Looking at old photos of quaint parts of downtown Prague that were demolished at the turn of the 19th century to make way for fashionable apartment blocks, one easily gets nostalgic. But thanks to modern technologies, one day soon it will be possible to walk through the streets and lanes of the old Jewish quarter of Prague - but of course, only in virtual reality.
There is an old framed photograph in my parents' house, which I have known since childhood. In the foreground, you can see the back of the head of Edvard Benes, the second President of Czechoslovakia. And bowing forward to shake the president's hand is a distinguished-looking man with shiny matinee-idol hair and a neatly-folded kerchief in his pocket. That's Otakar Machotka, my grandfather.
Exactly fifteen years ago, on February 13th 1992, the Czech Technical University in Prague hosted a momentous event. At a meeting with university computer science experts and representatives from the University of Linz, the RIPE network coordination centre, and the US National Science Foundation, Czechoslovakia was officially connected to the internet. Dita Asiedu spoke to Jan Gruntorad, who headed the Technical University's computer network department at the time, about this historic moment:
Recent days have seen a series of allegations of collaboration with the communist-era secret police. Less than 24 hours after the head of the Czech branch of Interpol was fired over his involvement with the StB, claims emerged that Jaromir Nohavica, one of the country's best loved singers, was an informer. Now - in the most serious case to date - former prime minister Josef Tosovsky has been accused of collaborating with the secret police.
Over 20,000 East Germans escaped to freedom via the West German Embassy in Prague in mid-to-late 1989, as the communist edifice started to crumble after four long decades. Their exodus is now recalled in a new exhibition entitled "Cesta za svobodou" or "Journey to Freedom" at Prague's Police Museum.
The Czech daily Lidove Noviny recently published details of a little-known footnote in Cold War history; browsing through the archives of Czechoslovakia's communist-era secret police or StB, the paper discovered that among the foreign journalists regularly followed on his trips to Prague was one Frederick Forsyth. Today known as the best-selling author of such classics as the Day of the Jackal and the Odessa File, back in the early 1960s Frederick Forsyth was a young journalist based in Berlin. Rob Cameron called the novelist at his home in Hertfordshire,
The Villa Tugendhat, a functionalist family home designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is the Czech Republic's only 20th century UNESCO site. The city of Brno is considering whether or not to return the valuable architectural treasure to the children of the original owners. The Tugendhat family, who are Jewish, lost possession of the house in the late 1930s, after only eight years living there.
The head of the Czech branch of Interpol has been revealed to be a former StB secret police agent. The interior minister has confirmed that Pavol Mihal used a false name when he applied for security screening. Now his days at Interpol look numbered. But is it possible other former agents pulled off a similar trick?
Today in Mailbox we reveal the name of the mystery person from our January competition and announce the names of the four lucky winners. Listeners quoted: K. Thiagarajan, J.R. Tinsley, Mike Talbot, Meredith Walker, Li Ming, Colin Rose, Ian Morrison, Colin Law, David Eldridge, Vikash Kumar, Mary Lou Krenek, Christopher Lewis.
When Karel Capek's play Bila Nemoc or The White Plague first came out in 1937, it was seen as a warning against the dangers of fascism, which was sweeping through Europe at that time. It turned out to be a very prophetic play, as German Nazi forces overran Czechoslovakia the following year, paving the way for a conflict that rocked the world.