In today's special edition of Mailbox we read from listeners' letters dedicated to the memory of Jan Palach, a Czech student who burned himself to death on January 16, 1969 in Prague, to protest against the lethargy that prevailed in Czechoslovak society in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion in 1968. We quote from letters sent by: John Murphy, Jamie Marshall, Leslie Farmler, Jan Lea, Tom O'Neill, Trevor Bunn, Craig, Lana, and Alessio Pagnucco.
Every year in the middle of January we remember Jan Palach. On 16th January 1969, five months after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, he dowsed himself with petrol and set himself alight on Prague's Wenceslas Square. In a letter he wrote that he wanted to awaken his fellow citizens from apathy and resignation following the invasion. Three days later he died, and his funeral was attended by tens of thousands of people, a demonstration for freedom and democracy that the invasion had crushed. The 20-year old from the grey little town of Vsetaty
Fascinating wartime documents have just been released in Britain that shed light on one of the dark moments of Czech history. On a June morning in 1942 people in the Nazi occupied Czech Lands woke up to a chilling radio announcement. In ice-cold tones a voice in German said that the village of Lidice not far from Prague had been wiped off the map, and all the men shot. This was in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler's man in charge of the Czech lands, who was killed a few weeks before by Czech parachutists sent from London.
Gazing out of the window of a spacious room in a romantic neo-gothic chateau, I see the image of a woman in a beautiful early twentieth century dress sitting on a bench in the scenic park that spreads out before me. Two men, a writer and a poet, are keeping her company, taking in the calm of the landscape around them but keeping their eyes fixed on their muse - Sidonie Nadherna.
My guest on this week's One on One is Jiri Jes, a journalist and broadcaster who still appears regularly on Czech Radio at the age of 80. Prevented from writing during the Communist era, Jiri Jes began his journalist career in the early 1990s, when he was already in his sixties. When I met Jiri on a snowy Sunday afternoon in Prague's Bila Hora district, I began by asking him for his memories of childhood in pre-war Czechoslovakia.
This weekend saw the largest re-enactment of a Napoleonic battle in the history of central Europe. Tens of thousands of people braved the bitter cold on Saturday for the bicentennial staging of the 'Battle of the Three Emperors' of 2 December 1805 - Napoleon Bonaparte's greatest victory. On the rolling hills and fields outside Austerlitz, now Slavkov in South Moravia, the young French emperor outwitted a much larger Russo-Austrian force -- a feat of which he would be proud to his dying day. Taking part in the re-enactment on Saturday were some four
Friday marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the "Battle of Three Emperors" -- Napoleon's decisive victory over the Austrian and Russian armies on the Moravian plains near the town of Austerliz, or Slavkov as it's known in Czech. In 1805, the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the locals considered themselves on the losing side of the battle.
Political prisoners had been forced to work the mines of Czechoslovakia long before the Communists seized power in the "bloodless" coup of February 1948. Under the direction of the hard-line Stalinist leader Klement Gottwald, however, securing workers to unearth weapons-grade uranium became policy; a top priority. The camps served two purposes: a way to purge the land of "class enemies" and to build up the atomic arsenal of the Soviet Union, when few could have guessed the ideological war with the West would remain a "cold" one.
The corpses of some of Czechoslovakia's most celebrated war heroes may be serving as models in anatomy classes in Germany and Austria to this day. Thousands of political prisoners were murdered at the Ploetzensee detention and execution centre outside Berlin during WWII. Among them were nearly seven hundred Czech and Slovak resistance fighters, whose bodies were immediately sent on to medical universities and institutions within the Third Reich.
The sentencing to death of Czech MP Milada Horakova on trumped up charges of treason at the height of the Stalinist regime in the 1950s will always be one of the most painful and chilling moments in Czech history. A little more than 55 years ago, she faced her show trial with calm and defiance, refusing to be broken. Audio recordings - intended to be used by the Communists for propaganda purposes - were mostly never aired, for the large part because for the Party's purposes, they were unusable. After Milada Horakova's trial and execution, much of