17-07-2005

This week in Mailbox: the Prague street that was renamed Viktoriastrasse by the Nazis; more response to Radio Prague's new signature tunes; and the Czech pop legend Karel Gott. Listeners quoted: D.M. Cook, Scotland; Stephen Conlin and Philip Hines, UK; Vladimir Val Cymbal, United States.

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague's weekly Mailbox programme. I'm back again and many thanks to Dita Asiedu for standing in for me last Sunday when I was away.

At the end of last week's programme, Dita mentioned a letter sent to us by Mr D.M. Cook from Scotland who was interested to know the current name of a Prague street which was renamed Viktoriastrasse or Victoria Street by the Nazis during WW2. Mr Cook even sent us a photo of the street.

We immediately received two replies from the United Kingdom, the first one from Stephen Conlin from Bristol:

"In answer to your question on Mailbox, the street that was renamed Viktoriastrasse is today's Narodni trida on which stands the National Theatre. Of course, many other streets were renamed during the Protectorate, especially if they originally celebrated those who had contributed to the Czech national revival. For example Balbinova, the street that runs next to the Czech Radio building, was renamed 'Seumestrasse' during the Second World War."

And the second reply came from Philip Hines from the UK.

"Narodni was renamed Viktoriastrasse during the Nazi Occupation, according to a contemporary map in Callum MacDonald and Jan Kaplan's 1995 book "Prague: In The Shadow of the Swastika"."

And Mr Hines adds:

"It was interesting to hear that the Czech RAF 311 Squadron features in a book about RAF attacks on U-boats. My father-in-law, Ondrej Spacek, fought in 311 and survived the war, living in the UK until his death in 1987. I believe that one of his logbooks, still in my wife's possession, records at least one attack on a German submarine."

Thank you very much for those quick replies. The mystery is now solved. Prague's Narodni Street was called Narodni- before the German occupation but before 1918 it was called Ferdinandova after the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand V.

It is not unusual for Prague streets to have changed names several times in recent history. For example the very street on which the Czech Radio building is situated, Vinohradska Street was called Fochova during the two decades of the First Czechoslovak Republic after French marshal Ferdinand Foch, the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in World War One. Then, during the Nazi occupation, it was renamed Schwerinova after a Prussian marshal, only to be renamed Stalinova after the communist takeover. Hopefully, it will now keep the name Vinohradska - after the Prague district of Vinohrady, or "vineyards".

Now back to Radio Prague's new signature tunes. In last week's Mailbox we heard a couple of you responses to them and here is another one, from Jonathan Murphy from Ireland.

"I always liked the old jingle and I agree with your listener who said it was very effective. I wasn't tired of it at all. It would seem to me that the Czech composer who wrote it could sell the rights onto another news organisation quite easily. I think it might be a while before I get used to the new jingle, but I can tell you this now, it's certainly better than a lot of the other ones out there!"

During the week we reported on a letter signed by 69 Czech MPs and asking President Vaclav Klaus to give the pop singer Karel Gott an important state honour - the Order of Merit. Karel Gott, who has just turned 66, has sold many millions of albums during a career spanning three decades and is a living legend in this country, but also in Slovakia, Russia and Germany. But he also has his critics, especially among those who think he had a charmed life during communist times.

In response to Radio Prague's report, Vladimir Val Cymbal from the United States sent us this e-mail.

"I just read your article on Karel Gott. He deserves the medal. He has been an ambassador for both Czechs and Slovaks not only in Europe but also in the USA. Every one of his appearances here were sold out. He even appeared on a nationally broadcast country and western television show. He is loved by many people around the world even those that fled from communism."

Thank you Mr Cymbal and I think this e-mail is a nice birthday present for Karel Gott.

 

And all we have time for today is our regular competition question.

"On June 10, 1923 a boy called Jan was born in Czechoslovakia's easternmost province of Ruthenia, now part of Ukraine, close to the Romanian border. The family was extremely poor and in his adult age, our man claimed he had got his first pair of shoes at the age of seven. Both his parents died in a Nazi concentration camp but young Jan managed to escape to Britain where he joined the armed forces and changed his name. He started a career in publishing and he was a Labour MP between 1964 and 1970 but he was most famous for having built a publishing empire that spanned the world. In November 1991 he died under mysterious circumstances. Who was he?"

Please send us the answer by the end of July to the usual address, Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, the Czech Republic or to English@radio.cz

17-07-2005