My guest today is Josef Čermák, a very sprightly 88-year-old Czech who was born in 1924 in a small village called Skury just outside of Prague. He studied law and in 1949 emigrated to Canada and he’s lived here ever since. He has served as the president of both the Czech and Slovak Association of Canada and also Sokol, Canada, and he is also the author of a number of books, including It all Began With Prince Rupert – The Story of Czechs and Slovaks in Canada.
Many Czechs today consider the First Czechoslovak Republic a golden age in the turbulent 20th century. The country, which existed between the two world wars, is seen as the first free state of Czechs and Slovaks after centuries of Austrian rule, and one of Europe’s few democratic states of the time. But its reality, its values and conflicts often escape the popular understanding of the era. One of the First Republic’s outstanding personalities was the army general and writer Rudolf Medek who embodied some of the values of the time. In this edition
Last week I promised some recordings from Radio Prague in the early 1990s, but I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a break in our chronological journey through the archives, to play a recording that has special relevance this week. On Monday Pope Benedict visited the town of Stará Boleslav just outside Prague, famous for its links with the early days of Christianity in the Czech Lands. During his stay he prayed at an extremely rare medieval icon of the Virgin and Child, cast in metal and said to date back to the days of Princess Ludmila in the 10th
For a few weeks just after the fall of communism, Radio Prague went silent. Its days as a tool in the Cold War were over. After huge staff cuts, and with the old communist managers gone, Radio Prague went back on air early in 1990. A new era began for the English Section, and with so many sweeping social and economic changes under way, there was plenty to report about.
On November 17 1990, the first anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, George Bush Sr. became the first American president to visit Czechoslovakia in the country’s 70-year history. This was a time of strong pro-American feeling here, and during their brief stay George and Barbara Bush were welcomed with genuine enthusiasm. Over a hundred thousand people gathered on Wenceslas Square to hear the president speak:
During Václav Havel’s first year as Czechoslovak president, Prague Castle saw a string of visitors from around the world. And they did not just include heads of state and other political dignitaries. On January 21 1990, one of the first foreign guests to be received by the new president was none other than the legendary American rock musician, Frank Zappa, who had been one of the inspirations for the Czech underground movement in the ‘70s and ‘80s, including Havel himself.