“Hello, hello! Prague, Czechoslovakia calling. Good evening ladies and gentlemen”: Radio Prague welcomes listeners to its English programmes back in 1937. The tone may be a little more formal, but it is not so different from today. Yet much has changed since the troubled times of the later 1930s. Nazi Germany was breathing down Czechoslovakia’s neck and tensions in the mainly German-speaking Sudetenland were rising rapidly. The young British historian Hugh Seton Watson was in Czechoslovakia in September that year, attending an international summer
At the beginning of this series we heard the voice of the first Czechoslovak President, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. The Masaryk family included several remarkable women, who were also to play their part in 20th century Czech history. Tomas’s wife Charlotte was American, born in New York in 1850. When the couple married in Brooklyn in 1878, out of respect he took on her surname Garrigue as part of his own name. Charlotte went on to devote her life to all things Czech, and she was every bit as energetic in her defence of women’s rights, winning her husband
They fought against the Nazis but were treated as enemies in Czechoslovakia after the war: that is the starting point for “Forgotten Heroes” a travelling exhibition in the Czech Republic mapping the story of ethnic Sudeten Germans who fought against the Nazis. Despite their resistance to Hitler in World War II, many still suffered persecution in Czechoslovakia after the end of the war.
It was an unforgettable moment in the history of Czech sport. In the 49th minute Petr Svoboda scored the winning goal against Russia in the ice hockey final of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan. The game was commentated live by Czech Radio’s Ales Prochazka, and his ecstatic cry of “Goal!” is probably the best known sports recording in our archive. The Czechs had won gold in what some had dubbed the “tournament of the century”, packed as it was with top NHL players.
Prague’s Old Town Square is a location so full of historical sights that one almost doesn’t know where to look first. But at the moment, one of the landmarks, a monumental sculptural group on the north side of the square, is hidden from sight. The bronze memorial to the Czech church reformer Jan Hus is under scaffolding and covered by a tarpaulin because it is undergoing much needed renovation. The sculpture, unveiled in 1915, is the best-known work by the Czech sculptor Ladislav Saloun.
This week in Mailbox: we reveal the name of our November mystery man and announce the names of the winners of our monthly listeners’ competition. Listeners quoted: Keith A. Simmonds, Bart Caspers, Constantin Liviu Viorel, Christine Takaguchi-Coates, Keith Wixtrom, David Eldridge, Ciaran Parker, Lola Hamrayeva, Charles Konecny, Annette Harris.
Josef Lada’s paintings have reached iconic status here in the Czech Republic, and you may be familiar with them too, without even knowing it. Lada was the illustrator who gave the smiling, rotund, Good Soldier Svejk his form. In the course of his career, he illustrated over 200 books - some, fairytale anthologies for children, others, like Svejk, intended for grown ups. Now Josef Lada is the subject of a major new retrospective in Prague.
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.
At this time of year, Prague’s cemeteries are carpeted with red and yellow leaves, and in this chilly weather, you are quite unlikely to bump into that many other visitors. Prague’s thirty-or-so city maintained cemeteries offer a step back from the hustle and bustle and traffic jams of the metropolis - and provide the visitor with a glimpse into the Czech capital’s history as well.
Jaroslav Jezek, who died in wartime exile in New York at the age of just 35, is one of the legends of twentieth century Czech music. He is best known for the songs he composed for the famous pre-war satirical cabaret, the Liberated Theatre, and he was also one of the pioneers of Czech jazz, fearlessly crossing the borders between popular and classical music. In November 1934, the young composer – he was 28 at the time - came into the radio and talked about jazz.