Czechoslovak RAF veteran and one of the country’s last remaining war heroes, General Emil Boček, took to the skies in a Spitfire on Thursday more than seven decades after his last flight in the iconic plane. The 93-year-old veteran took off from the Biggin Hill airport in Kent, and spent twenty-five minutes up in the air, piloting the aircraft himself for a short while once it was airborne.
During the EU referendum debate in Britain the presence of so-called “migrant” workers from Central and Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, was one of the central topics. But we heard rather less about the tens of thousands of Czechs, Slovaks and, above all, Poles, who came to Britain nearly eighty years ago during World War II. In today’s language they might also be categorized as migrants, quite possibly illegal migrants, given the many complex paths that led them to Britain. They came to fight in the British armed forces and their contribution
On May 2, 2016, the government of the Czech Republic decided to notify Czechia to the UN as the short alternative of the country´s English name, and on July 1, it was officially entered into the UN databases. Heated discussions preceded this resolution, with many considering the word „ugly“, and with even more erroneously believing that it was to replace „the Czech Republic“. So what´s in the name?
In the first part of this series two weeks ago, we went back to 1932 with a recording of memories of Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk, the American wife of Czechoslovakia’s first president. A year later the political landscape of Europe and changed completely. Hitler had come to power in Germany, and suddenly Czechoslovakia’s position in Europe seemed perilous. It was in this atmosphere that Radio Prague was launched as the international service of Czechoslovak Radio in 1936. The aim was to counter German propaganda and remind the western democracies
Unknown diaries by playwright and dissident Václav Havel, kept when he was jailed by the Communist regime in 1977 will be published later this year by the Václav Havel Library on the occasion of what would have been the late Czech president’s 80th birthday. The recently discovered entries were written over a period of several months following the release of the Charter 77 manifesto in January 1977. I asked Michael Žantovský, the head of Václav Havel Library, to tell me more about their origin:
There is a magic about radio; it preserves moments in time, fragments of conversation from the past, and as long as these fragments are kept in an archive somewhere, they enable us to travel in time. As Radio Prague celebrates its 80th birthday, I shall be taking us through some of the episodes that make up our history. I’ll be helped by Czech Radio’s impressive and extensive archives and by students in my History of Journalism course at Prague’s Anglo-American University.
Gulag.online is a freshly-launched interactive virtual museum of the infamous Soviet system of labour camps. The unique project comes from the group Gulag.cz, which documented the remains of camps in remotest Siberia and converted the results into maps and a 3D camp tour that are accompanied by the testimonies of Czechoslovak survivors. Gulag.cz is headed by Štěpán Černoušek, who worked at Radio Prague’s Russian section in the early 2000s. When we met, I asked Černoušek where his interest in all things Russian had come from.
In our last edition of Czech History we showcased the recently published book of US author Kevin J McNamara “Dreams of a Great Small Nation.” The book traces the emergence of an independent Czechoslovakia at the end of WWI and in particular the role played by the Czechoslovak legion fighting along the Siberian railway against the new and fragile Bolshevik regime. In this second part of an interview with the author, we examine how far the fighting helped to seal the creation of the new Czechoslovak nation and Mr. McNamara’s further research and involvement
Three Communist MPs in Russia’s Duma have proposed that soldiers who served during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia should be granted war veteran status, in order to gain extra social benefits. The MPs said the aim of “Operation Danube” had been to supress a coup prepared by the Czechoslovak opposition with the support of Western states. I asked historian Jan Adamec how he interpreted the initiative of the Russian MPs: