A military band played outside the Czech Radio building on Thursday morning, as politicians lined up to lay wreaths at the plaque to those who lost their lives defending the station in August 1968. It's thirty-five years to the day since the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, a day of reflection and remembrance for the Czech people. Czechoslovak Radio played a particularly important role in the hours that followed the invasion, as besieged reporters broadcast desperate appeals for help to the outside world.
"I was in Prague, and we live on a hill, on the sixth floor, with a good view of the whole city. I remember the planes coming in, just over our roof. I remember what somehow felt was very frightening, that suddenly the hum of the city - which one doesn't normally register - stopped. Suddenly it was silent. One heard only the shots, and saw the shots, but the silence was frightening. Then of course the next day I went to work because it was obvious that there would be wounded here, by the broadcasting station, and our hospital is just around the corner. So we were getting the wounded, being the nearest hospital to the radio building. I remember how impressed I was how everyone ignored the Soviet tanks. The soldiers were shooting and people simply walked along, they didn't take shelter, they ignored them. It was marvellous. Of course what came after was the worst."
"No. This will never fade. Never. Never - mainly the way our people behaved, how marvellous they were. How - without any instructions - they took down the street signs, changed the road signs. They were marvellous, and they didn't fire a single shot. It was only the Soviets who were shooting."
Many young people today have little or no idea what happened outside this building 35 years ago. That's rather sad isn't it.
"Well, they have no idea what the whole regime was like. What happened afterwards, how people were forced to lie, forced into hypocrisy, how they taught their children to be two-faced. The mediocrity of all the people in top positions who had no professional merit, only political. They just don't know. That's why I started this project 'the Absurdities of Totalitarianism', where I collect personal experiences and documents of what it was like. The extent of the lies, of the falsehood, of the suppression of facts. It was amazing."
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