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.
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.
In last week’s From the Archives we featured Martin Luther King, interviewed by Czechoslovak Radio in 1963. But Dr King was not the first civil rights campaigner to address Czech and Slovak radio listeners. Four years earlier, in June 1959, Paul Robeson came to Prague, to take part in an international left-wing cultural congress. Robeson was a man of many talents – singer, actor, athlete, writer and civil rights activist. He never concealed his sympathies with the communist regimes of the Eastern Bloc, and his political views – combined with the
Ivy Kovandová is one of the few remaining so-called war brides in the Czech Republic. ‘War brides’ are Englishwomen who married Czechoslovak pilots or soldiers stationed in the UK during WWII – an estimated 10,000 soldiers and about 2,500 pilots from Czechoslovakia fought alongside the allies, and many of them married local women. Some of those women accompanied their husbands back to their native land after the war. But most left Czechoslovakia due to the strain that the arrival of the communist regime placed on their lives, or simply because they
Writer and youth movement activist Jaroslav Foglar left a deep trace in Czech popular culture. Besides more than 25 novels for children, Jaroslav Foglar is also the father of Rychlé šípy, or “Rapid Arrows”, a legendary comics that has earned a following with generations of Czech readers. Persecuted by the Nazis and the communists, the writer also single-handedly founded his own youth organization which, in its heyday, had tens of thousands of members across the country.