Support for Czechs living in Brexit Britain may have been the main reason for Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček’s visit to the UK on Friday. However, he chose to begin the day by honouring the fallen heroes who fought side by side with the British in the Second World War. Under the title “Never Forgotten”, their sacrifice is being remembered through a series of commemorations organised by the Czech Embassy in London this year.
In connection with this year’s 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Czech Embassy in London has just launched a special project entitled Never Forgotten. During this year Ambassador Libor Sečka plans to lay flowers at every known grave and memorial of Czechoslovak soldiers who died in the UK in the war years, as well as gathering information on the current state of those sites. I discussed the project with Mr. Sečka on the phone from London.
A few years ago I spent an unforgettable day with Jaroslav and Alžběta Hofrichter. It was 2013, Jaroslav was 93, Alžběta 91, and they were living in sheltered accommodation for Second World War veterans at Prague’s Military Hospital. I was there to hear their life story, a tale of courage, resilience, a touch of luck and, above all, of the enduring power of love. The Hofrichters were known by their many friends as the “turtledoves”. Having met them I could see why. If there is an elixir for a happy marriage, they had found it. Jaroslav spent four
The National Museum in Prague is currently running a special Exhibition called “Knights of the Heaven”. As the name betrays, it is focused on the Czechoslovak pilots who fought in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Located in the newly renovated historical building of the museum, it features a massive array of personal items and uniforms of the fighting men, who dedicated their lives to their country, only to be hunted by the communist regime later on.
This May marks the centenary of the birth of Ladislav Sitenský, among the most celebrated Czech photographers of the 20th century. He’s perhaps best known today for his iconic World War II work documenting the Nazi occupation of his homeland and lives of his fellow servicemen in the RAF’s Czechoslovak 312th squadron. But for over seven decades, Sitenský – who was also an accomplished sportsman, essayist and novelist – lovingly turned his lens to the people and architecture of Prague and other European capitals.
A memorial plaque to a Czech member of the British Royal Air Force who took
his own life after being expelled from the Czechoslovak Army by the
Communists was installed on Sunday near České Budějovice.
Lieutenant Colonel Václav Martínek began serving in a Czechoslovak unit under RAF command in 1942. He shot himself after being expelled from the Czechoslovak Army after the Communists seized power in the so-called Victorious February coup in 1948.
A member of the Society for Military History said that Martínek could be considered as among the first military victims of the regime, which imprisoned scores of former RAF pilots and other servicemen who fought with Western allies.
Kurt Taussig is one of the 669 Czech Jewish children who were saved from the Holocaust by Sir Nicholas Winton on the eve of the Second World War. The 95-year-old man, who went on to join the RAF as a fighter pilot, has since lived in Great Britain and, until recently, was unknown to Czech historians. Now, more than 75 years after he left his country, he was granted honorary citizenship in his birth-town of Teplice.
Kurt Taussig, a Czech Jewish child sent to Britain on one of the famed
kindertransport trains organised by Sir Nicholas Winton ahead of WWII, has
been granted honorary citizenship in Teplice, his birthplace, at the age of
Sir Winton saved the lives of 669 Jewish children, including Kurt Taussig, through the kindertransports. In total, the descendants of Sir Winton's rescued children today number around 6,000 people.
About one in six children on those trains later fought in uniform against Hitler as adults. Taussig, who left Teplice at age 15, went on to fight the Nazis as a pilot with a Czechoslovak unit under RAF command.
Members of the Czech Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, Second World War veterans, church and cultural dignitaries attended celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Czechoslovak Airforce at the Winged Lion Memorial in Prague’s Klarov park on Tuesday. The fact that both the Czechoslovak Airforce and the RAF are celebrating their centenary this year was an occasion to highlight the close ties between Czech and British airmen.
Petra Tonder’s father Ivo Tonder took part in the Great Escape in 1944 and later also succeeded in breaking out of prison in his native Czechoslovakia. There, like many former RAF aviators, he had been persecuted by the Communists after their 1948 takeover. In the second half of a two-part interview, Petra Tonder shares details about her own incredible journey to freedom as a very small child, and the lives her family led in the UK. But first she discusses her parents' post-war return to – and subsequent escape from – Czechoslovakia.