Today in Mailbox: Response to Radio Prague's special 80th anniversary broadcast, monthly listener's quiz. Listeners/readers quoted: Robert LaRose, Alan Holder, Claes Olsson, Vladimir Gudzenko, Chun-quan Meng, Hans Verner Lollike, Radhakrishna Pillai, Jayanta Chakrabarty.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox.

First of all we would like to thank you for your lovely e-mails wishing Radio Prague a happy 80th anniversary and the multitude of reception reports sent in by those who tuned in to the special broadcast on August 31 on shortwave but also on the internet. Your verification QSL cards are on their way.

We received mail from all over the world, from old-time listeners from Armenia, Poland, India, United States, Germany, Canada, England, and Sweden, who shared their memories of listening to Radio Prague.

Robert LaRose from California wrote:

“When I was young and lived in New York I used to listen to Radio Prague regularly on shortwave, including during the dark days of 1968. I received several interesting magazines and picture cards. This led to a desire to visit Prague and indeed I have been able to visit several times in the years since.

“The special shortwave program today from Armenia at 2000 UTC on 9885 kHz was received through a remote receiver in the Netherlands. As you can hear in the recording, reception was very good… I have to say that I was disappointed that the program did not contain more about the actual history of Radio Prague.”

Alan Holder from England writes:

“I was surprised and delighted when I heard the news on the Internet that you will be returning to short wave radio for one day on the 80th anniversary of your first broadcast.

“I first started listening and writing to your station in 1969, and well remember the programmes and announcers from those days. Of course, much of the programming was propaganda from the socialist regime, but there were also many interesting cultural and music programmes to be enjoyed. I listened continually throughout the following years.

“It was a sad day when you discontinued your short wave radio broadcasts, in favour of the Internet. I have not listened since that day, for I just cannot bring myself to listen to radio via this means. The computer offers too much in the way of distractions and instead of concentrating on the radio programme it is so easy to find myself checking e-mails or surfing the Web.

“In my view, cancelling the ‘proper’ radio broadcasts was premature and I am sure that you lost many listeners through this decision, and not just ‘radio hobbyists”, but many enthusiastic listeners as well. I count myself in the latter category. Compared with the computer, it is much easier to tune from station to station via the radio, and is altogether a different and more pleasurable listening experience.

“If you get favourable feedback through this special anniversary broadcast, maybe the funding can be found to recommence the radio broadcasts. I understand on this occasion, a relay station in Armenia was used. Renting air time is an effective way of delivering your broadcasts, as obviously there are no costs associated with maintenance to technical equipment. I hope that management may be able to consider this proposal. Your listenership will benefit from as wide a range of listening ‘platforms” as is possible.”

Photo: archive of Radio PraguePhoto: archive of Radio Prague This e-mail came from Claes Olsson from Sweden:

“Last Wednesday, I had the great pleasure to listen to your anniversary program. Nice to hear you back on the airwaves after so many years. Back in time, I often listened to Radio Prague on shortwave, my first QSL from you is from September 1983 on 7345 kHz.”

Thank you again for your e-mails as well as your comments on our Facebook page. Now onto our regular monthly quiz. I’m glad you didn’t let the wrong date in the question confuse you. My apologies and thank you for pointing it out to me.

Vladimir Gudzenko from Russia sent in this answer:

“Jakob Eduard Polak born about two hundred years ago, into a modest Jewish family near Prague, studied medicine in Prague and Vienna, and become Doctor in 1845 in Vienna. Then he decided to give up his practice and begun further studies.

“In 1851, Polak leaves Austria-Hungary and arrives in Tehran, upon the invitation of a Persian minister, where he studied at the military school. He studied French and then Farsi for six months. In Iran, he founded a clinic and had Iranian followers. The author of several books published in Farsi, from 1855 to 1860 served as a personal physician of Nasser-al-din Shah, the Persian monarch. In 1860 he returned to Vienna.”

Chun-quan Meng from China wrote:

“Polak created the modern Persian medical terminology though a complete bibliography of his medical writings in Persian has yet to be compiled. He also played a leading role in the representation of Persia at the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair.”

This answer is from Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark:

“The Persian Prime Minster invited lecturers from Vienna to come to his country and teach at a new western-style university in Dar ul-Fonun. Polak went in 1851. He started to teach with a translator, but very soon he learned to speak Farsi, and taught in the local language. He became the personal doctor of the Shah. He was interested in all aspects of life and history in Persia. He is considered the founder of modern medicine in Persia.

“In 1960 he returned to Vienna and taught at the university, but also worked to maintain relations between his homeland and Persia. He wrote several books about his life in Persia and even edited a dictionary. He was honored in both countries. His grave is to be found in the Central Cemetery in Vienna.”

Radhakrishna Pillai from India wrote:

Jakob Eduard Polak, photo: Public DomainJakob Eduard Polak, photo: Public Domain “Dr. Jacob Eduard Polak was born into a Jewish family in Bohemia on 12 November 1818. He studied philosophy and medicine in Prague and Vienna where he obtained a degree in medicine and surgery and was trained in obstetrics and gynaecology. After 1845 he worked for a year at Vienna’s General Hospital and was then for two years factory physician in a sugar refinery plant in Klobauk in Moravia. From 1848 to 1849 he was again employed at Vienna’s General Hospital.

“He came to Iran on November 24, 1851 and was initially appointed as a teacher of medicine and surgery at Dar- al-Fonun’s Medical School. In 1855, Dr. Polak was elected as the King’s physician at the Court of Naser - ad- Din Shah Qajar. He spent nine years in Iran, he learned Persian and acquainted himself with Iranian literature and culture. He summarized his experience in the study ‘Persian –Das land und seine Bewohner’ – which belongs to the outstanding ethnographic works about 19th century Iran.”

And finally Jayanta Chakrabarty from India sent in a detailed biography of Jakob Eduard Polak:

“After majoring in philosophy and medicine at Prague and Vienna and being trained in obstetrics/gynaecology, Jakob Eduard Polak began his career as a factory physician in a sugar refinery in Valašské Klobouky in the Zlín Region of [today’s] Czech Republic. However, his life took a dramatic turn when he was hired as professor of medicine and pharmacy for Dar al-Fonun, the first modern higher educational institute in Iran, on the wishes of Amir Kabir, the Persian chief minister to Naser al-Din Shah Qajar. Though his arrival coincided with Amir Kabir's downfall creating a volatile political situation, his fame and perseverance made him one of the most successful instructors at this institute. Subsequently, he rose to be the general supervisor of all military physicians in Iran and also appointed to the enviable position of personal physician and tutor of Shah Qajar.

“Polak understood the importance of health care of soldiers as a crucial ingredient of modern warfare. Thus he geared Dar al-Fonun towards military training where both western and traditional medicines were used and also initiated raising of a new cadre of army doctors without antagonizing the established health care system of the country. His contributions towards modernizing Iranian medical care system include regular operation for removal of bladder stones after making patients unconscious and performing post-mortem autopsy – things which were unheard of in Iran. He also introduced the dissection of human anatomy for medical study purposes. He learned Persian and even wrote medical textbooks in this language like ‘Bimari i vaba" to facilitate his endeavour.

“Polak had the unbeatable Czech spirit of adventure in him. He funded botanical and geological research expeditions to the Alvana mountain range in south and western Iran leading to the discovery of numerous new species of medicals plants, minerals and fossils. Although Polak enjoyed considerable clout with the highest authorities, his high level of integrity and humility stood in the way of personal gratification or political gain. For his outstanding services he was awarded with the Order of the Lion and the Sun by the Shah, Medaille fur Wissenschaft und Kunst by the Habsburg government and honorary membership of the Geographical Society.

Jakob Eduard Polak's grave in Vienna, photo: Papergirl, CC BY-SA 4.0Jakob Eduard Polak's grave in Vienna, photo: Papergirl, CC BY-SA 4.0 “This Czech-born amazing soul has also shown his prowess as a unique ethnographer. He was successful in the fusion of oriental and European cultures. His carefully considered balanced views as displayed in his numerous publications like the ‘Persien, das land und Seine Bewohner’ and study of Iran contributed towards a more realistic understanding of Persian and oriental culture in Europe. Recognizing his excellent rapport with the Shah, the Austrian government of the time was able to nurture and revive the diplomatic relations with Iran. In this aspect Polak has been a true ambassador highlighting Iranian culture and civilization to the world.”

Many thanks for your well-researched answers and this time the Radio Prague prize goes to Russia to our regular contributor Vladimir Gudzenko. Congratulations! And here’s a new mystery Czech for the coming weeks:

Please send us the name of the Czech music critic and philosopher who was born in 1766 in the Central Bohemian town of Sadská and died in Vienna in 1849. He wrote the first biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart which to this day remains a valued source of information about the Austrian composer.

If you want to be included in the lucky draw, your answers need to reach us by October 5th at the usual address english@radio.cz. That is also the address for your questions, comments and reception reports. You can also leave us a comment on Radio Prague’s Facebook page or follow our Twitter account. Until next month, happy listening and take care.


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