As one art critic once said, the paintings of Josef Lada accompany Czechs from cradle to grave. He is as well known for his illustrations of fairy tales and children’s readers as he is for his landscapes, which each Christmas are printed thousands of times over on the front of the nation’s Christmas cards. Lada was also the artist who gave the grinning, rotund Good Soldier Švejk his form.
“We are a small country with a great tradition of freedom. We shall not give it up.” These are the words of Jan Masaryk, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, addressing American servicemen in Plzeň in a tone of great optimism in November 1945. During the wartime occupation Masaryk had served as Czechoslovak foreign minister in exile in London, and he remained in the post after his return home, deciding to stay on even after the communist coup of February 1948. His immense popularity meant that the communists put up
The independence of Czechoslovakia, which we celebrate each October 28, was the result of a movement of many decades, and when at least it came, in 1918, after four hard years of war, the joy must have been very palpable. There are so few alive today who can remember that period, but it is certainly not lost to us, and one of the ways we can relive it is through the music of the day.
Cemeteries across the country will soon fill with flowers and burning candles when on All Saints Day people visit the graves of their loved ones. But in Prague, there is one burial ground where few visitors are expected. The Malá Strana cemetery was only in use for about a century, and it now stands out as a unique monument in the middle of the dynamically developing district of Smíchov. A group of local enthusiasts have now got together to save this unique part of the city’s heritage.
The name of Václav Babinský is familiar to almost every Czech. The Babinsky legend lives thanks to a folk song, passed on from generation to generation and, curiously, most popular with very young children. It tells the story of a notorious criminal named Babinský who is awaiting execution in a flea infested prison. In today’s Czech History we find out whether the song remains true to history and we look at the life and legend of the 19th-century Bohemian highwayman Václav Babinský.
In the immediate aftermath of the political coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the communists were keen to give the world the impression that it was business as usual and that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. In this respect Radio Prague as the international service of Czechoslovak Radio was expected to play its part, and so the communists asked the handful of British nationals working for one of Czechoslovakia’s biggest companies to make a statement in English for the radio. As a result one of the British staff of the shoe-making
Surrounded by railway sidings and industrial estates, it's easy to get the impression that Kolín is simply a town travellers pass through on the way from the Czech capital to the nearby tourist-friendly Kutná Hora. Nevertheless, anyone who gets off the train in Kolín and takes the trouble to walk the short distance past the factories and business parks to the city centre will find that it is a place worth visiting.
Opposed, later persecuted – and finally forgotten. That was the fate of many Czech Catholic writers, who stood outside the literary mainstream. In one of Europe’s most atheist nations, the impact of these authors gradually diminished throughout the 20th century although in their heyday, in the interwar period, they managed to convey many original ideas and intriguing artistic expressions.
You are not very likely to wander into Svitavy by chance. Located on both the major road and railway line connecting Moravia and eastern Bohemia, for most people Svitavy is just a name on their itinerary. But if you do come and take a closer look, you’ll find a little town proud of its past and working for a better future. Once an important town for Moravia’s textile industry, re-populated after the expulsion of Svitavy’s German speaking inhabitants, it only recently showed its pride in perhaps its most famous native personality – Oskar
In Czechs in History this week, we speak to Jana Horáková-Kánský, daughter of one of Czechoslovakia's best known victims of Communist-era oppression, the democratic MP and wartime resistance hero Milada Horáková. Jana, Milada Horáková's only child, was just a teenager when her mother was executed on trumped up charges of treason and espionage in a 1950 show trial. Her father - who was also targeted by the Communist regime - made a daring escape from Czechoslovakia shortly afterwards, leaving Jana in the care of relatives. For years she was denied