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Explosion in West, TX

The motherland mourns for battered Czech community of West

Posted Friday, Apr. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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WEST -- The government of the Czech Republic dispatched its top emissary in the United States to this battered Czech community to express its condolences in the aftermath of a devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant.

"I hope this will at least console the people here, that they will know that their motherland, the Czech people, are following this and they really are sorry for that," Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovic told the Star-Telegram.

The Washington-based ambassador said his nation's 1.3 million citizens share a strong link with the Central Texas community, which was founded by Czech immigrants in the late 1800s.

More than 70 per cent of West's roughly 2,800 residents are Czech descendants, Gandalovic said.

"You see it on those storefronts. You see Czech names. You see words like kolache and polka," the emissary said. "They're very proud of their Czech descent. They maintain their culture."

Gandalovic said Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg assigned the mission on behalf of Prime Minister Petr Necas.

"This is a very proud Czech town and unfortunately it has been so terribly hit by this tragedy," he said.

The Czech state, formerly known as Bohemia, later became part of the Austrian empire and merged with the Slovaks to become Czechoslovakia at the end of World War I.

A non-violent separation after the collapse of Soviet communism resulted in the creation of two countries - the Czech Republic and Slovakia - in 1993. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin Bureau chief, 512-739-4471

Twitter: @daveymontgomery

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