The Address of the President of the Czech Republic at the Festive Ceremony on the Occasion of Czech National Day on 28th of October


Dear Mrs Havlová, dear President Klaus, dear Mrs Klausová, dear Prime Minister Fiala, dear Mrs Fialová, dear Members of the Cabinet, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

as always, we gather at the occasion of the 28th October national holiday to honour significant personalities. I have obtained proposals for this decoration from both Chambers of the Parliament as well as the public. I obliged to all the proposals of the Senate with no exceptions. Similarly, I accepted all but two of the proposals by the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.

I have tried to order the names of the decorated chronologically, however, for obvious time reasons, I cannot speak about all of them following a timeline in detail. Since in previous years, important representatives of the First Republic, for example Antonín Švehla, were also decorated, and as there is nobody to be decorated from the period of the Second Republic, the timeline commences by the beginning of the Protectorate.

At the proposal of Mr Kobza, Member of Parliament, I awarded the Medal of Heroism to nine representatives of student organizations who were executed on the 17th November 1939. I would like to thank the representatives of the academic community, namely of the individual university faculties of these students, who will receive the medal where it has not been possible to trace the students' relatives. These executions marked the start of Nazi terror which extended to later periods. I realised that as we have debt in the case of the executed students, similarly there are ones in those later periods; and it is our duty to fill these historical blanks.

One such blank is the decoration of the highest military orders to the group that is known by the name of the Three Magi. Although coined by the Gestapo originally, this name has become established in our historiography. It is the threesome of Balabán, Mašín and Morávek.

Another personality whose decoration has been omitted so far is General Luža who was shot by the Protectorate gendarmes. Alongside other veterans who fought on both fronts of the Second World War, I reach the period of the 1950s when the Mašín brothers’ group operated.

This group was proposed for a high state decoration too. My two predecessors did not decorate the Mašín brothers and I consider it fair to state two explicit reasons why I am not going to do so either. The first reason is that on their flight to the West the Mašín brothers cut the throat of a tied-up captive with a dagger; the second one is that the Mašín brothers pistol-shot a cashier delivering salaries to employees. Neither of these two victims was an obvious exponent of the Communist regime, therefore, their murders cannot pass for an act of an anti-Communist resistance.

Let me now proceed to another period. The erosion of the Communist regime was triggered by Stalinist trials in the 1950s and continued with the unrests following the monetary reform. However, it was the intellectuals who essentially contributed to this erosion - or to the “thawing” - as Ilja Erenburg termed it for his homeland. Therefore, one of the decorated is Ladislav Mňačko - author of Delayed Reports (Opožděné reportáže) - that are sometimes compared to the work of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, as well as a well-known book The Taste of Power (Jak chutná moc).

The erosion reached its peak in the Prague Spring 1968. The decorated of that period include František Kriegel whom I decorated as he was the only one to refuse to sign the surrendering Moscow protocols.

As far as the normalisation era is concerned, alike the Second Republic, there is no one to be decorated; with the clear exception of the Charter ’77 signees and other intellectuals fighting the normalisation regime.

A happier period of admittedly mundane but all the more beautiful days comes after the November Revolution. I would like to refer to the words of Bertold Brecht who said that a nation is happy that has its heroes and unhappy such that needs any. Today we no longer need to decorate heroes who fell in combat with the intolerant totalitarian regime. Today, above all, the Medal of Heroism is awarded to those who have themselves saved human lives.

Dear friends, as usual, there is a long line of representatives of professional groups. The most frequented professions are doctors and firefighters this year. At this point I would like to express my thanks to professional as well as volunteer firefighters for their work, be it their help during the fires in České Švýcarsko or be it victims of the house explosion in Koryčany.

In addition to these two professional groups, I also decorate sportsmen, for instance Jaroslav Holík or Ivan Lendl; artists Hana Zagorová or Meky Žbirka; and other groups of course.

Two representatives of the municipal sphere deserve to be decorated, for in one case the community mayor of Kralice nad Oslavou managed to triple the community assets during his term in the office; in the other case the senator and mayor of Hluboká nad Vltavou Tomáš Jirsa, justifiably criticised - among other matters – the non-interference zones in national parks which contributed to the afore-mentioned fires in České Švýcarsko.

Among the entrepreneurs, I would like to draw attention to Mr Jaroslav Třešňák who designates himself as a minor tradesman from Teplice, however, who has actually built a large holiday resort prevailingly for Czech tourists in Croatia. He can thus look back, and there remains a completed and perfect work.

Church representatives are also decorated - among others sister Angelika of Sisters of Mercy of St. Borromeo who was caring for Mr President Václav Havel.

Dear friends, I could continue relentlessly but that would keep us here until midnight. Therefore, forgive me if I only mention three Czechs at the conclusion who have reached their merit abroad, although there is a plenitude of other honourable names that you will hear mentioned in a short time. Besides Ivan Lendl, it is Frank Malina who was involved in rocket engine research in the United States, and Ivana Trump.

I would like to thank Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. along with Mr Kushner for having visited Prague at this very occasion. I have made one and only exception when the decoration will not be presented to a single person, but to both the children of Ivana Trump. I do not think it is necessary to speak about Mrs Ivana at large. She was an entrepreneur, she was a sportswoman, she was a manager, she was a politician. And it only happened once that I came into conflict with her. It was when she initially considered becoming the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic and later abandoned her intention out of the fear of the post’s high demands.

I am nearing the very conclusion which, regarding the Russian aggression in Ukraine, can be no one else than Volodymyr Zelenskyy. I announced his nomination as early as on the 7th of March this year. I stated that the fundamental reason of this nomination is his bravery and courage with which he refused the American offer of a safe refuge and instead remained in the embattled Kyiv. And courage is to be awarded.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are a rich country. We are rich thanks to the personalities we have among us, and I would like to cordially thank all the decorated for their accomplishments and life's work.

Thank you for your attention.

Miloš Zeman, President of the Czech Republic, Prague Castle, 28th October 2022