22-08-2004

In this week's edition: the Benes decrees, US presidential candidate John Kerry's Czech ancestors, listeners' requests for songs. Listeners quoted: Mary Lou Krenek, Lee Archer, Otto Schwartz.

Greetings from sunny Prague and thank you for not forgetting about Radio Prague during the summer holiday season. Thanks for all those letters and e-mails responding to our programmes as well as the political situation in the Czech Republic. Our faithful listener Mary Lou Krenek from Texas, USA, sent us this letter:

Stanislav Gross, photo: CTKStanislav Gross, photo: CTK "Happy Summer to all my friends in the Czech Republic. Congratulations to your new Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, the youngest Prime Minister in Europe. My best wishes to former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla who will become the Czech Republic's representative on the European Commission. It was an honour to be at a function at the University of Houston when he visited Texas with a delegation. My support goes to President Vaclav Klaus for standing firm in his respect for the memory of President Edvard Benes who is still coming under intense scrutiny for expelling the Germans and Austrians in World War II. One consolation for those people should be that they were able to live in a free society for over forty years when the others had to live behind the Iron Curtain. Did they ever think about that?"

Well, the topic of the so-called Benes decrees is still a sensitive one even nearly 60 years after the end of the Second World War. The presidential decrees sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians from post-war Czechoslovakia. Many of those expelled indeed lived in free democratic countries, as Mary Lou Krenek points out. And this is what historian Jan Kuklik from the Law Faculty at Prague's Charles University has to say to this argument.

 Signing of the 'Benes decrees' Signing of the 'Benes decrees' "I think I can understand the feelings of the people who after hundreds of years of their settlement in the Czech Lands were expelled or transferred to Germany or Austria after the end of the war. Personally, I can really understand their feelings. From the point of view of individuals it was very difficult to accommodate with this new situation but, of course, it was a situation which was not created by Czechoslovakia itself. It was really a situation which was an outcome of the Munich decision, the Protectorate, six years of German occupation and the Second World War and the situation after the end of the Second World War. And I think it is really necessary to understand it also from this Czech point of view. That it was a kind of very tragic end of the coexistence of the two nations in the Czech Lands. But of course, it is a problem which, in my view, is very difficult to solve now, after fifty years or so."

Staying with politics, the presidential elections in the United States are approaching and many of our listeners mention in their letters the fact that the ancestors of the Democratic Party candidate John Kerry hailed from what is now the Czech Republic, for example Lee Archer from South Carolina and Otto Schwartz from North Carolina who writes:

Thank you very much for the cutting from Wilmington News, Mr Schwartz. Of course, Radio Prague has broadcast a few programmes about the fact that John Kerry's relatives came from the north Moravian town of Horni Benesov. Some genealogists say that John Kerry's Jewish grandfather Fritz Kohn was a brewer in the town before leaving for America in 1905, converting to Catholicism and changing his name.

 

And that brings us to another famous man who left this country to make it big in America - it's time for Radio Prague's monthly competition. The question is:

"What is the name of the famous jazz composer who was born in Prague in 1948 to the family of a famous jazz singer and a jazz musician and left Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet invasion to make an outstanding music career in the United States?"

I can tell you one more thing: he also wrote the music to the US TV series Miami Vice.

Please make sure your answers reach us by August 31st. The address is Radio Prague English Section, 120 99 Prague 2, the Czech Republic and our e-mail address is english@radio.cz

And finally, Otto Schwartz from North Carolina whose letter we quoted earlier, asked us if we could play a Czech polka. So here is Ctyri pary bilejch koni for Mr Schwartz and all of you who'd like to hear more traditional Czech music in Radio Prague's programmes.

22-08-2004