Internationally the Czech writer Karel Capek is best known as the inventor (together with his brother Josef) of the term “robot” in his 1920 play R.U.R. With his novels, stories and plays combining humour, satire and a strong humanist vision, Karel Capek was hugely popular in pre-war Czechoslovakia. But this was a time when Hitler’s Germany was casting a dark shadow over Central Europe and it is hardly surprising that one of the few recordings of Capek in our archives - speaking on Christmas Eve 1937 - does not bear a cheerful message.
Starting next Thursday, our colleague David Vaughan will be introducing new series entitled From the Archives. As the name suggest he'll be dusting off some of the many unique recordings to be found in the archives of the Czech Radio. I asked David what drew him to explore the archives in the first place.
If we delve into the Czech Radio archives, we find recordings in English going right back to Radio Prague's beginnings 70 years ago. Some of the extracts we are going to feature in this programme have not been aired for well over half a century. They capture some of the most interesting and dramatic moments in our history.
Thirty-eight years ago on August 21, 1968, Czechoslovak citizens woke up to find that the country had been invaded by Warsaw Pact forces. It was the beginning of the end of the so-called Prague Spring, a period of reform communism ushered in by Alexander Dubcek, who is known for wanting to create "socialism with a human face." Yet this experiment involving freedom of the press and the opportunity to travel abroad was not looked upon kindly by the Communist Party leadership in Moscow, nor by the leadership in neighbouring socialist states. The solution
The appeal "Volame vsechny Cechy" - calling all Czechs - is probably the best known recording in Czech Radio's archive. A radio announcer calls on Czechs to rise up against the German occupation. The date is the 5th May 1945, in the dying days of the war, and the broadcast marked the beginning of the Prague Uprising. In three days of fighting, over three thousand Czechs lost their lives, before the Red Army finally entered the city. Much of the fighting took place right here, in the radio building in Vinohradska Street. This Friday, as every year,
Exactly 60 years ago, on 5th May 1945, the Prague Uprising against the German occupiers began here in the very building that houses Radio Prague. "Calling all Czechs" went the now legendary appeal over the airwaves, as defiant radio journalists here at our headquarters in Vinohradska Street, called on the people of Prague to rise up against their occupiers. In the three days that followed over 2,000 Czechs lost their lives in intense street fighting that focused more than anywhere else on the radio building.
Having lived in one of the grey prefab housing estates on the outskirts of Prague for most of my life, I continue to be amazed at how much history surrounds me now that I have moved closer to the centre. The buildings in Vinohrady, the district where I live and work, are in fact only around a hundred years old but the last century has been crammed with events which have left their marks everywhere.
It's official: one year shy of six decades since the Czech national radio headquarters in Prague came under fire from occupying Nazi forces, - and three and a half decades since the Soviets trained their guns on Ceskoslovensky Rozhlas - the rather uninspiring, functionalist-style building on Vinohradska Street has been named a cultural landmark.
We don't usually use archive recordings for Witness, but today we'll make an exception. This year is the 65th anniversary of the tragic day in March 1939, when German troops marched into Prague, beginning six years of Nazi occupation. At the time, Franta Kocourek was one of Czechoslovak Radio's star reporters. Four days after Bohemia and Moravia had been declared a "Protectorate of the German Reich", he reported live on the huge military parade that the Germans had organized on Prague's Wenceslas Square. He made no attempt to conceal his sense
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