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.
If you’re not looking for it then you’ll probably overlook the rather nondescript building of the Ministry of Industry, near the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square. If, however, you are one of the few who read Prague’s street-side memorial signs, you get the full impact of what the dirty grey, rough-hewn building called Petschek’s Palace means to modern Czech history: “In the time of the Nazi occupation,” it reads, “this building housed the torture chambers of the Gestapo. Fighters for the freedom of our country fought, suffered and died here. We
In this edition of Czech History, we look at the life of Karel Kalivoda, one of the most successful and famous Czech police detectives of the 20th century. A self-made man in principle, Karel Kalivoda worked his way up from ordinary rank and file to the head of Prague’s criminal police. He made a number of compromises to get there – but he always retained a degree of integrity unusual for the time and place.
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.
For Czechs, the 20th century was a turbulent time. Independent Czechoslovakia was founded in 1918 only to later fall victim to the two great tyrannies of modern history – Nazism and communism. Many Czechs fled their country during the 20th century so that they could live as free people, and often simply to save their lives. Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Egon Hostovský, one of the most distinctive and significant modern-day Czech writers, who fled his country twice, first to escape the Nazis, and later the Communists.
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.
The Sázava Monastery, which shares its name with the town and river Sázava, was declared a national cultural monument in 1962 by the Czechoslovak state. It is one of the oldest and best preserved monasteries in all of Bohemia. It is also important as an early cultural bridge between the eastern and western branches of the church and because of its use of the Old Slavonic, the first written Slavic language.
We have reached the ninth and final part of our serialized reading of “If I had been a boy, I would have been shot…” by Jaroslava Skleničková. The war is over, and Jaroslava’s account takes us from the traumas of her return to the present day, and her life with her husband Mirek in the new Lidice. But first, David Vaughan sums up the story so far.