Welcome to Czechevents.net
THE CZECH NORTH AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & CULTURE INC.
The Czech North American Chamber of Commerce was established in Boston, Massachusetts on October 28, 1998. At its birth were key personalities of Czech origin, Thomas J. Bata, the world famous shoemaker, and the well-known Canadian industrialist, A. Karel Velan. Peter Pithart, the Czech Republic's Prime minister at the time, participated in signing of the proclamation. The CNACC&C is registered as a non-profit organization in Atlanta, Georgia, with its Head office in Toronto, Ontario. Its active branches are in Chicago, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia.
The creation of the Czech North American Chamber of Commerce & Culture Inc. was preceded by the Canada-Czech Republic Chamber of Commerce, established after the fall of communism and the “Velvet revolution“ in former Czechoslovakia. Originally, the activities of the organization involved establishing commercial ties between Czechoslovakia, Canada and the United States.
In the fall of 2007, after the opening of offices by Czech governmental trade agencies in the US and Canada, the Czech North American Chamber of Commerce was looking for a new direction. It has found it in focusing on promotion and co-ordination of Czech cultural activities in North America. The organization, at this point renamed The Czech- North American Chamber of Commerce & Culture Inc., has created a unique website www.czechevents.net, which informs Americans and Canadians of Czech heritage about incoming cultural events, specifically about tours, performances and exhibitions of Czech artists coming over the Atlantic to North America. The United States and Canada have the largest Czech expatriate communities in the world. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, there are some 3 million persons living in North America who share Czech and Slovak heritage. The website of the Czech Embassy in Washington lists more than 163 Czech related organizations in the US. In Canada, there are 37 Czech organizations. Many of them include persons of Slovak origin as well. This gives our services a market of 200 potential clubs and organizations. In addition, there are potential interested parties such as professional concert agencies and galleries.
Our services provide sourcing of cultural events from Czech Republic and Slovakia and the scheduling and coordination of a number of activities and events. Our website www.czechevents.net, is designed for publishing available events and packages for new events, when there is a substantial interest on this side of the Atlantic. The results are more than satisfactory. Every moth a minimum of 20 000 Czech and Slovak expatriates living in North America visit our internet portal. In addition to the cultural promotion, CNACC&C has been focusing on promotion of teaching the Czech language. The newest project is the establishment of the Czech School in Atlanta, Georgia, which will carry the name of our president A. Karel Velan, its major sponsor.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chairman and President is A.Karel Velan from Montreal, a well-known Canadian industrialist of Czech origin and a benefactor of Czech cultural projects. He heads our Board of Directors. The Vice president is Otto Masek, the President of the Chicago Chapter of the Czech North American Chamber of Commerce. The Executive Director is the founder and the developer of the Czech Events Network's concept, Lubomir J. Novotny, based in Toronto. Among Board members are George Novak, the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Georgia and Roman Plachy LL.M., both of Atlanta U.S.A. The Board of Directors includes MUDr. Martin Jan Stransky, MD, FACP, the publisher of "New Presence", and Head of advisory Committee of the Czech Republic Senate Commission for Czechs Living Abroad, with his base in Prague, Michael Klimesh, the founder and President of the Czech Heritage Partnership from Spillville, Iowa, together with Alain Nonat, Chairman and General and Artistic Director of Theatre Lyrichoregra 20 and also Chairman of the Association pour le resserrement des liens entre la Canada, la Republique Tcheque et la Slovaquie from Montreal. The educational aspects of our organization are represented by Dr. Lucie Slavikova-Boucher, the founder and Chair of the “Czech School Without Border". Suzana Hasley,Vice-President and Event Producer at the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, NY Chapter (SVU New York).
CULTURAL DIVISION: INTERNET PORTAL "CZECH EVENTS NETWORK"
Producer & Publisher: Lubomir J. Novotny
Computer Consultant: Katarina Onuschak
Web Content Editor: Sonia Holicova
Social Media: Jin Olberg
Prague Office : t.b.a.
EDUCATIONAL DIVISION:" CZECH SCHOOL OF ATLANTA HONORING A. KAREL VELAN"
Lenka Mohwish (president)
Olda Musalek (Vice President / Event Chair)
Slavka Lacinova (Secretary)
Pavlina Ladnak (Assistant Secretary)
Pepa Tater (Treasurer)
Ala Anton (School Director)
David Ladnak (Fundraising Chair)
Roman Plachy (Law advise and CNACCC's sec.)
Hanka Musalek (Social Media/Press Sec.)
Iva Valkusova (Founder)
It is hard to believe that our successful Montreal-based world class industrialist, philanthropist, respected astrophysicist, and engineer, A. Karel Velan, C.Q., and his wife Mrs. Olga Velan celebrated their 97th birthdays and at the same time they celebrate 74 years of their marriage. Mr. Velan’s vitality at his age is truly miraculous.
It has been already 67 years since the thirty-year-old couple and their two small children left their homeland after February 1948. After their arrival in Montreal, the family expanded but Mr. Velan also built an engineering empire with offices on three continents. He is known not only for his business success but also for his generosity: with his wife Olga he helped with humanitarian projects his whole life, not only in Canada but elsewhere in the world and, after 1989, their name became known in the Czech Republic as well.
Our birthday couple was born at the end of the First World War in Moravia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: Karel Velan was born on 8.2.1918 in Ostrava and Mrs. Olga on 28.3.1918 in Brno (on the same day as John Amos Comenius– as she always proudly points out). They both successfully graduated from Masaryk University in Brno in 1939: Mr. Velan studied at the engineering faculty and Mrs. Olga studied philosophy. After graduation, Mr. Velan worked in industrial engineering field during the war. He has been an avid athlete all his life, he loves tennis and skiing and it was exactly at a ski competition where he met a good looking blond girl, his future wife Olga whom he married 74 years ago. Their wedding took place on 22.2.1941 in Brno-Zábrdovice. They have three sons – Ivan (1945), Peter (1946) and Thomas who was born in Montreal (1952). The couple loves their 12 grand-children and 15 great-grand-children. Mr. Velan proudly and jokingly says that they were four when they came to Montreal and that today they are forty including the partners.
After the war, Mr. Velan founded his successful engineering firm manufacturing textile machinery, with customers in several European countries. Even though he was on the Russian side during the war hoping they would drive the Germans out (he even learned the Russian language), after February 1948 when the communists “nationalized” factories, his support of the Russians waned. That’s why the Velans decided to move their family to Austria. Eventually Mr. Velan and his little son Ivan drove across the bridge over the Danube river into the “western zone”, allegedly, to visit their customers, to show them their superior machines. Using a fake passport, Mrs. Olga and two-year-old Peter took a train to Linz, a few days later. They managed to escape at the last minute just before the border was closed. After the family happily reunited, they moved to Switzerland. They arrived in Montreal with their sons in July 1949. Almost immediately they became involved in the Czechoslovak community.
Karel Velan came to Canada with a dream to engineer, manufacture and market top-quality products for the global valve industry. He has realized his dream: He started working on his new invention – the steam trap – in his garage. To manufacture a prototype, he rented a room from Thomas Bata and tested the product in McGill University's boiler room. He got the results patented immediately in several countries. His first customer ever was Westinghouse, a company in need of special valves. At that time, as Mr. Velan reminisces, using a dictionary, he tried to figure out what the company actually wanted and then got down to work. It was also the first time that his valve was used on an American submarine, supplied by Westinghouse.
Mr. Velan went on a very successful business trip across the United States – he offered his prototype to the American Navy, who tested it for a year – and then the orders started to pour in. Within the first six months he had so many orders that he was unable to fulfill them because he did not have a plant. He had to subcontract the production.
Mr. Velan founded Velan Engineering Ltd. (now Velan Inc.) in 1950 with a $300,000 loan. His company, listed today at the Toronto Stock Exchange, is worth millions of dollars. Over 2,000 employees work in 17 modern plants on three continents. Four in Canada, other plants are in the U.S.A., England, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, China, Taiwan, South Korea and India. Even though most businesses are trying to outsource their work to less expensive countries, Velan Inc. maintains almost half of their employees in Canada while significantly contributing to the economic growth of Canada, including Quebec.
Mr. Velan’s valves are used in oil refineries, gas, petrochemical industry, on ships, nuclear submarines, nuclear and coal power plants, in aviation industry as well as in satellites, and even in the largest physics laboratory in the world - the largest particle accelerator CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva. Velan Inc’s market includes more than 50 countries.
Mr. Velan follows in the footsteps of a Czech prince Rupert, founder of the Hudson Bay Company, and the famous Mr. Bata, another Czech businessman who made it big. His business is so unique that it even became part of the curriculum at Canadian universities, namely at the HEC (l’École des hautes etudes commerciales) in Montreal.
The success of the company is demonstrated by its continuously increasing prosperity and numerous awards bestowed upon it. In addition to those already noted, these are also worth mentioning: Canada Export Award 1991, Best Quebec Businessman 1996, in 1998 Velan Inc. was nominated one of the best fifteen companies of the century, it received the “Pioneer in Nuclear Technology” award in Holland in 2004, HEC university awarded the company New Vision Award in 1992 and another award was given by the Concordia University in 1995. In 2002 A.K. was nominated into the Hall of Fame of the valve industry, Valve World Fellow, Telus gave Mr. Velan the Grand Prix Humaniste award in 2004, Company of the Year by Les Affaires business journal, and Mr. Velan is also listed in the “Who is Who in Canadian Business”. Also for his support of workers, Mr. Velan was given, as the only industrialist in history, honorary membership in the Confédération des syndicats nationaux by the national union federation, the CSN.
Mr. Velan is ready to share his success – he supports grand humanitarian and cultural projects exactly along Einstein’s idea that “Any success in the world is worthless if not shared with others”, which is a motto of his more than fifty-year-long charitable activity in the Rotary Club. For years, Mr. Velan was its president and director of a charitable fund for which he was given Montreal Club’s Centennial Award on the occasion of club‘s 100 years anniversary. Moreover, Mr. Velan established his own Velan Foundation. Since 1981, he gives every year the “Velan Award” to Canadians who were successful in humanitarian projects abroad. In 1989, the Velans were instrumental in the first positive impact of the Goodwill Committee—The Olga Havel Foundation. In 1991, they organized Olga Havel’s visit to Canada and, over time, they sent more than half a million dollars to charitable and humanitarian projects (for example Charity Blansko, Brno Children Hospital, study visits of Czech doctors in the U.S.A. and Canada, Olympic Games of Mentally Handicapped, assistance during the floods etc.) in the Czech Republic.
Canadian media agree that Mr. Velan is one of the biggest philanthropists in Montreal and Canada. They base their claim on facts such as foundation of a shelter for homeless women and children: for La Rue Des Femmes/Herstreet Foundation – in 2002, the Velans bought a building in Montreal named after Mrs. Olga – whose honorary president is Mr. Velan. Camp Papillon, Pavilion for Quebec organization of handicapped children, is also financed by the same benefactors who have been supporting the children’s summer camp Hostýn practically since its beginning in 1954.
In India, where the Velans “chipped in” to build a hospital, their name is also well known. The spirit of Mr. Velan - astronomer, played its role in the creation of the Cosmolab Velan in Mont-Mégantic and astronomy pavilion in Mont Tremblant. Velan’s name is also known among the Mohawks who named Mr. Velan honorary chief of their Oka reservation where he contributed to the purchase of school equipment, cultural center and radio station that, in addition to broadcasting in their native language, also broadcasts in English and French.
Mr. Velan cooperates on the project “On Own Feet – Centipede” with Běla Gran Jensen, a Norwegian of Czech descent who was named the greatest Czech abroad in 2012. Every year a million of Czech children make Christmas cards and send them to Mrs. Jensen in Norway. She sells them (with the backing of Mr. Velan) and the proceeds are used for humanitarian purposes. Mr. Velan has donated through this project hundreds of thousands more to children hospital in Kostelec nad Černými lesy.
