seven Russian dissidents who had protested the invasion of Czechoslovakia as well. The candidates for state honors nominated by the lower house could also include Jaromír Klika, the founder of a group of resistance fighters, and Josef Štemberka, a clergyman from Lidice who was executed by the Nazis along with others there. 

In addition to veteran Pavol Švec, clergyman Josef Toufar is another proposed nominee; in 1950 he was charged with staging the so-called Číhošť Miracle and died as a result of being tortured by the communist State Security services. All of the nominations will now be reviewed by the lower house subcommittee.

The deputies should decide on whom to ultimately propose for state honors during their June session. The final decision will be up to President Zeman, who may take the lower chamber's nominations, as well as those by the Government and the Senate, into consideration but does not have to abide by them.  

Last year the Chamber of Deputies suggested 39 figures for nomination. Zeman granted state honors to three of them on the occasion of the 28 October state holiday.

The Medal of Merit was awarded to guitarist Vladimír Brabec, surgeon Pavel Pafko, and in memoriam to the sculptor who designed the monument to the children of Lidice, Marie Uchytilová-Kučová, who was also nominated by the Senate. The President also wanted to bestow state honors upon another lower house nominee, rock musician Vladimír Mišík, but Mišík refused to accept the award because of his disagreement with several of Zeman's decisions.     

ČTK, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Holocaust, Ocenění, odškodnění, vyznamenání



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