Today in Mailbox: A witness’s memories of the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, “My Czech Story” – a new competition launched by Radio Prague and CzechTourism, and Radio Prague’s regular mystery Czech quiz. Listeners/readers quoted: Tim Wade, Rakesh. K.S., Hans Verner Lollike, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Charles Konecny, Uday Nayak, Shri Subhas Chakraborty.
In August, the Czech Republic marked the 45th anniversary of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. Tim Wade from the United Kingdom was witness to the events and sent us this e-mail:
“I was just remembering today as I do every year on the 21st of August, the events of 1968. How time flies, 45 years, and I remember everything as it was yesterday.
“Back in 1968, I was on holiday with my sisters and parents, touring the ČSSR with our VW camper van. We had already spent a month touring around the country and I had celebrated my 12th birthday in the Tatra Mountains, in Tatranská Lomnica. We then travelled up through Moravia and to Praha. We were camping on the banks of the Vltava River just south of Praha. I remember waking up early on the 21st of August and seeing lots of tanks. We heard on the BBC World Service radio of the invasion by the Warsaw Pact.
“We then drove to Jihlava where we stayed for ten days with our Czech friends, before we finally managed to flee in to Austria at the Slavonice border crossing. During this time we saw many terrible things and were witnesses to this terrible historical event, which I hope will never be repeated!
“10 years later at the age of 22, I returned to your country, and every year, sometimes with great difficulties getting a visa I would visit my friends in Praha and Jihlava. I spent many Christmas times and summers there. I would come on my motorcycle in the warmer months and train in the winter. In the late 70's, I was involved in the Charter 77 group and sometimes I took transcripts of plays and books out of Czechoslovakia to the 'West'.
“I was arrested by the police in Praha in 1982 and deported, because of my involvement with certain people in Czechoslovakia.
“In 1989, I was waiting to come back to Czechoslovakia and celebrate the freedom after the Velvet Revolution, I celebrated this with my friends, in Devin Hrad, on the banks of the Danube and Moravia.
“I have a very strong connection with the now two countries of Czech Republic and Slovakia, through my memories, friends and work.”
Thank you, Tim, for sharing your memories with us. All our listeners and readers are now encouraged to share images with us as Radio Prague and CzechTourism are launching a competition called My Czech Story. If you share your Czech experience with us, you can win a trip to Prague for two!
All you need to do is upload a photograph which tells “your” Czech story. It can be a snapshot from your trip to Prague, a picture of your favourite Czech product or a Czech pub in your neighbourhood – anything related to the culture, history and spirit of the Czech Republic.
The image needs to have a title or brief description and should be uploaded to our website no later than September 30th, 2013.
The winner will get a 3-day trip to Prague for two, including the cost of plane tickets. Nine runners-up will receive smaller gifts. You will find the rules of the competition including the link to the upload page here.
You have exactly a month to send us your photos. We’ll be certainly looking forward to them. Meanwhile you can also take part in our regular monthly mystery Czech quiz. First, let’s hear some of the correct answers to last month’s question. Not surprisingly, most of them came from India:
Among them from Rakesh. K.S.:
“Ferdinand Stoliczka is a person who is very much related with our great nation, India. He is part of our country. He worked in our nation and his death also took place in the Great Himalayas during an expedition.”
Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark writes:
“What an interesting person you have found for this month: Ferdinand Stolička. He came from a German-speaking family. His father was a forester, and that gave Ferdinand a natural background to study geology and other related subjects. He was a real adventurer and spent many years in British India, where he found numerous new species that have been named after him.”
“Moravian-born palaeontologist Ferdinand Stoliczka was educated in Prague and Vienna. He had a close relation with India where he spent 12 years (i.e. one-third) of his life in study and research in zoology and geology. He had close association with the Calcutta-based (incidentally my original hometown) Geological Society of India – one of the oldest and premier organizations in the world for conducting geological surveys and studies. In view of his outstanding academic profile he was put in charge of the prestigious research project on the Cretaceous fossils of Southern India. His work entitled ‘Palaeontologia Indica’ was completed just a year before his death.
“The last ten years of his short life of 36 years were most hectic. A spree of publications on geological memoirs on the Western Himalayas and Tibet and on Indian zoology encompassing varied topics like mammals, birds, insects and corals. In 1873 the British Indian Government selected him on a mission to Yarkund and Kashgar as a naturalist and geologist which ultimately proved to be fatal for his health. This brave Czech's strenuous endeavours were unable to withstand the harsh climate and high altitude of the Himalayas and he breathed his last at Moorghi in Ladakh district of Kashmir – but not before leaving a storehouse of research materials on one of the least known regions of Central Asia. The people of India have not forgotten the invaluable contributions and love for India of this great Czech.”
Uday Nayak also from India sent us a quote from the granite obelisk that was erected in Ferdinand Stoliczka’s memory in the Moravian mission cemetery in Leh, the capital of Ladakh:
“Though young when he fell a sacrifice to duty, he had already achieved eminence by his researches into the geology and natural history of India AND HIS EARLY DEATH is deeply regretted by the world of science and by the Government of India, who in recognition of his able and honourable services, have caused this monument to be erected.”
This answer is from Charles Konecny from Ohio:
“Stoliczka being the naturalist that he was, studied geology and palaeontology. Not long after graduating Ph.D and after doing some research, he was invited to join a geological survey to India. His career was shaped at this time as he threw himself with untiring zeal into his work and published hundreds of articles and pictures of fossils. Maybe a little too much... as he extended into the Himalayas and crossed the highest passes into Tibet, along with other later journeys that were very physically taxing, were all taking a toll on his health. On his last trip, his mission to Yarkand had to return over difficult and snowy mountain passes. This is where his lungs finally gave out. He was just 36 years old.”
And Shri Subhas Chakraborty from India writes:
“He was a most promising palaeontologist and naturalist who joined the geological Survey of India under the British Government in India. He was also the joint curator of the Indian Museum for a brief period and also the Natural History Secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.”
And Shri Subhas Chakraborty is also the winner of this month’s lucky draw. Congratulations and many thanks to all of you who took part. Here’s another chance to win a Radio Prague prize.
In September, we would like you to tell us the name of the opera diva born in 1834 in the town of Kostelec nad Labem who performed at La Scala, Milan, between 1865 and 1877 and appeared in a number of premieres of the works of Giuseppe Verdi. For instance, she was the first to sing the role of Aida in Italy.
Please send us your answers by September... along with your questions and comments to email@example.com. You can also post comments on our Facebook page. And if you come across anything Czech, simply take a picture and join our My Czech Story competition. Maybe we’ll see you in Prague soon, you never know. That’s all for this edition of Mailbox, until next month, take care.