Among many who have come to the Czech Republic to mark this Saturday’s 75th anniversary of the Nazis’ annihilation of Lidice is Alan Gerrard of the group Lidice Lives, which is based in the UK city of Stoke-on-Trent. It is a kind of social media-based successor to Lidice Shall Live, a major initiative to rebuild the Czech village launched in Stoke in September 1942 by the politician Sir Barnett Stross. When we spoke, I asked Gerrard whether he had been inspired by Stross’s work.
“Barnett Stross, but also a whole host of partners who came together. Barnett Stross couldn’t have done it without the miners of Stoke-on-Trent, the miners couldn’t have done it without him. Also the Czech immigrants.
“That whole grassroots campaign depended on so many parties coming together to make good something that was obviously dreadfully wrong.”
What are you actually doing here? What are the events you are going to, or have been going to?
“We’re going to an event at Brožík Hall [at Old Town Hall, on Thursday], which is largely focused on young people.
“It’s a musical event exploring the links between Lidice and the international community and how the international community remembers and celebrates Lidice and its ongoing positive legacy.
That’s the main commemorative event?
“Yes. What happens is many international delegates come together and, in succession, lay a wreath on the site of the mass grave of the 173 men who were executed at the hands of the Nazis.
“After the wreath-laying there’s then an event called the Festival of Light, where children’s choirs come together and perform different numbers in celebration of peace and friendship.”
What does it mean for you personally to be here for the 75th anniversary of Lidice?
“The fact that I promote the link with Lidice and feel so valued by them – I feel privileged and humbled by that.
“I also feel proud that the rest of my community in Stoke-on-Trent are valued by Czech people.
“And it’s reciprocated. On social media you can see the comments that the people in Stoke-on-Trent leave for Czech people as well.
“So it’s completely reciprocated – it’s not a one-way thing.”