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Interview with H.E. Mario Quagliotti, From The Embassy of the Order of Malta in Prague

Of Past and Present

Did you know that the order of the Maltese knights has the full name of “Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta”? Did you know that the oldest uninterrupted presence of the Order, and thus the oldest Grand Priory, is in Prague? How does someone who is hard to find information about online end up having four hundred guests at their farewell party?

 H. E. Mario Quagliotti is a rather extraordinary man, remarkable for his experience, deep wisdom, energy and vitality, yet very simple and modest. It was a privilege for Czech Leaders Magazine to conduct an interview upon H.E. Quagliotti´s leaving the post of the Ambassador of the Order of Malta in Prague. Although he started our interview saying that his story is quite simple, throughout the discussion we uncovered a 900 year history of the Maltese Order, its service to the vulnerable and the sick, its passion for countries Mario Quagliotti has served in, his views on Czechs (considering the fact that he has been married for 45 years to Mathilda Nostitz), and much more…

Your Excellency, do you believe that life is a journey, or do you look at life as a mission to be accomplished?

“I have never thought of it that way, and I must admit my story is quite simple. I have been an Italian diplomat for 42 years, posted in Yugoslavia, Germany, the Soviet Union, Austria, Great Britain, Japan, Norway and Oman. But even before I retired, the story of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic had always been very central to me, thanks to my wife Mathilda Nostitz, whose great great great grandfather built the Estates Theatre. My wife returned to Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution when I was still

an active diplomat, so until 2005 I used to come here every year for less than a month. When I finally retired, I was looking forward to stay longer and play golf in the Czech Republic, and I was asked by the then Grand Prior Karel Paar (whom I had known for many years) to represent the Order in the Czech Republic. I was somewhat reluctant at first, but I had many friends and I also spoke some Czech, so I decided to accept such a challenging mission.”

However, people often perceive that being the representative of the Order of Malta serves only representative functions…

“This is why I considered the mission a challenging one. Czech people know their history very well, and the role of the Order during key historical events, such as the Maltese knights engagement in the Hussite wars, or defending Prague against the Swedes (when field marshal Rudy Colloredo was the Grand Prior of the Order). But if you ask Czechs about the role of the Order of Malta nowadays, the awareness is limited. And that is a pity, since the Order is very active on all five continents and carries out numerous medical, social and humanitarian projects. We send our recovery teams to places hit by natural catastrophes, such as earthquakes or floods. We helped in Nepal and Haiti. We were present in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic, and we also helped in Europe, in Romania during the extremely the cold winter of 2012, and in my country, Italy, during the last earthquake. Besides helping in humanitarian crises, the Order provides medical services. In neighboring Germany, you may notice special ambulance cars of the Maltese Help Organization, and the Order runs many hospitals there. Even before I became involved with the Order, I was familiar with the Maltese Order and its activities, thanks to the ambulance cars and the Maltese cross that is their symbol.“

The Order is the smallest subject of international law. How it is being organized?

“There are Embassies of the Order in 106 countries, while 8 more countries host a Representation of the Order, and the Order is present in most International Organizations. In some countries the members of the Order are part of an Association, while in the Czech Republic, as well as in Italy and Austria, they are part of a Grand Priory. And I am happy to remind you that the Grand Priory in Bohemia was the first Grand Priory of the Order (from the XII century). Last but not least are the Order's humanitarian organizations in each country, namely Maltézská Pomoc in the Czech Republic. The fact that for 30 years all humanitarian Maltese organizations have been cooperating under one umbrella organization, gives them a great pool of experts and medical doctors who are able to help quickly and with great expertise, anytime and anywhere the assistance is needed.”

You mentioned a remarkable history of the Maltese Order in Czech territories, so what are some of the recent projects?

“The last few years have seen some joint co-operation abroad, especially in Haiti, and recently in Palestine following the Grand Chancellor of the Order’s official visit to the Czech Republic last year. Maltézská Pomoc, which has 12 centers in the Czech Republic, has been active not only during floods, but nowadays it helps seniors, children, homeless and other needy people. It has 140 employees and 500 volunteers. It is one of the five most important providers of personal assistance services in the country. In Brno, they are actually the second largest. Now as you know the Grand Priory of Bohemia, as a part of the Church of Bohemia, will hopefully have over one thousand hectares returned to it, which were expropriated by the communist regime. The extent of the activities of Maltézská Pomoc will be even broader once restitutions to the Grand Priory to Bohemia are completed, since the organization will certainly receive  additional sources of funding from the Grand Priory.”

As you are leaving the Czech Republic, what is your message to the Czechs?

Czech people are very industrious, very pragmatic, and the Czech Republic has produced many important inventors. Czechs should remember their history and how well they managed difficult periods. I love music and I also enjoyed the artistic life in Prague. And one should not forget that Prague, when compared to other cities, is still an oasis of peace and it is a very safe city. Czech people should make an effort to preserve as many of the historical buildings as they can.

And what is your message to foreign readers of Czech leaders?

“Foreigners should make an effort to learn some of the Czech language, even though it is not an easy language. When they are here, they can explore all the architecture from Romanesque style to Jugendstil/Art Nouveau, and enjoy the easy access of the city center. And definitely go and see Laterna Magika – a performance combining music, ballet and film production, which is unique in the world and thus accessible even to foreigners that do not speak Czech. And I personally also enjoyed the golf courses, the one at Mariánské Lázně being my favorite.”

You served in eight countries that were very different. Which ones do you remember the most?

“I enjoyed all the countries I was posted to, but in particular the last three countries I had served in: Japan, Norway and Oman. As for Japan, I had studied some Japanese at university, and surprisingly the pronunciation of Japanese is similar to Italian, with over 200 homophones. Living in Japan is a remarkable experience thanks to the Japanese politeness, earthquakes being the only negative thing. Norway is one of the most beautiful countries thanks to its amazing nature. The only challenge for us to get used to were the long summer days followed by long winter nights. Oman is also very beautiful and hospitable, but it is better to visit from November until April, after the hot season. One thing I should mention is that all Omani people work very hard.”

What legacy do you leave to the upcoming ambassador?

“As I have mentioned before, I believe that it is important to continue giving information to the public about the current activities of the Order, and also about how people can become involved in volunteering. The history of the Order is closely linked to the Czech Republic, and to its history, but its current activities are also very relevant. I felt proud when I presented my credentials to President Klaus, because he thanked me for the help the Order of Malta provided to the Czech Republic during the disastrous floods of 2002. That is exactly the fast humanitarian aid the Maltese Order is excellent at providing, and it just happened to be in the Czech Republic.”

By Linda Štucbartová in cooperation with Czech Leaders Magazine 
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