Dr. Paul Ort’s mother and grandfather were murdered by the Nazis in reprisals that followed the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. A childhood friend of Vaclav Havel’s, the then Pavel Ort escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia via Tunisia after securing a medical degree against the odds. He went on to have a very successful career in the US, where he is still practising at the age of 82.
Lodged just before Christmas, December 22nd may at first seem a rather unremarkable day. However, it marks the anniversary of the first recorded Christmas tree being introduced on Czech soil. Today Christmas trees have not only established themselves in nearly every household but also dominate many town squares. This despite an initial struggle against Czech revivalists, who saw it as a German import.
Officials of the Pardubice region recently announced a surprise discovery. Dozens of gold coins were found on a pasture near the town of Králíky in the north east of Bohemia. Experts, who have analysed the coins, say they date to the period of the Thirty Years’ War and may have been buried while an army was on the march.
Thanks to Steven Spielberg, the story of Oskar Schindler and the twelve hundred Jews he saved during World War II is well known. But not many people know that the factory where he employed them still stands. It is in the village of Brněnec, north of the Czech Republic’s second city of Brno, and for many years it has stood derelict. There has been a lot of talk of saving the building and turning it into a museum and memorial, and the latest initiative comes from members of the Low-Beer family, who owned the factory until 1938 when they had to flee
Tuesday marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Václav Havel. The former president remains a much respected figure in the country, even though his quotes are often used to help delineate the current divide in Czech society. Several commemorative events are taking place across the Czech Republic, including those that seek to bring Havel closer through his works.
As the end of 2018 draws near, Czechs are reflecting on the century of their independent state. All years ending in “8” have a special meaning for this nation – 1918, 1938, 1948, and 1968 were the main turning points for the country and its people. Pavel Kosatík is a journalist and writer, author of many books, screenplays and documentaries about Czech history.
The short-lived secret organisation Světlana formed in 1948 grew to become the largest anti-Communist group in Czechoslovakia, boasting several hundred members at its peak, operating in more than a dozen cells, mainly in Moravia. That’s one version of events. Many long believed that Světlana was not only infiltrated by the State Security force, or StB, but was in fact a creation of it – part of operations to ensnare “counter-revolutionaries”, those sympathetic to what is now known as the Third Resistance movement. Other questions remain as to whether
One of the most fascinating Cold War spy tales, involving a Czechoslovak spy who fooled a woman into thinking he was her long abandoned son, is being adopted as a screenplay by a Hollywood studio. Jaroslav Kmenta, who is the author of a book on the spy and later sold the rights to Fox Searchlight Pictures, says the studio has used its option to go ahead.
Czechs have always had somewhat contradictory feelings toward their nobility. One of the country’s leading aristocrats once even bitterly complained that Czechs are either louts or boot-lickers, nothing in between. One of the first laws of the newly independent Czechoslovakia, one hundred years ago, forbade the use of aristocratic titles. On the other hand, today Czechs have developed an avid interest in the lives of their dukes and counts.