Czechs vote for February 4 to be the Day of Czechs Abroad

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to add a 16th significant day to the calendar

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 08.10.2020 14:00 (updated on 08.10.2020)

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning to designate a day to honor Czechs who emigrated. The Day of Czechs Abroad (Den Čechů v zahraničí) will officially be a “significant day,” but not a state holiday — meaning people do not get another day off.

In an online poll that ended September 30, people chose February 4, the day in 1628 that philosopher Jan Amos Komenský left his homeland from Růžový palouček near Žacléř in the Hradec Králové region. Komenský, sometimes called John Amos Comenius, crossed from there into what is now Poland and never returned. This option took 42% of the vote.

Komenský’s likeness can be seen on the 200 CZK banknote. He was also the subject of a painting by Alfons Mucha, as part of the Slav Epic. Komenský is known for education reform as well as several religious and philosophical books including the Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart.

The Last days of Jan Amos Komenský in Naarden, by Alfons Mucha, 1918 / public domain
The Last days of Jan Amos Komenský in Naarden, by Alfons Mucha, 1918 / public domain

The runner up had half as many votes, at 21%. December 23 was the day in 1989 that then-foreign ministers Jiří Dienstbier and Hans-Dietrich Genscher cut the wire at the Czechoslovak–German border at Rozvadov.

March 7, the day Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was born in 1850, took 18% of the vote. There was a tradition of Masaryk Days of Czechoslovaks Abroad, to mark the role of expatriates in the establishment of the Czechoslovak state. The first Masaryk Day of Czechoslovaks Abroad took place in 1934, with the intention of establishing Czechoslovak expatriates as a “living branch of one national tribe.” Masaryk Days took place until 1938 and then in 1947 under the auspices of President Edvard Beneš. The last Masaryk Day of Czechoslovaks Abroad took place in February 1948.

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Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk on horseback / public domain
Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk on horseback / public domain

July 1 was next with 15%. It is both the opening day of the first Congress of Czechs and Slovaks abroad in 1932 and the meeting of expatriates in 1998 as part of the first Week of Foreign Czechs.

In last place was April 17, when Vojtěch Náprstek became consul in 1926, with 4%. Náprstek is considered the consul of all Czech expatriates. Ahe participated in the uprising of 1848, and fled to the US to avoid arrest. He lived for ten years. His bookstore became a center for immigrants from Bohemia, he was also the initiator of the establishment of the first Czech associations.

In 1858, he returned to Prague and transformed the family brewery U Halánků on Betlémské náměstí into a center for Czech intelectuals and later into the Czech Industrial Museum, now Náprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will now launch a process that will lead to the declaration of the Czechs Day Abroad as an important day. This will increase the number of significant days in the Czech Republic from the current 15 to 16.

The online poll was launched July 1 and was originally set to end on July 31, but was extended. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (ČSSD) said he has long perceived the crucial role of Czechs abroad in history and in the present, adding that he believes that the Czech Republic should regularly remember the importance of its compatriots.

This will be the second significant day to be declared in the past year. At the end of 2019, August 21 was legally recognized as the Day of Memory of the Victims of the 1968 Invasion and Subsequent Occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact Troops. It was celebrated for the first time this year, but also is not a day off.