In this week’s From the Archives we continue our look at how radio covered the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Today we follow the part played by the United Nations. Within just a few hours of the tanks crossing the border, the UN Security Council met for a special meeting to discuss what to do about the invasion. Czechoslovakia’s Ambassador to the UN, Jan Mužík was unequivocal:
This February marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the Czech Republic’s greatest animators, puppeteers and illustrators, Jiří Trnka. This milestone is being marked in the Czech Republic by the country’s National Film Archive; its Prague-based Ponrepo cinema screening a collection of Trnka’s films and documentaries about the artist until March 16th. Czech Centres around the globe – which exist to promote the Czech Republic - are also marking the anniversary heralding an exhibition called “Jiří Trnka: In the Service of the Imagination”
In the previous episode of Czech Life, we brought you the first part of the life story of Ivy Kovandová – one of the so-called war brides, English women who got married to Czech soldiers or pilots during World War II and then followed their husbands back to their native Czechoslovakia. Today, it is time for the second part of Ivy’s story – which starts with her arrival in her husband Oldřich Kovanda’s home country.
In the course of 1968 the Soviet Union made it increasingly clear that it disapproved strongly of the Prague Spring reforms. Yet, despite mounting tensions with Moscow, the Soviet led invasion on the night from August 20-21 1968, came as a huge shock. Today we are going to hear some of the broadcasts from that fateful day. We start with Radio Moscow, with an official Soviet version of events.
It can easily be called one of the most important documents in the history of modern science. Gregor Mendel’s priceless manuscript on the inheritance of plant traits, composed in Brno in 1865, opened the door to the field of genetics. This month, after many years of changing hands and much negotiation, it was brought home.
As part of an exhibition linked to the 70th anniversary of the Lidice massacre in June, Prague's Dox Centre for Contemporary Art is currently hosting a video installation by the London-based Czech documentary maker and editor Jan Kaplan entitled 10:35. The name refers to the time of day that the operation to assassinate the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia – which preceded the Lidice atrocity – reached its climax in a Prague suburb on May 27, 1942. The UK-based Czechoslovak paratroopers who carried out the attack later met their deaths in a
The political reforms of the 1960s accelerated dramatically when on January 5 1968 Alexander Dubček became First Secretary of the Communist Party, the most powerful position in the country. Dubček immediately set Czechoslovakia on a course of economic and political reform, to create what was described as “socialism with a human face”. Today we are going to hear two recordings of Dubček from 1968 that show both the hopes with which the year started and the despair which followed the Soviet invasion in August.
A black and white photograph of a smiling Jewish girl unearthed in a photographer’s studio some years ago has led a young Czech journalist to piece together the dramatic story of a large group of Jewish children who were smuggled to Denmark to escape the Holocaust. While the story of the Nicolas Winton children is well known, this one is only just coming to light and will hopefully reunite long-lost friends scattered around the globe. The freelance journalist who is singlehandedly tackling the task is Judita Matyasova whom I invited to the studio.
Nothing better symbolizes the political thaw in 1960s Czechoslovakia than the boom in jazz, which many saw as embodying the very idea of individual expression and freedom from constraint. It is not hard to imagine the excitement when Louis Armstrong came to Prague in March 1965. Many people felt that Czechoslovakia had at last come in from the cold, and his concert at Prague’s Lucerna Ballroom was a cultural milestone. It ended with Satchmo thanking his audience, commenting that the Czech passion for jazz had come as quite a surprise to him.
The European Court of Human Rights denounced the Czech state for having denied a fair trial to František Oldřich Kinský, an Austrian aristocrat who sued the country over his property claims. The court said that Mr Kinský, who passed away nearly three years ago, had been subjected to abusive treatment by the Czech authorities when he sued to get back family property worth around 40 billion crowns.