Washington - During his visit of the United States Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek awarded Josef and Ctirad Mašín at the Czech embassy in Washington on Thursday.
"I decided to award the Mašín brothers because it is necessary to appreciate their resistance efforts," PM Topolánek said at the ceremony.
He then decorated only one of the brothers - Josef Mašín, as Ctirad could not make it to the enmbassy.
"It is one small step for me but one giant leap for the Czech Republic," Josef Mašín said while being awarded.
"But you still have a long way to go," he added. "The Czech Republic still has the communists around and they used to kill people, including our mother. And there are still judges in office who used to work during the communist regime," Mašín said.
READ MORE ABOUT TOPOLÁNEK´S VISIT TO THE US:
Controversy around the Mašíns
The Mašín brothers - sons of General Josef Mašín, an anti-Nazi resistance hero during World War II - together with Milan Paumer fought their way out of Czechoslovakia in 1953, having killed a cashier and 5 policemen.
The issue of the brothers' armed resistance has divided not only Czech politicians but Czech society as well. Czech-American writer Jan Novák described their incredible on-foot escape in a book called The Greatest Story of the Cold War.
But there are also people who consider them plain murderers, arguing that most of the killings were unnecessary.
Both brothers live in self-imposed exile in the United States, having refused to return to their native Czech Republic, calling for an outright ban of the Communist Party.
Paumer to be awarded too
Milan Paumer who fought alongside the Mašíns will be decorated as soon as the Czech delegation returns home.
The prime minister´s decoration is an award granted upon a personal decision of the head of the government. The plaquette, garnished with garnet, has a lion, the Czech state symbol, engraved in the middle.
Senator Martin Mejstřík immediately sent a congratulation note to the Mašíns. Mejstřík is known as a staunch advocate of bestowing a presidential award upon the brothers.