In today’s programme we look at two novels, both published within the last two years by American writers with Czech roots. Both have chosen the same series of wartime events as their starting point. They look back to 1942, when a group of Czech patriots was parachuted from London to assassinate the brutal Nazi chief in occupied Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, an event that triggered cruel retributions and the cold-blooded destruction of the entire village of Lidice.
A street in Prague has been renamed in honour of a Polish man who committed suicide in protest at the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Ryszard Siwiec set himself alight in a Warsaw stadium in September 1968, and died four days later. His protest was long covered up by the communist authorities, and only recently have details begun to emerge.
For the younger generation that had grown up after the end of World War II, the Soviet-led invasion of August 1968 was traumatic. The Prague Spring had brought an atmosphere of optimism and genuine enthusiasm for change, and all these hopes were crushed overnight. In this week’s From the Archives, we’ll hear what students had to say at the time, as recorded by Czechoslovak and foreign radio stations as the occupation unfolded.
In this week’s From the Archives we continue our look at how radio covered the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Today we follow the part played by the United Nations. Within just a few hours of the tanks crossing the border, the UN Security Council met for a special meeting to discuss what to do about the invasion. Czechoslovakia’s Ambassador to the UN, Jan Mužík was unequivocal:
Fame, envy, intrigue and murder –that is what some suspect surrounded the mysterious death of Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer who died in Prague in 1601 as one of the most distinguished scholars of his time. Several theories exist about the cause of his death, and some experts actually claim he was given a lethal dose of mercury. A team of Danish experts are now going to officially ask the Czech authorities for permission to open his grave in order to analyse his remains.
Nearly six hundred Czechs and Slovaks volunteered in Britain during the Second World War to be parachuted back into their homeland to infiltrate and support the anti-Nazi resistance. During the ‘critical period’ of 1941-1943, some 300 soldiers were parachuted in behind enemy lines: during the drops, over 90 percent of these men died. Now a new memorial is planned in their honour in a remote part of northern Scotland. I spoke to the honorary Czech consul in Edinburgh, Paul Millar, to find out more:
In the days and weeks that followed the end of the Second World War, 31-year-old Josefina Napravilová noticed that there was a job that needed to be done and without any fuss set about doing it. It was a time of chaos – families had been broken up and the lists of missing persons were frighteningly long. Many of those on the lists were children. Through sheer determination and endless detective work, Josefina Napravilová managed to reunite several dozen of these children with their families. For decades, Josefina saw no particular reason to tell
In the course of 1968 the Soviet Union made it increasingly clear that it disapproved strongly of the Prague Spring reforms. Yet, despite mounting tensions with Moscow, the Soviet led invasion on the night from August 20-21 1968, came as a huge shock. Today we are going to hear some of the broadcasts from that fateful day. We start with Radio Moscow, with an official Soviet version of events.