“Jiri Dienstbier was a dear old friend, a dissident from the anti-Communist movement and a great hero,” Marc S. Ellenbogen said many years ago.As one of Czechoslovakia's most respected foreign correspondents, Jiří Dienstbier was fired after the Prague Spring and had menial jobs for the following two decades. During this time he became a signatory of Charta 77, helped to restart Lidové Noviny, one of the country's major newspapers and reemerged with the Velvet Revolution, becoming the first Foreign Minister of post-Communist Czechoslovakia in 1989.
He became a hero to millions when, together with then German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock, he cut the "iron curtain." The images spread across the world.
As a politician he played a preeminent role in shaping post-Communist foreign policy in a democratic Czechoslovakia between 1989 and 1993 and from Central Europe to Asia to the Middle East. When the Czech Republic and Slovakia separated as states, he played a leading role as a commentator and thoughtful rebel. Finally he entered politics again in the 21st century as a Senator and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
When Dienstbier's friend Adam Michnik received the Hanno R. Ellenbogen award in 2011, we had hoped he would be part of the ceremony. This year Jiří Dienstbier receives the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award in memoriam. His wife Jirina accepted the award at the ceremony. Jiří Dienstbier died in 2011.
The financial part of Jiří Dienstbier's award was donated to go towards the design and publishing of a new book, "Jiří Dienstbier – rozhlasový zpravodaj (Jiří Dienstbier - Radio Reporter)."