Czech President Miloš Zeman is just one of a number of foreign leaders who have gathered in Warsaw on Wednesday to mark the 25th anniversary of Poland’s first partially free elections, a milestone on the road to democracy in the then Eastern Bloc. But what did that historic vote mean for the opposition in Czechoslovakia at the time? That’s a question I put to journalist and former dissident Jan Macháček.
The district of Prague 1 has given permission for the installation of a new memorial honouring the more than 2,500 Czechoslovak airmen who served in Britain’s Royal Air Force in WW II. Officials acted with a deadline looming: the statue, an imposing bronze winged lion, is to be unveiled in less than three weeks. The problem is that the site was not approved by the National Heritage Institute, which says the location is highly inappropriate.
Much of the border areas of the Czech Republic still bear the scars of the expulsion of some of the estimated three million ethnic Germans at the end of the Second World War. Many of the towns and villages were only partially repopulated, often with people who lacked the basic skills of the people they replaced. The result has often been the slow death or disappearance of communities altogether or their continued existence in conditions which lag behind the rest of the country. A project to try and put some of these areas on a new path has now been
For six years during the Second World War, Prague was the capital of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, established by the Nazis in parts of the former Czechoslovakia. A new book entitled A Guide Through Prague Under the Protectorate now offers a detailed look at the map of the capital during those dark times. If you ever wondered where the paratroopers spent their last night before they assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, where Czech resistance fighters secretly met, or where Nazi top officials lived during the war, the book has all the
Last week the Václav Havel Library hosted the second of a series of interviews with people who knew and worked with Havel. This month’s guest was the Canadian Paul Wilson, who has translated much of Havel’s work and lived in Prague from 1967 to 1977. He witnessed the Soviet-led invasion, and in the years that followed he became part of the Czech underground music scene, until he was ultimately expelled from the country. Few people in the English-speaking world can claim to be as steeped in the life and culture of Czechoslovakia in the last two decades
Hana Dubová was a Jewish girl from the town of Kolín living a normal, happy life surrounded by family and friends. She was just 14 when this carefree existence was brought to an abrupt end by the Nazi occupation. Hana was put on a train to Denmark, escaping with her bare life, never to see her friends and family again and unaware of the fact that she would move alone from place to place for eleven long years before she found a new home. Her American daughter Janet and granddaughter Rachael recently visited Europe to trace Hana’s footsteps and reconnect
The Czech Republic boasts hundreds of castles, chateaux, and churches which annually attract millions of visitors. Regular maintenance is a must – a task that requires not just a considerable amount of money but an army of professionals highly skilled in the reconstruction of precious historical sites. The Czech National Heritage Institute has just launched a pilot project aimed at educating new specialists in the field.
On the eve of the Second World War, a 29-year-old British stockbroker by the name of Nicholas Winton, went to extraordinary lengths to save 669 mostly Czech Jewish children by getting them out of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia. Learning of the plight of the children and their families, Winton organised the so-called kindertransport which left from Prague’s main station, travelling through Nazi Germany to Holland and finally to Great Britain, where the children were taken in by adoptive families. They were saved from the Holocaust but many never
In our age of celebrity chefs and cookbooks for all skill levels and wallet sizes, we may sometimes forget that food was an important element of life surrounded by special rituals, beliefs and values for many a decade. In this edition of Czech Life I decided to find out what importance food had a hundred or so years ago in this region. In order to do that, I headed to the ethnographic department of the Czech National Museum, where the exhibit Krmě - jídlo – žrádlo, or Dish-Meal-Grub is currently on display.
Look at some of the small town exhibitions currently underway and you can’t miss the trend – they all show vintage objects very often made up of stuff people find in their attics. The “out with the old and in with the new” fervor with which people cleaned out their attics just a few decades ago is long gone and families now treasure old family coffee grinders, foreign label-covered suitcases that belonged to seasoned family travelers or wooden weaving looms used by great grandmothers.