The remains of exiled Czech Cardinal Josef Beran have been taken from the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica. On Friday, they will be flown to Prague and later buried in Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. Cardinal Beran was exiled to Rome in 1965 and died there four years later. He was buried in the Vatican because the communist authorities didn’t approve his final wish for his body to be returned to his homeland.
Czechs have only one president instantly recognizable by his initials: TGM for Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. He was an icon of the newly-independent Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1935. Venerated by most, denigrated only by some, he has always remained a powerful symbol of the Czech democratic state. I recently met with Charlotta Kotik, the great-granddaughter of the first Czechoslovak president, to talk about her family heritage.
Former US ambassador to Czechoslovakia William Luers and his wife Wendy recently visited Prague and gave a talk at the American Centre about what it was like to be posted in Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, how they were able to support dissidents such as Václav Havel and how they later helped the country on the road to democracy. I spoke to them after the debate and began by asking the former ambassador what it had been like to serve behind the Iron Curtain.
Martin Šmok moved to the US in the 1990s to work with the USC Shoah Foundation, which has recorded video interviews with more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors. Long back in Prague, he remains a senior international program consultant with the project and is also active in the field of education. When we spoke, the conversation took in Czech attitudes to the Holocaust, “constructs of the enemy” in Czech society and more. But I first asked Šmok how he had been shaped by working with the testimonies of Holocaust survivors for over two decades.
An exhibition showcasing items and documents from Czech collections recently listed on a UNESCO list of world documentary treasures has got underway in Prague. Visitors can see the Great Siege of Malta Map from the 16th century, the Kynžvart daguerreotype or items from composer Leoš Janáček’s archive.
Members of the Czech scouting movement are marking the 50th anniversary the movement’s short-lived revival in communist Czechoslovakia in 1968. The scouts were banned a total of three times in their more than 100-year-long history in the Czech lands: first by the Nazis and then twice by the Communist regime.
It’s been described by one historian as one of the greatest finds about the Czechoslovak communist era. Several kilometres of film and sound were recently discovered at a factory and they cover the show trial of one of the country’s top communist officials. Details of the discovery and plans for the find were revealed on Thursday.
Scores of Czechoslovak pilots took part in the Battle of Britain, the famous July to October 1940 military campaign in which the RAF fought off massive German air raids and changed the course of World War II. Those Czechoslovak heroes are among those commemorated at the fascinating Battle of Britain Museum at a former key air base at Hawkinge near Folkstone in Kent, just kilometres from the English Channel.