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.
Prague’s skyline gave the capital one of its nicknames: the city of a hundred spires. But in actual fact around a thousand spires, belfries and towers of various styles and ages now grace the city centre. Some of them are popular tourist attractions offering great views of the city, others only recently revealed their mysteries. One served as an observation post for the secret police; another hosted a morbid display of a dozen severed heads.
Archaeologists in Israel believe they have indentified a unique mediaeval Bohemian coin found in 2009 in the former crusaders’ city of Acre. The experts say the coin was minted during the reign of King Przemysl Ottokar II in the second half of the 13th century; if that is the case, the coin would bear the earliest known depiction of the king, as well as historically the first usage of the title “King of Bohemia”. I discussed the discovery with Robert Kool from Israel Antiquities Authority.
Pavel Blažek spent three weeks in September taking panoramic photographs of long abandoned Soviet labour camps in Siberia for the project Gulag.cz. His work now forms a unique “virtual museum” via which people around the world can view places where thousands of prisoners lost their lives on a never completed railway line. When he came into our studio, Blažek described the intense experiences he and his group had along the way. But he first described their journey to the Arctic Circle.
For many Czechs, Russia’s Natalya Gorbanevskaya was nothing less than a hero, one of eight people in 1968 who protested on Red Square in Moscow against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. All of the protesters were arrested and as punishment she was sent to a psychiatric hospital. A few years after her release in 1972, she emigrated to France where she continued to work as a poet translator and human rights activist up until her death at the age of 77 last week.