In this week's Arts, Dita Asiedu looks at how the Terezin Memorial is faring one year after the devastating floods, invites you to a film festival in the town of terezin and an exhibition of photographs in Prague, and reports why Czech President Vaclav Klaus may have to wait longer than expected before moving into his office at Prague Castle:
We begin with an invitation to an exhibition of creative and documentary photography that's currently underway in Prague:
"My name is Martin Rozumek and I'm the Director of the Organisation for Aid to Refugees (OPU) and we have organised an exhibition of photographs of some famous Czech photographers such as Jan Sibik, Karel, Cudlin, Liba Taylor, Michal Novotny, Lubomir Kotek, and Stanislav Bolonsky and the exhibition is at the Josef Sudek Gallery on Maislova street, close to the Old Town Square. We would like to draw the public's attention to not only our work but also to the plight of refugees as one group among thousands of foreigners living in the Czech Republic. We believe that this group deserves special attention and the protection of the state as well as NGOs."
The exhibition was opened on August 12, how many visitors has it had so far?
"On the first day, the gallery was full, so I was very much surprised that sixty people came. Then, approximately thirty people visited the gallery every day. I think it's not so bad."
Where will the proceeds go to?
"The exhibition is a non-profit event. We were able to find some sponsors to pay for the photographers and the rent of the premises but we do not profit from it. There is a twenty crown admission fee because there is a lady who hands out brochures and shows visitors around. So, it's probably for her."
The 2nd Fort Film 2003 international film festival of young film makers and students is currently being held at the Ghetto Museum cinema, in the town of Terezin. Visitors can mainly enjoy student films and independent pictures from all over the world in the categories of short films, animation and documentaries. The main guest of the festival is Russian actress Irina Skobcevová-Bondarcuková, who will introduce two Russian productions - Serjozka (1960) and Osud cloveka (1959). The actress will be accompanied by the director, actor and president of the IFF in Moscow Vladivkaz Akim Salbijev.
Another highlight of the festival is the retrospective of films by Czech director Jan Nemec, who presents three selected works, including his graduation film "Sousto". A five-member jury will award the prize "Terezinska Cihla" or the Terezin Brick in four categories: best short film, best feature film, best documentary and best animation. On Thursday, the festival commemorated the 35th anniversary of the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia with the screening of a documentary on the event by Evald Schorm called "Zmatek 68".
The Fort Film 2003 film festival is organised by M.E.C.C.A. - the Middle European Colony of Contemporary Arts, in collaboration with the Terezin Memorial. The popular author and screen-writer Arnost Lustig, is the festival's president.
And staying in Terezin. At about this time last year, the Terezin Memorial made headlines in both national and international news, being one of the places hit most by the devastating floods last summer. Up to four metres of water flooded the site, which serves to remind us of the tens of thousands of people, mostly Jews, who were interned, tortured, and killed during the Second World War. I spoke to Jiri Janousek, the Deputy Director at the Terezin Memorial, to find out how it had recovered in the past twelve months:
"The memorial was opened to the public at the beginning of September, fourteen days after the floods. Naturally, we had certain limitations, some of which are still making things difficult for us today. Here at the Small Fortress, besides the cells and what was in them, permanent exhibitions were also severely damaged and have not been fully repaired yet. The documents necessary for re-opening are currently being prepared and the space has also not dried completely. So, tourists can visit the Small Fortress although restoration and construction work is currently being done in the fourth court, to reconstruct the cells and its interiors, such as bunk beds, in order to be able to re-open that part of the fortress soon. The cemetery in front of the Small Fortress has also been restored."
The town of Terezin itself also suffered much damage during the floods. Although it was evacuated in time, most homes, stores, offices, and cultural institutions could not escape the water:
"Regarding our buildings in the town itself, the Ghetto Museum is fully open to the public, everything has been repaired and the Magdeburg Barracks, which suffered damage on the ground floor, have also been reconstructed. The former chapel is still wet and humid and has yet to dry. The Jewish cemetery is currently under reconstruction but work has yet to begin at the Crematorium, which had water levels of up to four metres. Other places such as the Columbarium, the Mortuary and some of our office space are still being repaired, although the Columbarium and our office space already opened to the public."
But despite much work still ahead, twelve months later, Mr Janousek is optimistic and thankful that the rebuilding of the Terezin Memorial still remains a priority for many:
"As far as financial support is concerned, I have to say the state has been quite forthcoming. Our damages were estimated at 60 million Czech crowns and this year we have been granted 45 million out of the state budget. So, it is thanks to this support that we have been able to undertake this extensive reconstruction. If we had to depend on our own budget alone, without the help of the state and donations from various foreign organisations and certain individuals, we would not have been able to come this far."
And finally some good news for Prague Castle but a little bit of bad news for the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus. He may have to wait a while before being able to move into his newly reconstructed office as construction workers, but mainly historians, were left in awe when fragments of a mural and parts of an ornamented façade appeared from underneath the old coat of paint. According to the Director of the National Heritage Committee of the presidential office, Eliska Fucikova, they could be remnants of the no longer existing palace of Queen Anne from the second half of the 16th century, erected on the western promontory of Prague Castle. The discovery is very significant for historians, who so far only knew about the palace's existence from archive materials. They are now at work, trying to determine the size and quality of the preserved building.
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