Several now elderly people who were persecuted by the Communist regime were
honoured with the Memory of Nations award at Prague’s National Theatre on
Friday night in one of a number of events marking Struggle for Freedom and
Democracy Day. The award went to former political prisoners František
Suchý, Mária Matejčíková and priest František Lízna, as well as to
Otto Šimko, a Holocaust survivor who was repeatedly persecuted because of
his Jewish origins.
The Memory of Nations award has been presented annually since 2010 by the non-profit organisation Post Bellum, which records and makes accessible interviews with victims of the Nazi and Communist regimes.
The freethinking part of Czech society suffered several defeats in recent
years, rector of Masaryk University in Brno, Mikuláš Bek maintained in
his address to attendees at Albertov in Prague on Friday marking the
courage and dedication of students and others who fought oppression in
Czechoslovakia on November 17, 1939 and 1989.
Freedom and democracy, he said, needed to be cared for and he said one shouldn't be afraid to fight for it. In his speech, he ranked the first direct presidential election as one defeat freethinking society had suffered recently. The rector added there was "no reason to panic" and that education could change Czech society for the better.
The rector of Charles University, Tomáš Zima, remembered the courage of students in both 1939 and 1989 and said he had no doubt if freedom and democracy were threatened today, people would again stand up in its defense.
Monika MacDonagh-Pajerová is a political activist and university lecturer. Back in 1989, she served as a press spokesperson for the student leaders protesting against the communist regime. Pajerová also helped to organise some of the now famous protests that led to the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. I joined her for an informal conversation about the subsequent mood in the country – and how for some, hope soon turned to cynicism. But I began by asking her to briefly describe her role in the events of November 1989:
Twenty-eight years ago Czechs took to the streets to demonstrate for basic human rights and freedoms. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since and many Czechs today are asking themselves where those ideals went. Sociologist Jan Hartl, head of the STEM polling agency, has been closely monitoring the change of mood in Czech society over that time. I asked him to explain how people’s priorities have changed over the years.
The Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has handed out its annual awards for contribution to freedom and democracy. Among this year’s recipients is the Belarussian opposition politician Vincuk Viačorka, or the Slovak photographer Tibor Kováč, who captured images of the Soviet invasion of the Slovak city of Košice.
The long-awaited film about Milada Horáková, a democratic MP executed by the Communists in 1950 and perhaps the most powerful symbol of resistance to Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime, officially premieres in Prague on Thursday evening. The film was made by Czech US-based director David Mrnka. The role of Milada Horáková is played by Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer:
Marta Kubišová, one of the most popular Czechoslovak singers of the 1960s and a symbol of resistance against the communist regime is bowing out with a final goodbye tour that started in the Slovak city of Kosice at the end of September and will take her to Prague’s Lucerna Palace where the singer started her career.
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