Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jan Winkler RIP

I just found out this morning about the untimely death of the Czech Ambassador to the UK - Jan Winkler. He was a lovely man that I met last year when he attended the opening of my mother's museum (about the Czech Scrolls). He dropped dead from a brain haemorrhage at the age of 51 a couple of weeks ago. Dreadful. *sigh*

Here is a little of what the Times has to say today in his obituary:

"Jan Winkler was not only a highly effective ambassador for the Czech Republic but also one of the outstanding figures of its post-communist national scene.

Since the beginning of this year the Czech Republic had assumed the presidency of the EU, which inevitably places a heavy additional workload on its European embassies. Winkler had undertaken this task with energy and imagination and relished the opportunity it presented for projecting his country. In January he launched the presidency by organising a concert of Czech music by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Winkler was indefatigable in developing British-Czech relations and he was a great supporter of the British Czech and Slovak Association in this country. He initiated the establishment of a British-Czech chamber of commerce and became its patron. He was also very keen on rejuvenating Czech studies at British universities.

Winkler persuaded the Mayor of Prague to erect a sculpture commemorating Sir Nicholas Winton, who heroically rescued several Czechoslovak children just before the Nazis marched into Prague. The statue will stand on the very platform of Prague Main Station from where the trains with the rescued children departed for this country. He also organised events in 2007 to commemorate the Bohemian engraver Wenceslaus Hollar, whose meticulous depictions of London before the Great Fire caused him to be known as “the man who drew London”.

Winkler even found time to write poetry. He was a man of wide culture and great charm and distinction, well respected on the London diplomatic, political and cultural scene as well as in his own country."

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