Celebrating freedom and Havel in New York
In addition to their consistent and long-standing support of the Václav Havel Library in Prague, Michaela and Zdeněk Bakala continue to be major supporters of the Václav Havel Library Foundation (VHLF) in New York. The VHLF has been caring of Václav Havel’s legacy on the international stage and this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. The Foundation celebrated its birthday at annual gala held each September in partnership with the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association (BBLA). Funds raised are used to support the Foundation’s programs and to spread Václav Havel’s legacy, particularly in the United States.
This year’s benefit evening, with the main theme of Following Dreams, was dedicated to a guest of honour Czech-American children’s book writer and illustrator Petr Sís, who received the BBLA 2022 Award for Unparalleled Service to the Czech and Slovak Communities in the USA. The program also included excerpts from two of his works. Alice Albright, Director of the Millennium Challenge Corporattion and daughter of the recently deceased Madeleine Albright, read from his book Madlenka. Marjan Neshat, winner of the 2022 Sam Norkin Drama Desk Award, and Iranian-American actress, writer and activist Pooya Mohseni read at the stage an excerpt from his another book The Conference of the Birds.
The annual gala is always an exceptional meeting of supporters, fans and friends of the Foundation. In addition to the donors and representatives of the Foundation, there were another guests of honour: Miloslav Stašek, the new Czech Ambassador to the U.S., Miroslav Konvalina,the Director of the Czech Center in New York, Edward Einhorn, director and playwriter, Bill Shipsey, Founder of the Art for Amnesty, Fred de Sam Lazaro, correspondent, PBS Newshour, and Adam Plachetka, the Czech famous baritone currently hosting at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Among those invited was also Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský who was finally unable to attend due to a clash with his another agenda.
For the seventh time, the annual gala also featured the Disturbing the Peace Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk. This year, the award was given to the Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov.