Monsignor Karel Fort was a broadcaster with RFE/RL’s Czechoslovak Service, producing religious programs and airing church services banned under the communist regime.
Fort broadcast under the name Otec Karel, or Father Karel, to prevent harassment and threats against his family.
Olga Kopecka, a colleague of Fort's at RFE/RL, recalled collaborating with him on "a program for young people where Father Fort explained all sorts of aspects about baptism, marriage, and more -- because this knowledge was lacking in Czechoslovakia. He talked in a way that everyone could understand.”
Born in central Bohemia on November 8, 1921, Fort was ordained as a priest in 1948.
During the war he was arrested by the Gestapo for possesion of anti-Nazi pamphlets, an experience to which he attributed his decision to become a priest. He was later sent as a forced laborer to a steelworks in Linz, Austria.
After the communist coup d’etat in 1948, he became known for helping people escape acrross the Czechoslovak border. When he was warned of his own imminent arrest he himself escaped, eventually ending up in Algeria, where he ministered to local communities of French, Italian and Spanish Christians.
Monsignor Fort was honored by Czech President Vaclav Klaus with the Order of T.G. Masaryk for the development of democracy, humanity, and human rights.
He died at the age of 92 in the Czech town of Ceske Budejovice on January 21.
Petr Pribik worked for RFE/RL’s Czechoslovak Service for more than 28 years.
Born in Prague in 1937, Pribik emigrated to Germany in 1965, where he worked for RFE/RL’s Czechoslovak Service reporting on political and foreign policy issues during the Cold War. He was known as a staunch anti-communist and an ardent defender of freedom and democracy.
Pribik used the pen name Petr Langer for his broadcasts to protect his identity and safeguard his family.
He returned to Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and later worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1996 to 1999 he was the Czech Republic's charge d'affaires in Cuba. He served as ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan, afterward appearing frequently on Czech radio and television as an expert on these regions.
Kopecka remembers Pribik as an outgoing type.
“He liked to go on adventurous holidays, and when I heard he joined the Czech diplomatic corps I wasn’t surprised,” she said.
He enjoyed traveling the world, especially with his sons.
Pribik died at the age of 76 on January 3, 2014.
- Anna Barbara Mazel