Richard Krpač’s Last Day in Toronto

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Author: Josef Čermák ( PLUS)

An evening in the Mysteriously Yours Theatre in Toronto
Richard Krpač completed his four year tour of duty as the first Consul General of the Czech Republic in Toronto on June 30th. He left behind a terrific amount of work, starting – as we have already reported – with bringing into the Czech-Canadian circle an impressive number of highly successful countrymen and countrywomen, who until that time had little contact with the community. One of his most memorable actions was the evening at the Hart House of the University of Toronto, which he named Glamorous Prague, an event in which he managed to bring together hockey, Canadian Indian children, and Czech models. Toronto will long remember the evening of May 29, 2011 at the Mysteriously Yours Theatre, the theatre which saw the triumphs of the Toronto New Theatre with its stars, the then young Adolf Toman and the no longer young Ferda Čulík, who was described by the Globe and Mail theatre critic as one of the best actors in Canada. It was an evening we paid tribute to Josef Škvorecký by showing the film Rhytmus in the heels, inspired by his story “malá pražská mata hara” (a little prague mata hara), which he subsequently used as a basis for his screenplay for the film. An evening, which after the showing of the film and an intermission, during which we were fed by the Prague Fine Food Emporium, blossomed into a concert featuring the stars of the film, who – with the Prague jazz pianist, Emil Viklický, travelled from Prague to thank Škvorecký for his inspiration. In Toronto, they were joined by Eva Emingerová, a Prague jazz singer at that time appearing in Toronto, Toronto singer Lenka Nováková, flutist Milan Brunner and violinist Jan Hanka. Josef Škvorecký and his wife Zdena Salivarová-Škvorecká, herself an outstanding author and the inspiration of the most important exile publishing house, Sixty-eight Publishers, were present during a part of the concert and were treated to a royal reception.

We also paid tribute to the man who organized the evening, Richard Krpač. Not only for organizing this evening, but also for dozens of other actions, including a massive publicity he has showered on Czech beer. And we have already mentioned in another article, how towards the end of that memorable evening Emil Viklický invited Richard Krpač to the microphone and asked him to sing for us. Richard sang two songs, Where the wild roses grow and an old Irish song I’m a man you don’t meet every day. When he finished singing, eyes of every person in the theatre, including Richard’s, were misty. The evening was attended by ten foreign diplomats, including those of the United States, Sweden and the honorary consul of Slovakia, Michael Martinček.

Filming of twelve profiles

Then Richard started a new project, which may well prove to be of major importance: he arranged for digitalization of the television harvest of not only of the Toronto group (I had the honor of taking part in the harvest with Milo Kubík), but of the Kitchener group as well, but particularly with his idea of “About Life With”, television profiles of twelve interesting men and women in the community. The films were made in the following order: Josef Čermák (a guinea-pig), George Brady, Karel Velan, Milan Kroupa, Josef Skála, Vladimír Pucholt, Paul Wilson, Joe Schlesinger, Hana Gartner, George Heller, Sonja Bata, Josef Škvorecký (Škvorecký wasn’t interviewed directly, his profile is an amalgam of interviews with his friends and colleagues). Richard Krpač is a man of many talents, but as far as I know, he has never before worked in television. That wouldn’t stop him. He simply found people with credits in this field: Zuzana Hahn (“Eduška Otta”, “Voices in the Walls”), cameraman Igor Rešovský (works in both Toronto and Slovakia) and cameraman Brandon Hahn, and immerged himself in the project with the zest of his own. The series and, possibly, every individual film will be introduced with a statement something like:” For those of us who grew up in the Masaryk republic, which we loved with an almost childlike love, our leaving our native land after the communist coup d’état, was an expulsion from the paradise. The first years in exile we felt home-sickness not unlike that felt by Ovidius after his banishment from Rome, home-sickness so destructive that some of those among us who left without their families, heard the alluring voices of the sirens of death. But life almost always wins over death and most of us in the end decided to join the scuffle for our destiny. I believe that the result of this scuffle did not shame either our native land, nor the human community.”

