Prague - Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved hundreds of Czech Jewish kids on the eve of World War Two, will not attend the ceremony of his decoration with the Order of White Lion, the highest Czech state award, at Prague Castle due to health reasons, daily Lidove noviny (LN) quotes his daughter as saying.
Nicholas Winton, který před druhou světovou válkou zachránil před nacisty několik set československých židovských dětí, na snímku z 19. května 2014. ČTK Mundil Stanislav
President Milos Zeman is to bestow the order on Winton, a British, on October 28, the national holiday marking the anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
Zeman informed Winton about his intention to award him in a recent letter of congratulations on his 105th birthday. He invited Winton to the ceremony.
According to some historians and other personalities, there is no reason to wait for October 28. They suggest that Zeman award Winton as quickly as possible.
The law enables it, and it would not be the first similar case in the modern Czech history, they point out.
Zeman reportedly insists on the October date, LN writes.
"The president decided to bestow the highest state award on Sir Nicholas Winton on October 28 because this is the most important national holiday. This raises the weight of the decoration," Zeman´s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told LN on Wednesday.
If Winton could not come to the Czech Republic, Zeman could present the award to a person coming on Winton´s behalf, Ovcacek told CTK on Monday.
Ovcacek said he considers the call for Zeman to award Winton as quickly as possible indecent.
On the eve of WWII outburst, Winton organised the transfer of 669 Jewish children from the then Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. He secured the necessary documents for them and their reception by British families.
Winton has been decorated with a number of British and Czech awards. He has been knighted, he was awarded the Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk by then Czech president Vaclav Havel in 1998 and in 2010 he received the Holocaust Hero medal from former British prime minister Gordon Brown.
Since 1989, a number of heads of state have been presented with the Czech Order of White Lion, including George Bush sr., Mikhail Gorbachev, Francois Mitterrand, Lech Walesa, Richard von Weizsaecker and British Queen Elizabeth II, and recently also German President Joachim Gauck.
The award has also gone to a number of war veterans, the Israeli Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal and other personalities.