A great many events have been held in the Czech Republic on Wednesday commemorating the 50th anniversary of the self-immolation of Jan Palach. At the launch of an exhibition about the student martyr at the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square, one of the organisers discussed Palach’s legacy – and the high level of interest in him today.
The Václav Havel Library in Prague follows the US presidential library model in gathering and archiving materials relating to the late Czech dissident turned head of state. In the US, Havel’s legacy is promoted by sister organisation the Václav Havel Library Foundation, which is based at the Bohemian National Hall in New York. The latter is headed by Pavla Niklová, a former director of the city’s Czech Center. When we met, Niklová explained the relationship between the foundation and the library itself.
After months of debate, the coalition government has agreed in principle to provide free school lunches to children from the “neediest” families enrolled in nursery and primary. But the ANO and Social Democrat parties have yet to agree which families are “poor” enough to qualify, or when to implement the change.
Today, nine out of 10 Czech children are learning English at school. It seems strange that for decades English was considered the language of the enemy – first by Nazi Germany, which occupied present-day Czechia; and later by the communist totalitarian regime. This is the story of an extraordinary man for whom English was a lifelong passion no matter who was in power.
Fifty years ago this January, Jan Palach doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Prague City Hall is now looking to buy the former hospital where he died – slated to become a luxury hotel – and turn it into a “museum of totalitarianism”.
In her book The Greengrocer and His TV: The Culture of Communism after the 1968 Prague Spring, historian Paulina Bren offers fresh perspectives on various aspects of Czechoslovakia’s normalisation period. These include how the Communists used TV serials to get their message across at a time when the nation, forced to accept the re-imposition of relatively hardline rule, largely turned inward. She makes particular reference to TV writer Jaroslav Dietl, creator of some of the most popular shows of that era.
Whether it is glutton-free, paleo, vegan or just low-carb, the modern world offers special diets for the most selective consumers. But how does one eat when all but the most basic foodstuffs are cut off? That was the question that Czechs living during the Protectorate era between 1939 and 1945 had to ask themselves nearly every day.
Czechs are increasingly concerned about threats related to climate change, suggests a freshly published survey. According to the study by the Median agency, they are mostly worried about drinking water becoming scarce and the impact of drought on the food harvest. On the other hand, Czechs are less afraid of terrorism than in the past, the poll indicates.