AP NEWS

Czech ambassador feels at home in Nebraska

October 23, 2017 GMT

Czech Republic Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek on Monday celebrated Nebraska’s deep and personal ties to Czechoslovakia while promoting increased cultural and economic interaction with the state.

Nebraska, where 83,000 people can claim Czech heritage, is “a wonderful home for Czechs,” he said during a news conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts.

“If you hear people on the street speak with a strange accent,” Kmonicek said, “they come from Wilber or the Czech Republic.”

In Nebraska, he said, he feels “not so far away.”

Ricketts said Nebraska is the state with the highest per capita presence of Czech-related residents.

Nebraska also has a long relationship with the Czech military through a partnership with the Nebraska National Guard that was established in 1993, Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, the state’s adjutant general, said.

“About 60 Czech soldiers were in training with us this summer,” Bohac said.

In a light moment before the news conference began, Ambassador Kmonicek corrected Bohac on how he pronounced his own name.

Kmonicek, who was making his first trip to Nebraska, celebrated the close relationship by naming University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce as an honorary Czech Republic consul in Nebraska.

Saskova-Pierce, who teaches the Czech language, said she will promote the Czech Republic during cultural and economic events and be available to assist Czech citizens.

The Czech language has been taught in Nebraska for more than 100 years, she said.

“There’s still a sizable population in Nebraska that speaks Czech as a choice,” Saskova-Pierce said.

Wilber in Saline County is known as the “Czech Capital of the USA” and hosts an annual Czech festival in August.

Ambassador Kmonicek said he already is making plans to return to Nebraska for upcoming events, including a 100th anniversary celebration of Czech independence in 2018.