Marta Kubišová, the voice of Prague Spring, receives France’s Legion d’Honneur


Czech singer Marta Kubišová has been awarded France’s Legion of Honour in recognition of her art as well as of her courage in standing up to communist oppression. One of the greatest pop stars of the time, she became a symbol of the Prague Spring of 1968. But when she refused to bow to the new regime established after the Soviet invasion, she was banned from performing, and could only return to the stage after the fall of communism 20 years later.

Marta Kubišová, photo: CTKMarta Kubišová, photo: CTK The French ambassador to the Czech Republic, Pierre Lévy, decorated Marta Kubišová with France’s most prestigious award, the Legion of Honour, at the French embassy in Prague on Monday. In his remarks, Mr Lévy expressed his country’s gratitude for Marta Kubišová’s outstanding contribution to political freedom, her role in Czechoslovakia’s dissident movement as well as her work as one of the spokespersons of the group that formed around the human rights manifesto Charter 77.

“At the time when you personified the hopes of your whole nation, you were only 25 years old, the most beautiful age in life. But the darkness around you seemed impenetrable. In 1970, when you were voted for the third time Czechoslovakia’s most popular singer, you had already been ousted from the public arena and forced into ‘inner exile’.

“You were slandered in the media. But you didn’t let the pressure discourage you from joining an opposition movement against that absurd regime.”

Ambassador Lévy also said Ms Kubišová, who turns 70 on Thursday, was recognized for her life-long artistic career and her ties to France where she gained popularity in 1968 after she performed in the famed music hall Olympia in Paris.

Marta Kubišová, a singer with a defiant look in her eyes, was one of the greatest Czech pop stars. But the Soviet tanks which ended the Prague Spring also put an end to Marta Kubišová’s career on stage for the next twenty years. When asked if she would have made the same choice with the same enthusiasm, she said hard decisions are made easier when you’re young.

Pierre Lévy, Marta Kubišová, photo: CTKPierre Lévy, Marta Kubišová, photo: CTK “It was not enthusiasm that drove me; it was rather a sort of anger because I had never expected that our regime could annihilate someone as young as me. But it’s true that when you’re 26, it’s much easier to resist; unlike many older people who lost their jobs, I didn’t care that much. I just said, ‘Well, I’ll do something else’.”

After two decades in forced oblivion, Marta Kubišová again began to perform in public. In fact, she sang her famous Prayer from a balcony in Prague’s Wenceslas Square during one of the biggest anti-communist rallies in November 1989. Since then, she has released nine new albums and a number of compilations with her hits from the 1960s, and continues to tour the country with her shows.