Monday marked the 38th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops in 1968. Even though the last Soviet soldier left the country fifteen years ago, the memory of the invasion is still being kept alive 38 years on, also thanks to music. To mark the anniversary, a street in Prague was named after one of the musical icons of the time, the protest song writer and singer Karel Kryl.
Remembrance ceremonies take place in front of the Czech Radio building in Prague every year to honour those who stood up to the occupiers in August 1968. Until October that year, 72 people were killed and hundreds wounded in Czechoslovakia after the Warsaw-Pact troops came to crush the Prague Spring reform movement.
The pocked bullet hole marks on the façade of the building across the street from the Czech Radio building disappeared only a couple of years ago when the apartment block got a facelift. Slowly but surely these silent witnesses of the invasion wither away. A more lasting reminder of the occupation is the protest song album "Bratricku, zavirej vratka" or "Little Brother, Close the Door" by the late Czech folk singer Karel Kryl.
Kryl wrote the title song literally overnight after the invasion. The music critic Jiri Cerny was the one who advised him to release a whole album.
"The album "Bratricku, zavirej vratka" was the only one that fully reflected the atmosphere after the Soviet invasion and the atmosphere of repression. Over 40,000 copies were sold but over the years people taped them off each other. Also, because he worked as a reporter at Radio Free Europe in Munich, Kryl had a chance to play his songs every week for his audience in Czechoslovakia."
Despite having released only one album in Czechoslovakia, Karel Kryl has remained an icon for young Czechs, many of whom had not even been born in 1968. After 1989, Kryl regularly returned to Czechoslovakia and retained his critical edge even under the new political circumstances until his premature death in 1994, at only 50 years of age.
On the 38th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, a street in the Prague district of Stodulky was named after Karel Kryl, in the presence of his family who said that even though Karel Kryl cared little about worldly fame, he would still be deeply honoured.
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