In the profile on her blog site, Victoria Dougherty writes that she comes from “the ultimate Cold War family”, a description it would be hard to disagree with. In this special programme, the author, who lived in Prague in the early 1990s, discusses their dramatic, sometime heart-wrenching stories – and how her grandparents’ experiences helped inform her novel The Bone Church.
When Jan Palach burned himself to death in January 1969 over the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, his radical protest was echoed by a number of young men in the Eastern Bloc. Among them was Eliyahu Rips, who put a match to his petrol-doused clothing in the Latvian capital Riga on April 13, 1969. But unlike the others, Rips survived, after passers-by put out the flames.
From the Hussite wars of the Middle Ages to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, many pivotal events in Czech history occurred against a musical backdrop, at least in the nation’s collective memory. An exhibition at the National Memorial on Prague’s Vítkov Hill explores the links between music and politics, and shows what roles music assumed in modern Czech history.
Josef Toufar, a priest tortured to death by the communist secret police for allegedly faking a “miracle”, could be about to finally get a decent burial. Almost 65 years after he was dumped in a mass grave, his relatives’ long calls for an exhumation may be answered by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Czech Roman Catholic Church is pushing for the cleric to be beatified.
This summer, an off-Broadway theatre in New York put on a play about the actress Hana Pravda and the athlete Miloš Dobrý, two extraordinary Czech Jews living in Prague before WWII. The documentary drama “The Good and the True”, which has run for two months, follows the life of the protagonists who however never met in real life. Originally written and directed by Daniel Hrbek for Prague’s Švandovo Theatre, the intimate play conveys the courage and determination which helped the two people survive the horrors of Terezín and Auschwitz.
Twenty-five years ago, the West German Embassy in a normally quiet part of Prague’s Malá Strana became a refuge for hundreds of East Germans, desperately trying to escape from communism. On September 30 1989, they got the news they were hoping for, when West Germany’s foreign minister stood before them and announced they were free to emigrate to the West.
In a special programme to mark Czech Statehood Day, I am joined in the studio by Ondřej Matějka, who is the Deputy Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. He has agreed to help me explore some issues related to heraldry, meaning national symbols and the iconography of the Czech people.
When I asked Paul Goldsmith by phone if he knew where Czech Radio was he said, I think so, but the last time I saw it it was on fire. At just 19 he had found himself in the middle of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia after deciding to visit Prague while travelling through Europe. A keen photographer, he captured those events in pictures that were soon picked up by the international media. Now, after being compiled for a book, his photos are on show at two concurrent exhibitions in Prague. When Goldsmith came to Czech Radio, we began by discussing