An American Advocacy Organization for the Czech People
Founded as an American private non-governmental organization, American Friends of the Czech Republic fosters closer ties between the United States and the Czech Republic in the areas of business, trade, culture, education, diplomacy, and security. It enhances understanding, friendship, and respect between the peoples of the two countries, while educating U.S. government leaders, media and other opinion makers about the goals and aspirations of the Czech people. Nationwide in scope, AFoCR is the voice of the American constituency that supports the Czech democracy.
The purpose of AFoCR is to:
to promote mutual national security goals in the U.S. and the Czech Republic
of a civil society in the Czech Republic based upon democratic ideals
Provide tangible assistance
to the Czech people during times of hardship
Create new initiatives
for trade and commerce between the United States and the Czech Republic
Establish educational programs
for the promotion of trade, culture and greater understanding between the U.S. and the Czech Republic
for the cultural exchange and appreciation of Czech heritage
Nicolas Winton Educational Project
Several years ago, AFoCR decided to establish the Nicholas Winton Educational Project. The two goals of this project were to import from the Czech Republic to the United States, the highly successful Winton Educational Program and to inform all levels of the U.S. government about the actions and achievements of Nicholas Winton in Prague during the years 1938-39. As a 29-year-old private British citizen Winton organized the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish Czech children immediately before the outbreak of WWII. On a visit to Prague in late 1938, Winton saw first hand the plight of refugees, predominantly Jews from Germany and the Sudetenland, and organized the “Czech Kindertransport.” Back in London, he raised funds, recruited foster parents, and obtained entry permits for the children. From March through August, 1939 he arranged for eight trains to carry the children. A ninth train with 250 more children, scheduled to leave on September 3, 1939, was blocked when Britain, that day, entered the war. A documentary about him, “The Power of Good,” directed by Matej Mináč, won the Emmy Award in 2002. Mináč also made a feature film about him called “All My Loved Ones” in 1998. One rescued child was a cousin of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Since the creation of the Nicholas Winton Educational Project, many goals have been accomplished. The first achievement was the translation into English by AFoCR of the Czech study book “Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life”. The book focuses on WWII, the Holocaust and Winton’s heroic efforts in saving the lives of 669 Jewish children. The book also focuses on 20th century history of the Czech Republic and Europe. Next came the effort to raise funds to print sufficient copies of the book, so that it could be distributed to educational institutions throughout the United States, free of charge, except for shipping. Those funds were raised through the generous efforts of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and concerned Americans, so that publication is now underway for 17,000 copies.
AFoCR’s activities in the U.S. on the part of Winton led to a special letter to him from President Bush in July, 2006 and the passage of H.R. 583 by the U.S. House of Representatives in his honor. AFoCR Vice President Peter Rafaeli translated from Czech the book by Matej Mináč, “Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life,” and AFoCR is publishing it and distributing 17,000 copies free of charge to educational institutions nationwide.
AFoCR co-sponsored a memorable and highly emotional visit by Sir Nicholas Winton to Prague which took place in October 6-12, 2007. Winton’s achievements had gone unrecognized until 1988 when his wife found lists of the children in an attic. Winton’s visit to Prague, accompanied by his daughter and son, came at the invitation of Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. He was also invited by former President Václav Havel to attend Forum 2000 as the sole guest of honor. In addition, he was received by Czech President Václav Klaus and Prague’s Lord Mayor Pavel Bém and was decorated by the Czech Minister of Defense Vlasta Parkanová.
Wilson Monumental Effort
A memorial monument to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson will return to a location at the main Prague train station that bears his name. The Prague City Council approved the restoration plan in August, 2007,and the memorial is slated to be unveiled in 2009. “We want to rebuild the memorial for many different reasons; primarily because of our respect for Woodrow Wilson, and, secondly, because of respect for our friends in the United States and for our emigrants,” said Prague Mayor Pavel Bem.
