The Institute Awards Champions of Democracy and Freedom
Conferral ceremony of the Václav Benda Award
Prague, November 16, 2009 – On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, the Václav Benda medal was awarded for the first time in recognition of the fight for democracy and freedom at the seat of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. The commemorative medal is awarded to those who played a significant role in the fight for the restoration of freedom and democracy of the Czechoslovak Republic during the eras of non-freedom (1938-1945) and Communist totalitarian power (1948-1989).
Institute Director Pavel Žáček and Vice Chair of the Institute Council Patrik Benda awarded the medal to the following individuals:
Divisional General Čeněk Kudláček, in memoriam:
Čeněk Kudláček was born in 1896. He fought as a member of the Czechoslovak Legionnaires in Russia, France and Italy during the First Wold War. He held a number of different high-ranking posts in the Czechoslovak Army. During the Second World War, he was one of the founders of the Obrana národa (National Defence) resistance organisation. After going into exile, he served with the Czechoslovak Foreign Army. He went into exile once again as a result of the communist putsch of February 1948. Initially, he led one of the anti-communist intelligence units in France and he was also a member of the Council of Free Czechoslovakia. He died in 1967. The medal was presented to Čeněk Kudláček’s relatives via the Czech foreign mission in the USA.
Denis Nicholson, MBE
Denis Nicholson was the head instructor of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) intelligence and diversionary organisation at the Traig House training farm, where he participated in drilling paratroopers from the ranks of the Czechoslovak Foreign Army in Great Britain during the Second World War. The medal was presented via the Czech foreign mission in Great Britain.
Retired Colonel Ernest van Maurik
Ernest van Maurik worked as an instructor for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) at the Garramore and Camus Darah training farms, where paratroopers from the Czechoslovak Foreign Army in Great Britain were trained during the Second World War. Among other things, he participated in the training of Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, members of the group who carried out the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich as part of Operation Anthropoid. The medal was presented via the Czech foreign mission in Great Britain.
Retired Colonel Milan Píka
Milan Píka was born in 1922 as the son of General Heliodor Píka. After the German occupation, he departed to Great Britain, where he worked as a member of the ground staff for the Royal Air Force (RAF). As a result of the communist putsch in February 1948, he was expelled from his studies as a law student and also arrested and charged with attempting to abduct his father. He spent 20 years trying to clear his name. The trumped-up verdict of the Military Supreme Court was not completely annulled until 1970. For health reasons, Milan Píka accepted his award at a later date.
Retired Air-Force Colonel Miroslav Dvořáček
Miroslav Dvořáček was born in 1928. At 19 years of age, he enrolled in the Military Flight Academy in Hradec Králové, which he was expelled from after the communist putsch of February 1948. After going into exile, he joined the émigré intelligence services headed by Brigadier General František Moravec. During his second mission to Czechoslovakia as an intelligence courier, he was arrested under well known circumstances in March 1950 and subsequently sentenced to 22 years in prison. He was conditionally released in 1964 and he emigrated to Canada four years later. He currently resides in Sweden. The medal was presented to Miroslav Dvořáček via the family friend Vladimíř Škván.
Olga Hrubá was born in 1927. In 1949, she left with her husband Blahoslav Hrubý for the United States, where she actively participated in the publication of the magazine Religion in Communist Dominated Areas (RCDA). For several decades, this periodical provided information on repression in the states behind the Iron Curtain and the suppression of human rights. Among other things, she initiated a worldwide protest against the trial and conviction of Milada Horáková, which was supported by Albert Einstein and other international celebrities. She has lived in New York since the death of her husband. The medal was presented via the Czech foreign mission in the USA.
František Kohout was born in 1951. On 20 August 1969, he was demonstrating in the centre of Prague against the occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was hit by gunfire from communist riot police at the intersection of Králodvorská Street and U Prašné brány Street. He died on the spot. Because no relatives of František Kohout could be found, the medal will be kept at the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
Vladimír Kruba was born in 1950. On 21 August 1969, he was actively participating in protests in the centre of Prague against the occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was hit by gunfire from communist riot police at the intersection of Králodvorská Street and U Prašné brány Street. He succumbed to his injuries on the spot. Because no relatives of Vladimír Kruba could be found, the medal will be kept at the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
Bohumil Siřínek, in memoriam
Bohumil Siřínek was born in 1955. As a primary school pupil, he and his friends were returning via Prague from an excursion to southern Bohemia. He was hit by gunfire from communist riot police in the immediate vicinity of a clinic on Londýnská Street in the Vinohrady district, where protests were being held against the occupation of Czechoslovakia. He succumbed to his injuries in the early morning of 24 August 1969. Because no relatives of Bohumil Siřínek could be found, the medal will be kept at the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
Marianne Canavaggio was born in 1959. As a Czech scholar and translator, she worked at a French secondary school in Prague during the so-called normalisation era. Besides translating the work of banned authors into French, she also participated in the smuggling of copying equipment to Czechoslovakia for dissent and foreign literature. She also acted as an intermediary for Pavel Tigrid, a distinguished representative of the Czechoslovak émigré community. She was harassed by the communist State Security service for this activity. The medal was presented via the Czech foreign mission in France.
Jaroslav Fabok was born in 1921. He fought with the resistance during the War as a member of the Flora insurgent group and he took part in the Slovak National Uprising. After his arrest in February 1948, he escaped to the American zone in Germany. He became a member of the intelligence unit run by Brigadier General František Moravec and was sent to Czechoslovakia, where he was apprehended on his first mission in August 1949. He was sentenced to death three months later. This sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. At the end of 1951, he established an “intelligence group” with fellow prisoners in Příbram with a view to supplying the West with information on Uranium mines. Jaroslav Fabok received his medal in person.
Ivo Feierabend was born in 1927 into the family of an economist, who served as a minister in the government of the Second Republic, the Protectorate and the government in exile of president Edvard Beneš. After going into exile, he studied political science at the universities in Berkeley and Yale. He is a professor emeritus of San Diego State University and a veteran of the Korean War. He is also a member and official of the Society of Arts and Sciences. Ivo Feierabend received his medal in person.
Mirko Janeček was born in 1927. As a student at an agricultural faculty, he took part in anti-communist demonstrations in February 1948. After going into exile, he completed his studies at a university in Uppsala (Sweden). In 1951, he settled in Canada, where he worked at the ministry for immigration. For a number of years, he published the magazine Kanadské listy (“Canadian Pages”), which recorded the activities of Czechoslovak democrats abroad. He is an important member of the Czechoslovak expatriate community in Canada. Renata Kolářová received the medal for Mirko Janeček.
Bořivoj Čelovský, in memoriam
Bořivoj Čelovský was born in 1923. He went into exile in 1948. As an official with the statistics bureau in Canada, he assisted immigrants from the Communist Bloc. In the 1950s, he took part in an intelligence operation conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which resulted in the expulsion from Canada of a resident spy with the Czechoslovak communist intelligence service. After returning to his homeland in the 1990s, he devoted himself to the publication of work on contemporary history. He died in 2008. The medal was collected by Helena Šindlerová.
Danuše Muzikářová was born in 1951. On 21 August 1969, she participated in a demonstration against the occupation of Czechoslovakia in the centre of Brno. She was hit by a bullet fired during a crackdown by communist riot police near Red Army Square (Náměstí Rudé armády, now Moravské náměstí). She was killed on the spot. The medal was collected by Danuše Muzikářová’s sister Jaroslava Juránková.
Stanislav Valehrach, in memoriam
Stanislav Valehrach was born in 1941. On 21 August 1969, he took part in a demonstration against the occupation of Czechoslovakia in the centre of Brno. On the square called Náměstí 25. února (now Zelný trh), he was struck and killed by a bullet as a result of a crackdown by communist riot police. The medal was collected by Stanislav Valehrach’s sister Eliška Filipová.
Kamila Bendová was born in 1946. During the so-called normalisation era, she contributed significantly to the activities of Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted together with her husband Václav Benda. She was one of a handful of wives who supported the activity of the Czechoslovak dissident movement even when her husband was in prison. She has made an important contribution to the defence and observance of human rights in Czechoslovakia. Kamila Bendová received her medal in person.
Ján Langoš, in memoriam
Ján Langoš was born in 1946. He was one of the leading members of the Slovak dissident movement in the 1980s. He was minister of the interior in the Czechoslovak Federal Republic from 1990 to 1992 and participated in reorganising the country’s security apparatus. In September 1991, he established a department at the ministry of the interior for the documentation and investigation of the State Security service, a precursor to the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism. After he left the Slovak political scene, Langoš played an important role in setting up the Nation’s Memory Institute, which he also took charge of in 2003. He died in 2006. The medal was collected by Ján Langoš’s widow Gabriela Langošová.
Jiří Gruša was born in 1938. In the 1960s, he was a prominent member of the so-called young wave of Czech literature and a co-founder of the magazines Tvář (“Face”) and Sešity pro mladou literaturu (“Books for Young Literature”). He published his work in samizdat after 1969 and he co-organised the Edice Petlice (“Padlock Edition”) series of underground publications. As a signatory of Charter 77, he was imprisoned because of his novel Dotazník (“The Questionnaire”). He was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship in 1981 as part of the State Security service’s “Asanace” (“Decontamination”) operation. He has since worked in Germany and Austria as ambassador for the Czechoslovak Federal Republic and for the Czech Republic respectively. In 2004-2009, he was director of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna and president of the International PEN Club. Jiří Gruša received his medal in person. Please contact me in the event of further questions. Jiří Reichl, Spokesperson gsm: +420 725 787 524