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 Speaker of the Senate Jaroslav Kubera presented twelve outstanding
personalities with the Senate’s silver commemorative medal at a special
gala ceremony on the eve of the Day of Czech Statehood, or St. Wenceslas‘
Day on September 28.
Among those honoured were RAF pilot General Emil Boček, the renowned traveller Miroslav Zikmund, and musician Michael Kocáb.
General Boček, gave a moving thank you speech on behalf of those recognized, thanking the Senate for remembering its war veterans and saying the silver medal was a tribute to all his friends in the RAF who are no longer with us.
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.
War veteran Emil Boček is due to receive the Order of the White Lion,
first class, on October 28, the anniversary of the foundation of
Czechoslovakia. A pilot with the RAF during World War II, he previously
received a lower level of the high state honour. President Miloš Zeman
informed Mr. Boček of the fresh accolade at a celebration of his 96th
birthday on Monday.
The head of state has also called on the minister of defence to promote the aviator to the highest rank in the Czech Army, general, suggesting commemorations of the end of WWII in May as a suitable date.
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.