In an email, Debbie Komanski, executive director of Winter Park's Albin Polasek Museum, checked in from the festivities in Prague, Czech Republic.
Komanski and other officials of the Polasek Foundation, which oversees the museum, flew to Prague to attend the rededication ceremony of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial, one of sculptor Albin Polasek's great work.
Polasek, who died in 1965, spent his retirement years in Winter Park, and the museum that showcases his work is on his property.
This week, I wrote about the statue's history – how it was sculpted in 1928 to honor Wilson's support of Czech nationhood as a democracy, then pulled down by the Nazis in 1941. (You can read that story of all the twists and turns it took to restore the statue to its rightful place here: Polasek's Wilson statue returns to the world stage in Prague.)
The American Friends of the Czech Republic, a private U.S. organization, partnered with the Albin Polasek Foundation to have the statue restored.
Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus led the ceremony, which was also attended by such dignitaries as Madeleine Albright, the Czech-American former U.S. secretary of state, and Vaclav Havel, the pro-democracy firebrand who became the first president of what was then Czechoslovakia.
"It was deeply moving when President Klaus specifically thanked the Albin Polasek Foundation and American Friends of the Czech Republic for returning the Woodrow Wilson Monument to Prague," Komanski writes. "Secretary Albright, U.S. Ambassador Norman Eisen and others gave stirring addresses as well."
German news agency Deutsch Presse-Agentur reported Klaus termed the monument a "symbol of the friendship" between the United States and the Czech Republic that served as a reminder of common values of democracy and freedom.
"Much of the damage that the Nazis caused can never be undone, but returning the monument of Woodrow Wilson to its proper place is a direct reply to Hitler and to Heydrich," the news agency quoted Albright as saying. She was referencing Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler's notorious overseer of the region during theWorld War II.
Komanski received a special thrill: She was able to meet the famed freedom fighter Havel.
"Immediately after the unveiling I was honored to present the first president of the Czech Republic (and national hero), Vaclav Havel, with a small casting of Polasek's 'Man Carving His Own Destiny,'" Komanski writes. It was a special day for Havel, as well: It was his 75th birthday.
Elected officials of the U.S. and Czech Republic, and guests from both countries enjoyed a two-hour reception immediately after the unveiling, Komanski reports.
The Winter Park delegation, including Albin Polasek Foundation trustee Michael Kakos, his wife, Aimee Kakos, Carol Wisler, and Diana and Paul Beckmann also attended a VIP dinner at the residence of the U.S. ambassador.
Writes Komanski: "We have all been so proud to represent the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens at all these historic events."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun