Left to right: Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, US Ambassador Norman Eisen, Madeleine Albright, Václav Havel
The American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFoCR) on Tuesday kicked off four days of events to celebrate the unveiling and dedication of a monument honoring the 28th U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson, in Prague. Participating in the events were former Czech President Václav Havel and former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, both honorary co-chairs at AFoCR’s Gala Award Dinner in the Czech capital.
Originally built in 1928 to honor Wilson’s support for Czechoslovak independence, the monument was destroyed during the Nazi occupation in 1941. Seventy years later, the rebuilt tribute will take its place near the site of the original outside Prague’s main train station, which bears his name. The dedication ceremony will occur Wednesday (Oct. 5).
The statue erected in Vrchlické Sady, the park in front of Prague’s main railway station, is an exact replica of the original statue created by sculptor Albín Polášek. The replica was created by Czech artists Václav Frýdecký, Michal Blažek and Daniel Talavera.
“The story of the Wilson Monument, its destruction and resurrection, is the story of a friendship between two nations that has lasted for nearly 100 years,” said Fred Malek, chairman of AFoCR and former advisor to four US presidents, in a press release. “The relationship established by Presidents Wilson and [Tomáš Garrigue] Masaryk set the stage for an enduring bond between the United States and the Czech Republic that is built on a shared appreciation of freedom and democracy.”
Malek will join other dignitaries during the four-day commemoration, including Havel and Albright, in a series of events to celebrate the rebuilding of the monument and recognize more than 20 years of strong US-Czech relations. Special guests at the events include US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen and his Czech counterpart, Petr Gandalovič (Civic Democrats, ODS), as well as Lord Mayor of Prague Bohuslav Svoboda (also ODS).
“I am thrilled to join President Havel, the American Friends of the Czech Republic, and the people of Prague in celebrating and honoring President Wilson's contributions to a free and independent Czechoslovakia,” said Albright, who was born in Prague during the period of Czechoslovak independence between World War I and World War II. “The Czech Republic continues to be a strong ally of the United States and an example of freedom and democracy in Central Europe.”
“Many credit Czech independence to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, but the movement for freedom in my country truly began in the early 20th century as Tomáš Masaryk fought for independence from Austria-Hungary,” said Havel in the same press release. “Encouraged and informed by President Wilson and succeeding US presidents, the Czech spirit survived through decades of Nazi and Communist rule to reemerge in the Velvet Revolution and create what is now a free and independent Czech Republic.”