Yesterday the Czech Senate revealed its list of proposed figures for state honors and Josef Serinek, who participated in the anti-Nazi resistance, has been proposed for the Medal for Heroism. After his escape from the concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku, Serinek commanded a group of partisans in the Vysočina area.
The 2022 Senate list featured just eight figures, including members of the anti-Nazi resistance group “Three Kings“. That is a record low number for this final year of the presidency of Miloš Zeman, who will award the state’s highest honors.
Last year the Senate proposed 15 candidates. Zeman, who does not have a friendly relationship with the upper house, agreed to just two of the figures proposed.
The Order of the White Lion, according to the Senate, should be given this year to Josef Balabán, Josef Mašín and Václav Morávek, who performed diversion and sabotage operations during the Second World War and delivered intelligence to the Czechoslovak Government-in-exile in London. Balabán was apprehended and executed in 1941, while Mašín and Morávek fell in 1942 after an exchange of gunfire with the Nazis.
All three of those resistance fighters were posthumously promoted to the rank of general. The highest state honor this year, according to the Senate, should go to General Karel Lukas, a member of the foreign legion and a participant in the anti-Nazi resistance abroad who, after the 1948 communist putsch, was arrested in 1949 by the communist secret police, charged with treason, and then tortured to death in Pankrác Prison in Prague.
Medals for Merit, according to the Senate, should be given this year to the 90-year-old choirmaster Ivan Sedláček, who established and led Brno’s Kantiléna ensemble; to the priest and former spokesperson for the Czech Bishops’ Conference, Miloslav Fiala; and to an elected representative who served in what was the first legislature of independent Czechoslovakia, the Revolutionary National Assembly (1918-1920), Ludmila Zatloukalová-Coufalová, also the first female mayor ever elected in Moravia who, after the communist putsch in 1948, had to endure having all her property confiscated and died in 1960 in a Psychiatric Treatment Facility in Šternberk. The Senate received half as many nomination proposals this year compared to 2021, when it forwarded 15 of the 17 proposed nominees to Prague Castle for the president’s consideration.
While Zeman chose none of those who had been proposed in 2020, last year he agreed with two proposals. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of being bestowed in October 2021 the honors were bestowed in March of this year to the first commander of the Czechoslovak 310th Squadron of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, Alexander Hess, and to the first battalion commander of Czechoslovak peacekeeping forces as part of the UNPROFOR mission on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, Karel Blahna.
Relations between Prague Castle and the Senate cooled distinctly over the 2020 trip taken by senators to Taiwan, which the president of the upper house, Senator Miloš Vystrčil (Civic Democratic Party – ODS), pushed through despite threats from mainland China. Zeman disagreed with the senators’ visit.