In this Special, we pay tribute to Sir Nicholas Winton, the Briton who helped save the lives of 669 children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. Sir Nicholas died on Wednesday at his home in the UK at the age of 106. The original story was produced by Rosie Johnston in 2009, when the journey of the original kinderstransports from Prague to London was re-enacted.
Wednesday is the 20th anniversary of the launch of Radio Free Europe broadcasts from Prague. The US-funded symbol of the Cold War had moved to the city’s former communist parliament building at the invitation of President Václav Havel, who was keen to reinforce the Czech Republic’s new ties with the West.
The recently published The Irish Franciscans in Prague 1629–1786 offers a fascinating portrait of the college set up here by the order at a turbulent time in European history. As well as mapping the world of the friars, the book explores the killing of Albrecht of Valdštejn by Irish soldiers acting under orders from the emperor, which led to some becoming Bohemian noblemen – and supporters of the friary.
Germany’s use of long range rockets towards the end of WWII in a desperate but vain attempt to turn around the tide of the war, is a well known episode in history. So is the fact that many of the German experts were drafted in by the victors to help with the United States and Soviet rocket programmes. But a late Czech chapter in the attempt to develop new super weapons and rockets is little known and still shrouded with questions.
This Wednesday a bust of Václav Havel will be unveiled at Ireland’s Dáil (Parliament), making him the first non-Irishman to be recognised in this way. The man behind the move is barrister Bill Shipsey. The founder of Art for Amnesty, he also raised funding for a tapestry in the late Czech president’s honour at the then freshly renamed Václav Havel Airport Prague and brought the first Havel’s Place memorial in Europe to Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Park.
Relations between Czechs and the Catholic Church have been strained for hundreds of years. One of the factors was undoubtedly the burning of the religious reformer Jan Hus at the stake 600 years ago. Now Pope Francis has spoken of the Catholic Church’s need to seek forgiveness for the killing in what some are seeing as the biggest step towards reconciliation so far.
The former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright on Friday paid a visit to the Terezín Memorial where she unveiled a plaque to members of her family who died in Nazi concentration camps in WWII. The former US secretary of state only found out about her Czech roots when she was 59-years-old and has since made an effort to trace her family’s tragic past in Czechoslovakia.
The Green Mountain Manuscript (Rukopis zelenohorský) and the Queen’s Court Manuscript (Rukopis královédvorský) were important texts in the Czech National Revival of the 19th century, helping to underpin burgeoning national consciousness and becoming part of the broader culture. However, the compendia of Czech legends and folklore turned out to be forgeries. David Cooper of the University of Illinois is currently in Prague doing research into and translating the manuscripts. He discussed them on a visit to our studios last week.