In 1998, the Czech Republic gave the Gratias Agit Award to the Velans for the promotion of the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. The Czech and Slovak Association in Canada awarded them in 1999 honorary Masaryk Award for their activities. Mr. Velan is the only Czech living abroad who also received the annual Award of Ethics Forum in Prague in 2005.
The Velans have kept their hearts opened all their lives. Over the years, they have donated millions of dollars to many charitable projects. They also instilled philanthropy in their sons and so did they in their children. Continuing this tradition makes the Velans proud. Deservedly so.
As successful as Karel Velan is in the world of business, he is equally successful in the hobbies he has devoted over seventy years of his life to. He is an internationally recognized expert in astrophysics and research into the origins of the universe. Because of his revolutionary theory of the “Big Bang,” Oxford University organized a scientific conference.
How did he actually get this idea? One day while vacationing in Florida in 1985 after watching the movie “The Day After” Mr. Velan became inspired and formulated a revolutionary theory of multi-universe creation. His book “The Multi-Universe Cosmos” was published in 1992. Eight years later he published another book “The Birth and History of the Cosmos” which was also published in French and Chinese.
It would not be Mr. Velan if he would not show his philanthropy even in this field. He established the Cosmolab Velan in the national park Mont Mégantic – an observatory and museum of cosmology, visited by more than two thousand students each year. He did the same thing in 2005 in Domaine St. Bernard – Mont Tremblant with his “Velan Astronomy Pavilion”, he bought a telescope for this pavilion as well as for the observatory of a university in Leicester, England – a place of one of his plants.
Mr. Velan expressed his love of the universe and planets in a creation of a sundial – he is a member of the CCSQ – association of Quebec “sundialists”. For Expo ’67 he designed and donated to Montreal the largest sundial in Quebec. It was placed in a Plexiglas sphere measuring 4.25 m in diameter, which was installed in front of the Hélène de Champlain restaurant on Ile Ste-Hélène. Unfortunately, someone stole the decorative clock- face measuring 5.5 m in diameter. All that is left is a photograph (it can be found under number 112-MTRL-028 at the internet address http://cadrans-solaires.scg. ulaval.ca/v08-08-04/catalogue/catalogue_111.html).
Another hobby of Mr. Velan is music. That is why he supports concerts of Czech artists and ensembles in Canada. In 1991, on the occasion of Antonín Dvořák‘s150th anniversary of his birth, together with Josef Suk and Alain Nonat, he established Antonín Dvořák Foundation in Montreal.
The largest sundial in Montreal, Quebec a gift from Velan
In 2003, cooperation with a Wisconsin university began. This foundation organizes competitions for young Canadian, American, Czech and Slovak interpreters of Czech and Slovak classical masters and reciprocal internships of the winners in North America, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Mr. Velan was also involved in establishing the Czech-Canadian Chamber of Commerce. He became its president. Together with Thomas Bata and Petr Pithart, president of Czech Senate, Mr. Velan was also a co-founder and president of a Czech-North American Chamber of Commerce, founded later in 1998 in Boston on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia. The chamber of commerce is now called CNACC&C – Czech-North American Chamber of Commerce and Culture Inc. It is registered in the U.S.A. and has an office in Toronto (http://www.czechevents.net/). Its president and main sponsor is again Karel Velan.
In addition to promoting business contacts between American, Canadian and Czech businesses its other goal is to help increase the number of top Czech classical music interpreters and artists performing in North America.
I wanted to pay homage to our honorees, and although I know Mrs. Olga Velan all my life from our Montreal Czech and Slovak Association in Canada committee and the bazaars (and Mr. Karel Velan from occasional encounters), I have gathered the information about their life from the sources available on the internet. I apologize in advance for any discrepancies.
We wish Mrs. Olga and Mr. Karel Velan good health, a lot of joy with their large family and everlasting energy for future activities. I am honored to live in proximity of such special couple whose high-spirited life was based on life philosophy which Mr. Velan briefly summarized as: “I have always enjoyed giving more than being on the receiving end”.
Czech version of the article
Written for `Novy domov` by Ladislav Krivanek.Translated to English by Misha Schmid.
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