Paris, Lviv and Prague, over a thousand miles apart yet connected by the fact that they all initiated successful uprisings against their German occupiers during World War II. The Czech capital was the last of the three to do so, but the action arguably preserved the city’s beauty and led to a battle the Czech nation, previously starved of an opportunity to fight, needed. On the date famously named by Winston Churchill as Victory in Europe day, we take the opportunity to explore the story behind the Prague Uprising.
Celebrations marking the liberation of Plzeň by General Patton’s Army on May 6th 1945 took place in the West Bohemian city at the weekend. Despite the cold, thousands of people lined the streets of the city to greet the war veterans who rode at the head of the Convoy of Liberty organized in remembrance of the event.
Personal items belonging to the second Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš and his wife Hana, including the late president’s shaving kit and walking stick, have become part of the collection of the Czech National Museum in Prague. The items were donated to the museum by Hana Benešová’s relatives, who live in the United States.
A plaque to the previously little-known Doreen Warriner has just been unveiled in Prague. The Englishwoman saved the lives of hundreds of people by helping them escape to the UK just before WWII. Czech and British officials – as well as people rescued by a number of courageous souls like Warriner 80 years ago – were in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.
100 years ago the Czechoslovak Assembly decided on the name of the new republic’s currency - the koruna. Despite a variety of original proposals, the delegates ended up being rather conservative in their choice, voting for a name that had also been used for the currency of Austria-Hungary. To commemorate the date, the Czech National Bank has issued a rare collection of gold-silver coins.
In the days of the Habsburg Empire, nearly every geography class in central Europe would have had a globe made by Felkl & Sohn. At its peak, the family factory north of Prague was producing some 15,000 terrestrial and celestial globes every year. The decline began between the world wars, as found Jan Felkl’s own world became smaller and smaller.
Czech archaeologists have made another significant discovery in Egypt, unearthing the tomb of an Egyptian dignitary dating back to the end of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. They also revealed the identity of an ancient Egyptian queen at a pyramid complex in south Saqqara near Cairo, which had long baffled experts.
A century ago the Czech community in New York was centred around the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Indeed, an estimated 40,000 Czechs lived in the area known as Yorkville. Ed Chlanda’s family were members of that community and the 80-year-old kindly gave me a tour of the neighbourhood, taking in a former Czech bank, the street where he grew up, the Jan Hus church and the Bohemian National Hall. But we started at the New York Sokol on East 71st St., where Chlanda is an active member. Surrounded by photos, medals and other memorabilia in the Sokol
Exactly 50 years ago today, the Czechoslovak national ice hockey team beat the Soviets in the world championships for a second time, setting off a series of celebrations – which soon turned into protests, at times violent, against the ongoing Warsaw Pact occupation. Though a moral victory, in a sense it proved a Pyrrhic one.