The early 1950s in Czechoslovakia was a bleak period in the country’s history, but there was also some escape from politics. In 1952 the Summer Olympics were held in the Finnish capital Helsinki and the undisputed hero of the games was the greatest Czech runner of all time, Emil Zátopek. Despite his extraordinary style, with his face contorted, his head and torso swinging, and emitting sounds that earned him the nickname of “the Czech locomotive”, he went to Helsinki having already twice broken the world record over 20 kilometres. His dream at
Early Thursday morning, Brigadier Stanislav Hlučka, a revered Czech pilot who served in the RAF during the Second World War, died aged 88 in a military hospital in Prague. We take brief a look at the life of this much-decorated anti-Nazi resistance fighter, who found himself imprisoned by the communists after the 1948 coup.
Allegations that the Czech writer Milan Kundera informed on a suspected western agent in 1950 have dominated the news all this week, and on Wednesday there was a new twist: an 81-year-old literary translator named Zdeňek Pešat came forward to say it was not Milan Kundera who had gone to the police, but their mutual friend Miroslav Dlask. Earlier this week Milan Kundera broke a 25-year vow of silence to categorically reject the “informer” claims.
After the communist coup, Czechoslovak Radio was at the political vanguard and transformed into a tool of propaganda. One of the first big changes at Radio Prague was that our familiar call signal from Dvořák’s New World Symphony was replaced by a stirring socialist anthem – “Ku předu levá”. The words are simple: “Left foot forwards, left foot forwards, and never a backwards step.” All broadcasts acquired a political hue. Here, for example, is a factory worker, talking about his first love:
It’s a story that has rocked the Czech literary world to its foundations, and now the man at the centre of it has spoken to the media for the first time in 25 years. Milan Kundera, arguably the best-known Czech author writing today, broke his silence to categorically deny allegations he informed on a suspected western agent in 1950.
The activities of Czechoslovak armed units on the side of the Allied powers during World War I helped Czechs and Slovaks win consent to form their own state when the conflict ended in 1918. The legions that had been fighting in Russia, however, became embroiled in that country’s civil war, and didn’t get home until two years later. Their fascinating story is the subject of a new exhibition in Prague.
It took 60 years but the Kumpera family will now be given back the Baroque Koloděje Chateau, confiscated by the state in 1948. On Monday the Prague Municipal Court rejected a final appeal and upheld a ruling from earlier this year which said that the property had been unfairly seized. Now nothing stands in the way of the property being returned its rightful owners.
The Czech writer Milan Kundera is regarded as something of a modern-day national treasure – despite the fact that he has lived outside of the Czech Republic for decades. But the author of such books as The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Joke has now been accused of reporting a young soldier to the communist authorities – something that led the man involved to be imprisoned.
“I’m now going to write down some of the things which have happened over the last few days. I’ve got such a short memory, I’m afraid, and this is a way of making sure that I don’t forget.” These are the opening lines of a diary that was written in 1945 by a young woman as she gradually emerged from the hell of the concentration camps, hoping, against the odds, to see her husband again. The woman’s name was Hana Pravda, and she died in London on May 22 this year at the age of 92. Hana spent much of the second half of her life in Britain, where she
Many people in Czechoslovakia greeted the communist coup of February 1948 with enthusiasm, in the belief that the horrors of the war should never be allowed to happen again. But following the model of Stalin’s Soviet Union, it was not long before a period of political terror began, with thousands of arrests and then a series of political show trials. The most horrific symbol of the period was the trial and execution of Milada Horáková. She had been one of the most enlightened politicians of the pre-war Czechoslovak Republic, a champion of democracy