In From the Archives this week we carry on where we left off at the end of August in our chronological journey through the Czech Radio archives. We had reached the point just after the end of World War Two; after the initial euphoria, the hard work of rebuilding the country began: not least at the Czechoslovak Radio building itself, which had been shot to pieces in the Prague Uprising and received a direct hit from a German aerial torpedo.
Because August 21 is the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the radio played such a central role in the events of those dramatic days, in this edition of From the Archives we shall be hearing the memories of one of the key journalists involved in those dramatic events. Jiří Dienstbier was one of Czechoslovak Radio’s star reporters at the time. Later he was to become one of the best-known dissidents of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and after the Velvet Revolution he was the country’s first post-communist foreign minister.
It was five years ago this week that our much-loved colleague, Olga Szántová, died at the age of 71. As a child she had spent most of World War II in New York, which was where she picked up her perfect East-Side English. Olga became one of the most familiar voices of Radio Prague’s English broadcasts during the political thaw of the 1960s, and she was also among the radio journalists who managed to carry on broadcasting secretly during the Soviet invasion of 1968, as several recordings from the time still bear witness.
Today in Mailbox we read from our listeners’ comments on Radio Prague’s 75th anniversary and reveal the identity of our August mystery lady. Listeners quoted: Tracy Andreotti, Harold Yeglin, Stan Schmitt, Colin Law, Hans Verner Lollike, Mary Lou Krenek, Ian Morrison, Richard Chen, Charles Konecny, Henrik Klemetz, Jayanta Chakrabarty, David Eldridge.
Set up in 1936 primarily as a tool to counter propaganda from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Radio Prague itself long served as a mouthpiece for communist propaganda. Since the 1990s however, the station is the only Czech public news service, providing information about the Czech Republic in six languages to audiences around the world. Marking Radio Prague’s 75th anniversary, the Czech-born, UK-based writer, and former Radio Prague reporter Benjamin Kuras and Radio Prague’s own David Vaughan discuss the most interesting moments in the station’s
In the 75 years of its existence, Radio Prague has seen many changes – among them, unfortunately, the end of our shortwave broadcasts. On Wednesday, the station presented some of its programs live from a tent in the heart of the city, in an effort to propagate the international service locally. Sarah Borufka was at the site and spoke to Miroslav Krupička, who has served as Radio Prague’s director since 1998. She asked him about the important changes he had witnessed over the years.
Of course, Radio Prague would not have turned 75 if it wasn’t for our loyal listeners. We would like to thank you for your support and interest over the years, and for the many anniversary emails you have sent in. On the occasion of our 75th anniversary, we did something we usually don’t do – we called some of our listeners from around the world. Here’s one of them, Stan Schmidt. He listens to Radio Prague from Evansville, Indiana, in the United States.
In November 1945, six months after the end of World War II, the units that had taken part in liberating Czechoslovakia began their official withdrawal. Various ceremonies were held, first on November 15, to say farewell to the Red Army troops, who had fought their way in bitter fighting through Slovakia all the way to Prague. Then a few days later, on November 20, the withdrawal began of the American units that had liberated Western Bohemia.
In last week’s From the Archives we heard about radio’s central role in the Prague Uprising against the German occupation at the end of World War II. Not only did the signal for the uprising to begin come over the air, but the radio also helped to co-ordinate the fighting. It also played a third role. At the time the Red Army was already approaching Prague from the east, and General Patton’s Third Army was in Plzeň just a few dozen kilometres to the west. Many of those fighting in the streets of Prague were untrained and had few weapons, and the
“Calling all Czechs! Come quickly to our aid! Calling all Czechs!” It is May 5 1945, and with these words Prague radio appeals to Czechs to join the uprising against the German occupation. This was to be one of the last European battles of World War Two and the greatest moment in the history of Czechoslovak Radio. For some time radio staff had been working secretly with the Czech underground to prepare the ground for the uprising. Their radio appeal marked the beginning of the battle. In the confusion of the following three days with street battles
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