American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFoCR) is leading the effort to reerect the Wilson Memorial in Prague as a followup to its related initiative of establishing the Tomas Masaryk Memorial in Washington, D.C., completed in 2002. AFoCR Director Robert Doubek, who is Project Director for the Wilson Memorial, summarized the initiative: “The Wilson Memorial in Prague, as the counterpart of the Masaryk Memorial in Washington, will complete the symbolism of the long-standing ties of friendship and joint democratic values shared by the American and Czech peoples.”
TGM Memorial Wall of Honor Unveiled
10-28-2005 - 06:53 AM The T.G. Masaryk Memorial Wall of Honor was unveiled on October 28, 2005 at the Embassy of the Czech Republic as part of the annual National Day commemoration. The wall is situated in a garden setting just outside the Embassy main hall. Completed through a collaboration between AFoCR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the wall lists all who made exceptional contributions to the Masaryk Memorial Project. With the unveiling of the Wall of Honor, AFoCR’s Directors declared that the Masaryk Memorial Project is complete.
During the well-attended National Day ceremony, Ambassador Palous expressed his appreciation for the efforts of all who supported the Masaryk Memorial Project. He then assisted AFoCR Directors Mike Rokos and Phil Kasik with the unveiling of the Wall of Honor. Contributors to the project who made a Czech memorial in Washington, D.C. a reality were acknowledged, and the Masaryk Memorial Book of Honor was presented to Ambassador Palous. The Book lists over 2000 individuals, organizations, associations and foundations that contributed to the Masaryk Memorial, including Czech cities, regions and companies. In describing the significance of the Masaryk Memorial, AFoCR Director Phil Kasik remarked how the Masaryk Memorial would continue as a perpetual symbol of the historic links between the people of the United States and of the the Czech and Slovak peoples. The Memorial will be maintained by AFoCR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will serve as the principal Washington venue to celebrate the historic ties of friendship and the values of freedom, democracy and human rights.
The Masaryk Memorial Project began in 2001 with an international effort led by AFoCR to secure the site, design the memorial, and raise the funds needed for its creation. The Masaryk Memorial Project progressed in September, 2002 with the dedication ceremony of the T.G. Masaryk statue. Distinguished guests who participated in the dedication include Czech President Vaclav Havel and Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
Support for Visa Waiver for Czechs
Latest news about VISA waiver effort
-AFoCR Launches Visa Waiver Issue Education Campaign--A Message from Mike Rokos, President
-Lack of Visa Waiver Program Participation Affects U.S.-Czech Relations
-Visa Waiver Program Status
-How You Can Help the Czechs Gain Visa Waiver Status
General information on VISA waiver effort
What is the Visa Waiver Program and what are its current requirements?
The VWP enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for stays of 90 days or less without a visa. The program was established in 1986 to promote better relations with U.S. allies, eliminate unnecessary travel barriers, and stimulate tourism. Currently, 27 countries participate in the VWP—Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
To participate in the VWP, countries must meet criteria set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (U.S.C. 1187), the Border Security Act, and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (EBSVERA).
They require the following criteria:
Governments provide reciprocal 90-day visa-free travel for U.S. citizens.
Governments issue secure machine-readable passports that contain biometric identifiers.
Governments certify that they report lost or stolen passports on a timely basis to the U.S. Government, and do so in practice.
The country must have a very low non-immigrant refusal rate.
The incidence of foreign nationals traveling as nonimmigrant visitors who are denied admission, withdraw their application, or violate the terms of VWP admission amounts to less than 2 percent of the total number of non-immigrant nationals traveling to the U.S. during the previous fiscal year.
The INA also requires that the Department of Homeland Security evaluate the effect that a country’s designation as a VWP participant would have on U.S. law enforcement and security interests, including enforcement of immigration laws and the existence and effectiveness of extradition agreements and procedures. For a country to be designated as a VWP participant, a determination must be made that U.S. interests would not be compromised. Specific factors considered in such a review are not established, but have included political and economic stability, security and law enforcement threats, cooperation with the United States on law enforcement issues, and nationality and citizenship laws.