More than a dozen people who risked their lives to stand up to the communist regime in Czechoslovakia received recognition from the government on Monday for participating in the so-called third resistance. The Prime Minister awarded 12 former dissidents, people smugglers and political prisoners for their resistance to the totalitarian regime. Six awards were granted posthumously.
The Czechoslovak third resistance is not a single group or movement, but a relatively general designation for those who consciously stood up to communist authorities. Some joined armed resistance groups who planned on fighting the regime in the late 1940s, others helped those fleeing to the West safely across the Czechoslovak border in the 1950’s. Post-1968 dissidents and political prisoners are also recognized as members of the third resistance.
Among those recognized on Monday were well-known public figures like dissident and Charter 77 signatory, Dana Němcová, and the outspoken singer-songwriter Jaroslav Hutka, who was forced to emigrate Czechoslovakia in 1978.
The law defining the recognition and compensation for members of the third resistance was passed a little more than a year and a half ago. Since then, almost three hundred people have been recognized and received financial compensations from the government – so far the total comes to over 19 million crowns.
But some, including many of the former political prisoners, have expressed concern that the Defense Ministry is not dealing with the over 3,800 requests it has received quickly enough. Zdeněk Kovařík, deputy chairman of the Czech Federation of Political Prisoners, who was recognized a year ago, says for many of the federation’s members the government’s recognition may come too late.
“It’s not only that we are older, but almost all of us have serious health problems. Some friends who had applied, have since passed away. So, many of us are waiting impatiently. What worries us is that we waited so long for the law to come into effect – for almost 22 years – and now that it has, we have to wait for all of the applications to be processed.”
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said after the ceremony that he realized time was essential but pointed out that winning approval for the respective law in Parliament had not been easy.
“What we are doing here is paying a debt on behalf of the whole society. It was very difficult to simply get the law on the third resistance passed. We realize that time is short, but we are trying our best to speed the whole process up as much as possible.”
Another sticky point is the definition of the third resistance, which seems to leave the designated committee a lot of room for interpreting, for example, what kind of resistance was active and conscious and what simply was a matter of circumstance. The award process has placed the difference between a victim and a fighter against the communist regime under close scrutiny.
Almost 600 applications have been rejected so far. Some accepted the decision, but others have re-applied. For many, though, the delays and ambiguities mean that their active resistance against the communist regime will remain unrecognized by the Czech state.
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