Czech Scouts and Guides attending the international movement’s World Scout Jamboree next summer will rally under the motto "Unbreakable". The aim is to both highlight the suppression of scouting under totalitarianism – first by the Nazis and later by the Communists – and to celebrate the Czech movement’s revival 30 years ago in their newly democratic country.
Junák – the Czech Association of Scouts and Guides – in November 2019 will celebrate the longest continuous period in the movement’s history over which it has been allowed to exist freely, having been officially re-established soon after the Velvet Revolution.
During WWII, the Nazis banned the Scout movement in the Third Reich and its occupied territories, including Czechoslovakia, and after the World Jamboree of 1937 it was not held again until a decade later. Before being banned for a second time in 1948 – by the Communists – the Czechoslovak association of scouts was the world’s second-largest, having swelled to a quarter million members after the war.
On a recent visit to a Scout summer camp in the Šumava Mountains, I spoke to instructor Michaela Sochorová of Troop 148, whose family has deep roots in the movement, which in this country is especially grounded in respect for individual freedom – and for Mother Nature.
Your grandfather was a Scout. Was your father of the generation under communism where it wasn’t possible to be one?
“My grandfather was a Scout after the Second World War, for those first few years when it was possible. And then my father was in a group that was a scout group before and then became a kind of woodcraft group – they were pretending to be Indians and sleeping in tepees and going for hikes where it was possible – mostly in Russia, Ukraine, Romania... After the Velvet Revolution, their group stayed this type of group; they didn’t become Scouts again.”
The theme for the 24th World Scout Jamboree, to be held in the US next July and August, is “Unlock a New World”. It aims to underscore core principles of the Scouting movement – including extending friendship regardless of nationality or religion – and trying to do a good deed every day.
Under its “Unbreakable” motto, the Czech delegation will also stress the Scouts’ modern tradition of promoting tolerance – a value dramatically encapsulated in a photo taken last spring of a teenage Czech scout, Lucie Myslíková, confronting a Neo-Nazi supporter at a May Day rally against immigrants. In an interview for Czech Radio, Lucie, who had then been a scout for seven years, explained why she had worn her uniform that day.
“I think it made sense, because fascism and totalitarian regimes in general are in contradiction with the scouting movement. Although scouting is apolitical, I think that assuming a clear stand was the right thing to do. Scouting also teaches us to be free, to express ourselves and be active in public; in other words, to try to make the world a better place. This was an ideal opportunity to show we really abide by these principles.”
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