My guest today is Jiřina Šiklová, a noted sociologist and author. Born in 1935 in Prague, Šiklová studied history and philosophy at Charles University. As a member of the Czech Communist Party, she became a key voice in the reform efforts that culminated in the Prague Spring. She left the party after the Soviet invasion of August 1968, severely limited in her official career opportunities as a result. As a dissident, she often published under an assumed name, and assisted in the smuggling of literature both to and from the country, for which she
The expression “jako kůl v plotě” – “like a fencepost” - entered Czech folklore in the summer of 1989. The date was July 17 and Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party chief Miloš Jakeš was meeting local party activists in the small West Bohemian town of Červený Hrádek. The authority of the party was being increasingly challenged, and thousands had signed Charter 77's appeal for democratic reform, "Několik vět" (a few sentences). Not realizing that he was being recorded, Jakeš complained bitterly that he felt he was standing on his own and unsupported “like
In the second half of the 1980s the sweeping reforms in the Soviet Union were being echoed in several of the country’s Eastern Bloc satellites. But in Czechoslovakia there were few signs of change, despite growing diplomatic pressure from abroad. A key moment came in December 1988, when President Francois Mitterrand made the first ever official trip to Czechoslovakia by a French head of state. This was part of a broader attempt to improve dialogue with communist countries, but Mitterrand also came with clear human rights agenda. Just before his
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Monday attended a commemorative ceremony for the victims of the Romany Holocaust. At the site of a former concentration camp in Lety, Mr Nečas admitted the Czech responsibility for the murder of over 5,000 Romanies during the war. But the official event sparked controversy among the Romany community which says the government should first make sure the victims were giving a dignified memorial.
When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, it heralded a revolution in Soviet-American relations. At a series of high-profile summits, beginning in Geneva in 1985, a growing personal trust developed between the Soviet and American leaders. Here is President Reagan – from the Czech Radio archives - in Moscow on June 1 1988:
The year is 1984, and Ivan Lendl plays the winning point against John McEnroe in the final of the French Open in Paris, one of eight Grand Slam singles titles in his career. The 1970s and 80s were period of huge tennis success in Czechoslovakia, and the country put considerable resources into the sport. Unlike most of their compatriots, the country’s top tennis players were able to travel round the world, and when Czechoslovak Radio caught up with the 19-year-old Lendl just before Christmas 1979, it was during one of his rare trips back home:
The previous episode of Czech Life featured the first part of Lillian Schořová’s life story. The 92-year-old Englishwoman is one of the hundreds of English war brides who went home with their Czechoslovak husbands after the war. Lillian came to Czechoslovakia with Josef, a tankist from the armored brigade who was stationed in the United Kingdom, in 1945. In this episode, she talks about her life after the war, her difficulties learning Czech, her unusual career and how she feels today, looking back on all the ups and downs of her adventurous
The Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II left a deep mark in Czech history. Various legends and myths surround the 16th century ruler who made Prague his imperial seat and whose diverse interests made the city a centre of Renaissance arts and sciences. One monument from his time is hidden beneath the surface of the earth – a water tunnel carved deep into the rock of one of Prague’s hills.