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First Czechoslovak president memorial to be unveiled in Rotterdam

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Rotterdam/Brussels, Nov 1 (CTK correspondent) – A memorial commemorating the stay of first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1918-35) in Rotterdam in 1914 will be unveiled in this Dutch city on Thursday, Dutch writer Pieter J. Goedhart, one of the project initiators, has told CTK.

Along with Goedhart, an expert in modern Czechoslovak and Czech history and a co-author of several works on Czech-Dutch relations, the memorial was also initiated by former Dutch ambassador to Prague Jan Cornelis Henneman.

The monument will remind of Masaryk´s meeting with British writer Robert Seton-Watson in the Weimar Hotel in Rotterdam.

It was actually the beginning of Masaryk´s future efforts to win international support for the establishment of a new state, Czechoslovakia, Goedhart pointed out.

Seton-Watson reported on his conversation with Masaryk in a memorandum for the British Foreign Affairs Ministry and the copies were released to French and Russian representatives as well.

“When the independent Czechoslovak state was declared in 1918, it was basically identical with Masaryk´s proposal from Rotterdam,” Goedhart noted.

The 2.5-metre-high statue by Dutch sculptor Hans Citroen to be unveiled on November 5 will also remind of a less known role of Rotterdam as a city in the neutral Netherlands that became the place of safe meetings of may foreign diplomats, agents as well as spies under WWI, Goedhart said.

From the site of the Masaryk memorial, there will be a nice view of the city as well. However, the Wiemar Hotel was completely destroyed by German bombs in 1940.

“This is why the hotel as Masaryk and Seton-Watson knew it is depicted as part of the monument,” Goedhart explained.

He also said the Czech Republic was a well-known tourist destination for the Dutch.

“The most famous Czech is undoubtedly Vaclav Havel [Czechoslovak and Czech president in 1989-2003],” he added.

Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius), a 17th-century Czech theologian, philosopher, philologist and teacher, is also well-known in the Netherlands, Goedhart said. Comenius died in exile in Amsterdam in 1670 and is buried in Naarden where his museum was opened. The foundation of the Comenius Museum in Naarden will also be the owner of the memorial in Rotterdam.

Czech Senate chairman Milan Stech will attend the unveiling of the Masaryk memorial on Thursday.

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