This August 21st marks 40 years since the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, an invasion meticulously planned by the Soviet Union to crush the period of economic and political reforms known as the Prague Spring. Within hours of late August 20th and early August 21st some 2,000 tanks as well as an estimated 200,000 troops had poured in. It was the beginning of the occupation which changed the course of Czechoslovak history.
All this week we’re broadcasting memories of those who lived through the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, which began around 11pm on August 20th 1968. Today we hear from one of our predecessors here at the Radio Prague English Section, Dora Slabá. August 20th 1968 was a normal working day for Dora, who worked as a presenter. When she went home that day she had no way of knowing that she would never come back to Radio Prague. She begins by describing the atmosphere on that perfect summer day in 1968.
It was 40 years ago this Thursday that Warsaw-Pact troops invaded the former Czechoslovakia, putting an end to the hope and reform of the so-called ‘Prague Spring’. All this week, Radio Prague will be commemorating the invasion by broadcasting the testimonies of those who were there. For today’s programme, Rosie Johnston spoke to Libor Hajský, a junior photographer at the Czech Press Agency on August 21, 1968 – the day that Soviet tanks rolled into Prague.
When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in the night from August 20-21 1968, the Czechoslovak Radio building was one of the first places that they tried to bring under control. In the process the building was damaged, several people were killed and dozens injured. Broadcasts went on in secret for several days, keeping the world informed of what was really happening, initially from within the building itself, and then from other locations in the city, using mobile studios and transmitters.
It was five years ago this week that our much-loved colleague, Olga Szántová, died at the age of 71. As a child she had spent most of World War II in New York, which was where she picked up her perfect East-Side English. Olga became one of the most familiar voices of Radio Prague’s English broadcasts during the political thaw of the 1960s, and she was also among the radio journalists who managed to carry on broadcasting secretly during the Soviet invasion of 1968, as several recordings from the time still bear witness.
Peter Bisek and his wife Vera edit and publish the leading Czech and Slovak newspaper in the United States, Americké listy. Mr Bisek is also the president of the Bohemian Citizens' Benevolent Society, which runs the popular Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in the New York borough of Queens. It was in the Bohemian Hall that Peter Bisek outlined the past and present of the bi-weekly, Czech-language newspaper.
For this week’s programme we interrupt our chronological journey through the Czech Radio archives, and go back as far as1912. Throughout this summer in Prague it has been hard not to notice posters depicting the Titanic as the great liner sank on the night from April 14-15 1912. They are advertising an exhibition of artifacts from the ship currently on show in the Czech capital. One member of the crew who survived was a young Czech waiter, Rudolf Linhart. He had been working in a London hotel in the years before the First World War and at the beginning
In today’s Mailbox we find out who the mystery man in our July competition was and we announce the names of four Radio Prague listeners who will be sent small gifts for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: Prasanta Kumar Padmapati, Bob Boundy, Jana Vaculik, Riaz Ahman Khan, Catherine Olubunmi Agboola, Don Schumann, Steve Wara, Colin Law, David Eldridge, K. Thiagarajan, Charles Konecny, Jerry Kubik, Henrik Klemetz.
Old red and white trams are just as much a part of the Czech capital as Prague Castle or Charles Bridge. The metro is definitely faster and more comfortable, but it doesn’t offer the same views as trams do. Besides, the metro stops at midnight while trams can carry you home at any time of the day and night, that is of course, if you live close enough to the railway tracks. So, when did trams first appear in the streets of Prague? And what is it like to be at the controls of a tram?