Sport has always played a big role in Czech life. At the time of the national revival in the 19th century, the Sokol gymnastics movement was founded on the idea that a healthy body was a recipe not only for a healthy mind, but also for a civilised nation. In this episode of our series drawing from the archives, we hear recordings from the huge Sokol gathering of 1938 and from the Spartakiáda displays of mass callisthenics that replaced Sokol during the communist period. We also feature an ice hockey report from the Olympics in 1936, as well as Europe’s
A century ago the Czech community in New York was centred around the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Indeed, an estimated 40,000 Czechs lived in the area known as Yorkville. Ed Chlanda’s family were members of that community and the 80-year-old kindly gave me a tour of the neighbourhood, taking in a former Czech bank, the street where he grew up, the Jan Hus church and the Bohemian National Hall. But we started at the New York Sokol on East 71st St., where Chlanda is an active member. Surrounded by photos, medals and other memorabilia in the Sokol
Robert Tomanek is currently in Prague researching a book about Czech immigrants to America and the Sokol gymnastics movement, of which he has been a member almost all his life. The Iowa-based scientist, who grew up speaking Czech, is also a member of the board of the Sokol Museum and Library in the US – an institution that he and his colleagues are now working hard to create. When Tomanek visited our studio we discussed all things Sokol, past and present. But we began with his own background.
The Senate has approved October 8 being made Sokol Memorial Day in honour
of the Czech gymnastics and sports association. If the president signs the
legislation, the date in question will become a “day of significance”
rather than a state holiday.
Sokol was founded during the Czech National Revival in 1862, making it one of the country’s oldest organisations. Around 1,500 of its members were arrested by the Gestapo on October 8, 1941.
Senators also voted to have November 17, the Day of Struggle for Democracy and Freedom, officially mark International Students’ Day in the Czech Republic, as it did in the past.
Norma Zabka was born 90 years ago in the heart of what was then the heavily Czech district of Yorkville on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Though now possessed of a soft but distinctive New York accent, she actually spoke only Czech for the first few years of her life, despite the fact her parents had been born in the US. Since her early childhood Norma has been attending a branch of the Czech Sokol gymnastics organisation on East 71st St., which she also headed for over a quarter of century. It was there, surrounded by loads of old photos and trophies
The 16th all-Sokol slet (gathering) began in Prague on Sunday with a parade
bringing together more than 15,000 members from the Czech physical fitness
organisation the world over.
The gathering, held to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia will include numerous events, calisthenics performances, exhibitions and a performance at the National Theatre in Prague. It will run until July 6th.
Sokol (falcon) was founded in 1862 to promote an active way of life, exercise and fair play as well as a commitment to values such as democracy and humanism. It survived adverse historical periods such as the two world wars and communism and the gatherings in Prague now take place every six years. -
The 16th all-Sokol slet (gathering) begins in Prague next Sunday and will bring together thousands of people from the Czech physical fitness organisation, which was founded in 1862. Among those attending the week-long jamboree – which this year celebrates the centenary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia – will be hundreds of members of American Sokol. Its president, Chicago-based Jean Hruby, stopped by at our studios ahead of the big event.
Spartakiads, or Spartakiady, mass gymnastic exercises, were a unique event of their kind in Czechoslovakia under the Communist regime. Historian Petr Roubal has put the phenomenon under the spotlight and the result is an award winning book looking at the various events and how they evolved over time. I asked him how much did the first Spartakiad in 1955 differ the similar mass events or Slets, organised previously by the Czech Sokol movement.
The Sokol gymnastics organisation – motto: a sound mind in a sound body – became an important element in the Czech National Revival when it was founded in Prague in 1862. A mere three years later it went international with the establishment of American Sokol in St. Louis, Missouri. Today American Sokol is still going strong, and has its first ever female national president, Jean Hruby. Ms. Hruby is also involved in countless other Czech associations in her native Chicago and when she came into our studios I began by asking about her own Czech