Conferring the Jan Masaryk Award at the Czech and Slovak Day

Saturday, June 25th, did not arrive in its most lovable disguise (no surprise here, it is seldom a pleasant day). But – at least at Masaryktown – it didn’t rain. Richard Krpač added flavor to the day by conferring Jan Masaryk Prize on 4 Czech and 4 Slovak Canadians: George Heller, entrepreneur, past president of Hudson Bay Company (a company founded by Prince Rupert of Bohemia), Olga Turokova, an active  member of the Czech and Slovak cultural communities, Pavol Džačko and Richard Štilicha, founders of Canada SK Entertainment company, Reverend Ladislav Peter Kozák of the Slovak Lutheran Church in Toronto, professor Pavel Jelen, a leading member of the Edmonton community, Milan Kroupa, a very successful entrepreneur (among others, Edenvale Aerodome) and sponsor of many community activities; and Dr. Miloš Krajný (a distinguished physician and great supporter of Czech music) who won  the award last year. For those, who were unable to attend, the award was delivered to their friends. Reverend Kozák’s thank you note was read -in Slovak (with poor pronunciation and worse accent), by Josef Čermák, who hopes that his Slovak friends will forgive him. The note said, in part: “With humility before the Lord, and before you, gathered here at the occasion of the Czechoslovak Day, I accept gladly and a with a sincere thank you: the Memorial silver medal of Jan Masaryk., fully aware of the high regard, bestowed on it by the name of the person, the statesman Jan Masaryk…I am also aware of the people who received it before me. Distinguished figures of our community, many of them my close friends…Let God bless all those present at this our Czechoslovak Day, let the dew of blessing descent on the Czechs and Slovaks in unity of love and peace of the Heaven. To my brother and Mr. Richard Krpač, the Consul General, and his nearest, I wish abundance of God’s blessing in their family life at their new post and on the journey of service to the Czech Republic. Thank you. Your pastor Ladislav P. Kozák.

Conferring Meritorious Cross on František  Tesař

On June 27th, Richard Krpač conferred the Meritorious Cross of the Minister of the Defense of the Czech Republic in his home on a 96 years old Bata man and a legionnaire (he fought at Dunkirque), František Tesař. František Tesař was in a great form, dressed in a gala dress, displaying all his decorations, including the one from the city of Dunkirque. The ceremony was attended by František Tesař’s son,  Peter, František Ječmen, president of the Masaryk Memorial Institute, and Josef Čermák, president of Sokol Canada. After a considerable discussion, we all decided that when we celebrate his 100th birthday, František Tesař would let us know if he planned to live another ten years or so. A wonderful man, a remarkable life…

The goodbyes continue

In the times between conferring medals and decorations, packing and finishing his work at the consulate, Richard was saying goodbye to his friends, both in the diplomatic service and in the Czech community. One of the loveliest evenings honoring Richard Krpač took place on the evening of June 27th, in the elegant home of Hana Martínek.  Mrs. Martínek planned the party well: she entrusted the refreshments to Tom Král of the Prague Fine Food Emporium, the music to George Grosman, Josef Musil.and Lenka Nováková. At the end they were joined by the man of the hour, who sang some of his beloved songs, most of them with Lenka. The party was attended by Richard’s wife, Virginia, several of the people selected for the project About Life With…, (Sonja Bata, Joe Schlesinger, George Brady, George Heller), representatives of the community organizations, and friends. A magic evening.

A song for the native land

On June 2nd, in the evening, Richard flew home. I didn’t think it would work out, but it did: on his way to the airport, Richard stopped at my place,  parked his car by the apartment building, then we walked to the lake, laid down in the grass, looked at the lake, and mainly kept silent. On the way back to his car, Richard all of a sudden said: “Recite Hora’s” a song for the native land.” The closing lines of this magnificent poem: “And so we march/ the dead, the living, the not yet born/ an endless generation,” never sounded to me more sublime than at this moment; I never felt so strongly that these lines had been mined in the deepest galleries of the national consciousness.  We reached Richard’s car, he sat down behind the wheel and a few hours later his plane started for our joint native land.

During the four years he lived among us, Richard Krpač gained extraordinary recognition for spreading good name of the country he represented, made friends both for his country and for himself at the University of Toronto as well as in the much larger Canadian community.  Among his countrymen – in spite of one or two incidents, he couldn’t be blamed for – he contributed greatly to an atmosphere of tolerance and creative cooperation. He won for himself friendship of a large number of people. Some of them – including a few he highly valued, left Canada before he did: Eduška Ottová, Blanka Rohnová, Pavel Král…I know how hard their passing hit him. Meeting him was indeed an honor.


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Večer v divadle Mysteriously Yours

Koncem června ukončil své čtyřleté torontské působení první generální konzul České republiky v Torontu, Richard Krpač. Udělal v Kanadě obrovskou práci, včetně toho, že – jak už jsme napsali -přivedl do okruhu kanadského češství řady vysoce úspěšných krajanů, kteří stáli mimo krajanskou obec. Pamětihodná je jeho akce v Hart Housu Torontské univerzity “Praha glamorozní”, v níž spojil hokej, kanadské indiánské děti a české modelky. Dlouho budeme vzpomínat na večer 29. května v divadle Mysteriously Yours, kde kdysi slavilo úspěchy Nové divadlo s mladým Adou Tomanem a ne už docela mladistvým Ferdou Čulíkem, o němž kritik Globe and Mail napsal, že patří mezi nejlepší herce v Kanadě.

Pokračování ZDE


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