Addressing the German League of Expellees (BdV) on "Homeland Day" German President Joachim Gauk likened the fate of present day refugees to that of Germans expelled from their homes after WWII. He said Germany must meet its commitment to help those in need. After Germany’s defeat in 1945 millions of Germans were forced to leave their homes. 2.5 million Sudeten Germans were expelled from post-war Czechoslovakia alone. The issue burdened Czech-German relations for decades. In this connection President Gauk praised the reconciliation efforts of Brno mayor Petr Vokřál. Brno last year apologized for the Brno Death March in which the some 20,000 German-speaking inhabitants of Brno were forced to leave the city and walk to the Austrian border. Around 1,700 are believed to have died on the road. The city held a Pilgrimage of Reconciliation attended by both Czechs and Sudeten Germans.
Former Soviet president Michail Gorbachev is to pay an official visit to the Czech Republic from September 16-18 to attend a conference entitled Security in the Wake of the Cold War. The conference is organized by the M. Gorbachev Foundation, Fondazione Italiani and the Iron Curtain Foundation. Mr. Gorbachev is also scheduled to meet with President Milos Zeman. It will be the former Soviet leader’s first visit to the Czech Republic in 17 years.
Celebrations marking the 700th anniversary of the birth of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor will peak at the weekend with a faithful re-enactment of the coronation of Charles IV as Czech King and Blanche of Valois as Czech Queen. The program will include a torchlight procession to Vyšehrad, a spectacular tournament of knights on horseback as well as the coronation banquet itself. On Saturday the celebrations will take place at Prague’s Ovocny trh between 10 and 6pm, after which people can join the torchlight procession to Vyšehrad. The coronation reenactment ceremony will take place on Sunday at St. Vitus Cathedral, starting at 1pm.
More than 900 heritage sights around the country opened to the public free of charge on Saturday within the European Heritage Days, held September 3-11. People can visit historic sites, museums, galleries, libraries, but also many private and public buildings, such as town halls, courts, church institutions, schools and residential houses which are normally not accessible to the public. Close to 150 municipalities have joined the European Heritage Days this year, organizing some 250 events, including lectures, exhibitions and guided tours. The Czech Republic first joined the European Heritage Days in 1991.
The security incident in which a driver tried to force his way into the motorcade carrying German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her recent visit to Prague has been classified as a misdemeanor. A police spokesman said the police investigation had not revealed grounds on which to press criminal charges. The driver reportedly had no intention of running his car into the motorcade or harming the Chancellor, he had merely tried to force his way onto the road. He faces a thousand crown fine for disregarding police orders.
The police have proposed charging three secondary school students with disorderly conduct and limiting personal freedom in one of the worst cases of aggression at school in recent years. The case involved three students who for months humiliated and bullied their teacher in front of the whole class, recording the incidents on camera. The woman later had a nervous breakdown and died in hospital. The police said an investigation had not found any evidence that the students were directly responsible for her death. The teacher was said to be seriously ill. Two of the students were expelled from the school and the headmaster was sacked for not addressing the issue.
The free lunches for school children from poor families project introduced at the start of the year has been hailed as a huge success, the news site idnes reported on Saturday. According to a first survey among the close to 900 schools involved, the children who are now able to lunch with their classmates are more optimistic, more active, more communicative and less frequently absent for health reasons. The free lunches project was introduced by the Education Ministry in January of this year. Over 4,500 children currently receive this vital support.
Some 1500 bikers descended on Prague this weekend for the Prague Harley Days. The three-day event includes a motorcycle parade, demo rides, an exposition of new and antique motorcycles as well as a competition for the best bike in the Prague Custom Battle. The event, held under the patronage of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, attracted bikers from Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and a number of other countries.
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In memoriam: Karel Gott, the ‘Bohemian nightingale’