This week in Mailbox we find out the name of our May mystery man as well as those of the four listeners who will receive Radio Prague prizes for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: Henk Poortvliet, Hans Verner Lollike, Charlie Cockey, Imo-Obong Umana, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Nooreddin Ahmad Hussein, Colin Law, David Eldridge, Gavin Waters, Charles Konecny.
Leaders from around the continent gathered in Krakow on Thursday to mark 20 years since Poland’s first partly free elections which swept the anti-communist movement Solidarnosc to power. In a speech to the crowds at Wawel Castle, former Czech dissident turned president Václav Havel said the elections paved the way for the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile back in Prague, the Polish Institute kicked off a series of events to commemorate the landmark vote, and all that ensued. Maciej Ruczaj from the institute told me about some of the
The year is 1984, and Ivan Lendl plays the winning point against John McEnroe in the final of the French Open in Paris, one of eight Grand Slam singles titles in his career. The 1970s and 80s were period of huge tennis success in Czechoslovakia, and the country put considerable resources into the sport. Unlike most of their compatriots, the country’s top tennis players were able to travel round the world, and when Czechoslovak Radio caught up with the 19-year-old Lendl just before Christmas 1979, it was during one of his rare trips back home:
An interactive exhibition which is to open at the Jewish Museum in Prague on Thursday promises visitors a chance to revive a centuries’ old legend. A sculpture by the famous Czech artist Petr Nikl invites people to try to figure out the right symbol or word which would breathe life into the famous Prague Golem – a legendary giant allegedly created by the 16th century rabbi Loew.
The Communist Party has written to complain at a documentary on Czech Television about the show-trial of Milada Horáková – being shown in the run-up to the European Parliament elections. Dr Horáková, a prominent pro-democracy MP, was hanged in 1950 on trumped up charges of conspiracy and treason. The trial was orchestrated by the Communist Party, which took power in February 1948 and soon set about targeting its enemies.
One of the darkest chapters in modern Czech history has just been reopened, with the news that police in north Bohemia have named two men responsible for the killing of Sudeten Germans in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Though the alleged culprits are long dead, some have welcomed the fact that the matter has finally been investigated.
A small piece of history was made on Monday morning as the U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Europe formally handed over the keys to their former headquarters to a new tenant: the National Museum. The iconic steel and glass building a few metres from the top of Wenceslas Square has gone through several incarnations over the decades, but the latest will see its doors finally thrown open to the public.
At Prague’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Vladimír Bosák went through thousands of photographic negatives from the files of the StB, Czechoslovakia’s communist-era secret police, selecting the 200 plus images that now form a fascinating coffee-table photography book, Prague Through the Lens of the Secret Police.
Last year in this programme I played some archive recordings from the pre-war gatherings of the “Sokol” movement, which brought together tens of thousands of people in displays of mass gymnastics, all in an atmosphere of great patriotic fervour. After the war, the communists suppressed the Sokol movement as part of the old political order, instead staging their own spectacular calisthenics displays in honour of the Communist Party.
It’s 67 years today since one of the most audacious acts of resistance against the Nazi occupiers – the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, by Czechoslovak parachutists. For six decades there’s been no memorial to commemorate the act - an act for which the parachutists and hundreds of innocent Czechoslovaks paid a terrible price. That, however, has now changed with the unveiling of a bronze statue on the spot where Heydrich was killed.