Seventy years ago the new Czechoslovak government was fully in the hands of the Communists. After the Stalinist coup d'etat in February 1948, a wave of arrests started and all democratic opposition was suppressed. Unclassified documents of the US Department of State show the degree of naïveté with which the American diplomats and intelligence officers in Prague faced their communist opponents and the subsequent shocking realization that there was nothing they could do.
The Václav Havel library, in cooperation with photographer Pavel Hroch, has recently launched an online exhibition called ‘The Faces of Resistance’. The project presents portraits and texts about 50 people who over a span of many decades stood up to political repression and brutality and who in certain moments displayed courage and a will to freedom.
There is a place in Moravia where you can see real mummies. They are not as old as those in Egypt, but old enough to generate genuine scientific interest among anthropologists at Masaryk University in Brno. Vít Pohanka made the trip to eastern Czechia and found out that quite soon one of the mummies might be brought back to (virtual) life.
On February 25, 1948, the Communist Party seized power in Czechoslovakia, marking the onset of four decades of hard-line, authoritarian rule. The Communist takeover was enabled by the party’s election success in 1946 and the resignation of the government’s remaining democratic ministers in February of 1948. President Edvard Beneš’ decision to confirm the Communists in power rather than dissolve the government and call new elections sealed the country’s fate for decades to come.
For around 40 years, so-called Victorious February was sacred for the Czechoslovak communist regime. The period from around February 17 and culminating on February 25 marked the party’s seizure of power when leader Klement Gottwald was finally named as prime minister of a communist dominated government.
Miroslav Liškutín, one of the last Czechoslovak fighter pilots who served with the British RAF during WWII, died in Great Britain on Monday at the age of 98. Last year, the veteran pilot was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the Czech head of state. The head of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, General Jiří Bečvář, had praise for the hero and his contribution during the war.
Sylva Šimsová was 18 when her father, a Social Democrat politician, told her the family had to escape from Czechoslovakia. It was 1949, a year after the Communists had taken power. The young Sylva insisted that her fiancé, whom she had met through her beloved scouts only six months earlier, come with them. Remarkably, almost 70 years later she and her husband – a composer and broadcaster who goes by the name Karel Janovický – are still together.
Fearing prison in Communist Czechoslovakia, in March 1950 Oldřich Doležal and other ex-RAF aviators simultaneously kidnapped three planes on internal flights and escaped to West Germany. On board one of those planes was Doležal’s son, then just an infant. Today Tom Dolezal runs the Czechoslovak Free Airforce website and is an authority on the Czech and Slovaks who served in the RAF.
Since her early childhood in the 1920s, Lisa Miková had dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. When as a student she started submitting her designs to one of the best Prague salons, there was every reason to think that her dream would come true. But Lisa was Jewish, and the German occupation brought her studies to an abrupt end. In 1942, at the age of twenty, she was sent with her parents to the Terezín Ghetto. There she fell in love with a young engineer called František, and in the tough conditions of the ghetto they married. Miraculously they