Bořek Lizec, Consul General of the Czech Republic in Chicago, has unearthed and preserved remarkable stories of Czech-American friendships and come to believe that, quite possibly, Czechoslovakia would not have gained its independence had it not been for efforts of the people of Chicago and the Midwest. To honour their individual and collective contributions and legacies, he is helping put together centenary celebrations in “the windy city” this autumn requiring two weekends to pack it all in.
Thomas Archer Bata is in charge of global marketing for the Bata shoe company, which has more than 5,000 stores in over 70 countries all around the globe. He is the only member of the Bata family working at the famous firm, which his great-grandfather, Tomáš Baťa, founded in the Moravian town of Zlín at the end of the 19th century. Thomas Archer Bata was born in Canada and has lived in Switzerland, the UK and South America. So, I asked him, when did he first visit the Czech Republic?
To mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, the town of Kostelec nad Orlicí took up a public collection to erect a new statue of the country’s founder and first president, Tomáš Garrique Masaryk. But it won’t be a faithful replica of the original – removed by the Nazis and later melted down by the Communists.
Whether it was in the show trials of the 1950s or reporting from the Middle East, an undercurrent of anti-Semitism was present in the communist propaganda apparatus in Czechoslovakia. At least that is what a new website aimed at teachers in secondary schools and just released by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes reveals.
Starting in October, the area around Prague‘s metronome will house a large exhibition detailing the key moments in Czech totalitarian history. The project, which was instigated by a joint effort of the Prague City Hall and a grouping of historical institutes, seeks to finally unlock the previously closed network of spaces underneath what used to be Stalin’s giant statue. Yet questions remain about how the spaces are to be used in the long term.
The late Sir Nicholas Winton saved the lives of 669 children, most of them Jewish, when he organised for them to leave Czechoslovakia for his native UK on the eve of WWII. His daughter Barbara Winton has told his remarkable story in the book If It's Not Impossible...: The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton and in July discussed what drove him and much more at the Melting Pot forum at Colours of Ostrava music festival, which is where I caught up with her.
On August 25, 1968 eight brave souls held a public protest on Moscow’s Red Square against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. They all paid dearly for that act of fearlessness and defiance, receiving punishments including jail terms, internal exile and forced psychiatric treatment. The organiser of the demonstration was Pavel Litvinov, whose grandfather Maxim Litvinov had been Stalin’s foreign minister in the 1930s. This week Mr. Litvinov, now resident in the US, was in Prague for events marking the 50th anniversary of the invasion. When
British author Nigel Peace has just published a powerful love story set against the background of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact. The novel is based on the author’s own personal experience of being torn apart from his first love by the communist regime. I spoke to Nigel Peace shortly before his new book came out, about his memories of the time and what made him write his soul-searching novel half a century later.