The End of a Consulate (Konec jednoho konzulátu)

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This year’s month of March did not treat our community overly kindly. The row of friends to whom we said good bye this March is longer than other years. Quite a number of us gathered the last day of the month in Montreal to attend a somewhat different funeral: we lost a consulate. And this was not a run-of-the mill consulate. Which is not to suggest that the Czech Republic (and before that Czechoslovakia) ever had in Canada an unusually high number of consular establishments. But the Montreal consulate had much closer ties ties with the Czech (and even more Czechoslovak) history, than is usually the case.

What goes for the Montreal consulate, goes equally for the City of Montreal: it was in Montreal where in 1924 a group of immigrants from Czechoslovakia – mostly Slovaks – established Československý podpůrný spolek (Czechoslovak Mutual Benefit Society); it was in Montreal where in 1929 two newspapers commenced publication: Slovenské Bratrstvo (Slovak Brotherhood) and Kanadské noviny (Canadian Newspaper) – /the first Slovak newspaper in Canada, Slovenské slovo (Slovak Word), was published in Blairmore, Alberta in 1910/. Continue reading

Mladen Vranic, a Canadian scientist of Croatian background with Czechoslovak connections (Mladen Vranic, chorvatský vědec v československém kontextu)

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Mladen VranicAuthor: Josef Cermak ( PLUS)

This remarkable story really began in 1921, when guided by J. J. R. MacLeod, Frederick G. Banting and Charles H. Best isolated from the pancreas the hormone later called insulin and discovered its use in treatment of diabetes. Collip, a visiting Canadian professor, purified insulin so that it could be given to diabetic patients. For this discovery Banting shared with MacLeod the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Banting died in 1941 in a plane crash while on route to England on a medical war mission. That year Best, who at that time served as associate director of the Connaught Laboratories (where a few years later – and this constitutes the first, very indirect connection suggested in the title of this article – Mikuska Perinova worked as a technician on the development of the Salk polio vaccine) was appointed director of the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the University of Toronto. There was depression in various members of the family and his omission in awarding the Nobel Prize may have later contributed to his severe depressions. Continue reading

Czech/Slovak Expatriates (5): Josef Skvorecky (Čeští/slovenští expati (5): Josef Škvorecký)

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Josef ŠkvoreckýAn article by Josef Cermak about Josef Skvorecky, a well-known Czech writer, publisher, and expatriate, who spent much of his life in Canada and celebrates his 85th birthday tomorrow.

I don’t think there are many Czechs unfamiliar with the name Josef Škvorecký, even though they may not know that he was born in Nachod on September 27, 1924. And almost everyone of them knows one or two of his books, books such as The Cowards (Zbabělci), The Miracle Game (Mirákl), The Tank Corps (Tankový prapor), The Engineer of Human Souls (Příběh inženýra lidských duší), or the book I love best, The Swell Season (Prima sezona). If the majority of Škvorecký’ s most popular books focuses on a society, split by ideology, at a time of revolutionary changes, his literary pallet is much richer. The Swell Season is a sensitive portrayal of the maturing process not only of Josef Škvorecký, but his whole generation. Continue reading

Czech/Slovak Expatriates (4): Jan Rubes (Čeští/slovenští expati (4): Jan Rubeš)

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jan-rubesAuthor: Josef Čermák ( PLUS)

According to an announcement made by his family on June 30, 2009, Jan Rubeš, one of the most impressive, most important and best loved Czechoslovak artists in the world, died at the age of 89. No cause of death was given.

Rubeš was born in Volyně, Czechoslovakia, on June 6. 1920, attended Real-Gymnasium (a Czech term for a high school) in Strakonice (graduating in the year of the Munich surrender), and matriculated at both the Faculty of Medicine. Continue reading

Czech/Slovak Expatriates (1): Dr. Premysl Pelnar (Čeští/slovenští expati (1): Dr. Přemysl Pelnář)

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The story below is about a very important Czech doctor, Premysl Pelnar, who recently passed away (5th of April, 2009) at the age of 95 years old. Dr. Pelnar, a Czech physician, who immigrated to Canada from the former Czechoslovakia in 1964, played a significant role in the area of occupational health. For example, he organized several research projects that resulted in hundreds of scientific publications and lead several research projects all over the world. A fund named “Dr. Premysl (Mike) Pelnar Academic Enrichment Fund” was also established in his honor in the Department of Occupational Health at McGill University in Montreal. The story is written by our new author Josef Cermak, a Doctor of Law, journalist, writer, poet, actor and a lifelong organizer of public and scientific life for Czech and Slovak countrymen in Canada. The Czech version to this article can be found in our “Czech Only” version of named PLUS, where he regularly contributes with his insightful and brilliant articles.

I am hoping that Dr. Premysl (Premík, Mike) Pelnar is with us in spirit. I am sure that if he could, he would be with us in body as well. And most likely would deliver a riveting, charming and smiling oration on the vicissitudes of his life. And what a life it was! Continue reading