The Czech agency that administers the files of the communist-era secret police has clashed with a European network of similar organisations. The latter has suspended the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, questioning the past of some of its advisors. However, the Czechs are fighting back – and say they will quit the network themselves if it does not back down.
Czech-born author, journalist and Radio Free Europe broadcaster Milan Schulz died in Munich on Monday at the age of 83. He emigrated in 1969 but the link to his homeland remained firm and for hundreds of thousands of his compatriots behind the Iron Curtain his daily commentaries on RFE were a breath of fresh air in the constrained atmosphere of communist rule. I asked his former colleague broadcaster Petr Brod to share his memories of those days.
Kevin Klose is serving a second term as president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American-funded international broadcaster based in Prague since the mid-1990s. Mr. Klose oversaw the station’s move here from Munich on the invitation of President Václav Havel, before later going on to head National Public Radio in the US for a decade. In part one of a two-part interview, he discusses RFE/RL’s search for a new identity in the post-Cold War era and its move east.
Most people date the beginning of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia to November 17th, 1989, when a peaceful student demonstration was brutally broken up by riot police. But cracks in the regime's grip on power began to appear much earlier in that year, when people gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of Jan Palach's self-immolation in January 1969. For seven days starting January 15th, 1989, demonstrators who tried to gather on Wenceslas Square were beaten and sprayed with water cannon. Among them was Ivana Varju, who was a student at Charles
Standing in the centre of the Clementinum – if you can locate such a thing in the labyrinth – you are surrounded by around a millennium of history and millions of volumes of books inside one of the most beautifully preserved masterpieces of Baroque art the city of Prague has to offer. This is the seat of the Czech National Library and the whispering and rustling that echoes through its grand halls add perfectly to its natural mysteriousness.
In this programme two quite exceptional people tell their own story. It is a tale of courage, resilience and a touch of luck, but above all of the enduring power of love. Jaroslav and Alžběta Hofrichter have been married for well over half a century. Their friends call them the “turtledoves” and when you meet them it is not hard to see why. At 93 and 91 respectively, Jaroslav and Alžběta are still very much in love and if there is an elixir for happiness, they seem to have found it. This is remarkable in itself, but what makes their story the more
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.
The Czech Republic is marking the two-year anniversary of the death of former president Václav Havel. Current Czech president Miloš Zeman is due to lay a wreath at his predecessor’s grave, while Cardinal Dominik Duka is serving a requiem mass from St. Anne’s Church in Prague. However, much of the local media commentary about the former president is of a far less emotional nature.
American film historians recently came across a fascinating discovery when they found the Czech National Film Archive has the only surviving print of the 1929 US movie, the Mysterious Island. The archive in Prague stores around 500 films from Hollywood’s early days, proof that the global dominance of American cinema goes all the way back to the birth of the film industry.