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                                                                                       “The Czechs no longer fear their
                                                                                       own past”
                                                                                       says Pavel Žáček, Director of the
                                                                                       Institute for the Study of Totalitarian

Editorial                                                                              pages 4 – 7

                                                                                       A Radar and 250 Yanks
                                                                                       – the American military base at Brdy:
                                             the Ossetian people”. But these two       a historic step, and not only for the Czechs
                                             Czech journalists call a spade a spade:   pages 8 – 11
                                             they speak openly of Russian aggres-      Czech Footprints in Space
                                             sion and do not allow themselves to be    – astronauts of Czech origin coming
                                             misled by the kinds of efforts to salve   here in search of their roots
                                             one’s conscience that are increasing-     pages 12 – 15
                                             ly evident in the corridors of power
                                             in Brussels.                              Temelín
                                                                                       – a symbol in Europe for the debate over
                                                Both are quite capable of referring    nuclear energy
                                             to Russia’s imperial character, both      pages 16 – 19
                                             speak the same language as Czech
                                             Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg:     Gallery
                                             the aggression of the Russian Federa-     – the Roma in Czech photography
                                             tion against the sovereign Georgia        pages 20 – 21
                                             Republic is unacceptable and a viola-     Olga Sommerová’s Seven Lights
                                             tion of international law. All three      – On Yom Ha’Shoa day, Jews light seven
  Dear Readers,                              of them taken together, so to speak,      candles in memory of the victims of the
                                             serve as a strong trio helping to shape   Second World War.
   The contents of this year’s fifth issue   public opinion. Thanks to Palata’s and    pages 22 – 25
of Heart of Europe transcend the             Procházková’s dispatches and com-
                                                                                       I’m Vasyl, a Czech Worker
Czech Republic. It is as though we           mentaries, the Caucasian conflicts are    – as many as 150,000 Ukrainians
were ascending higher and higher             coming to be regarded as events with      working in the Czech Republic,
above the little world of Prague and         a direct effect on the heart of Europe.   two-thirds of them illegally
seeing into the distance, shedding our       In themselves they explain why we are     pages 26 – 29
petty manifestations of pseudo-pride         in such great need of the radar station
                                                                                       “I enjoy great dramas,”
and self-centred concern. The authors        at Brdy, the subject of Luboš Palata’s
                                                                                       – says the war correspondent
of the articles in this issue are all        contribution in this issue.               Petra Procházková.
related, perhaps even share the same                                                   pages 30 – 33
blood type, and I am very pleased to
be able to say that most of them are                                                   Mosaic
my friends. Two in particular I would                                                  – interesting people and events
                                                                                       in summer 2008
like to point out, Luboš Palata and
                                                                                       pages 34 – 35
Petra Procházková. Both are journal-
ists, both have the capacity to view                                                   “So bark! You’re a dog!” or,
the Czech scene from the field of                                                      A Reporter in Female Dress
vision of international observers, and                                                 – a portrait of Olga Fastrová, the first
both have firm, settled views on secu-                                                 Czech female journalist
                                                                                       pages 36 – 38
rity guarantees for this country. They
share a professional interest in the                                                   The Heart of Europe appears six times a year and presents
                                                                                       a picture of life in the Czech Republic. The views expressed
Caucasus and have an expert know-                                                      in the articles are those of their authors and do not necessarily
                                                                                       represent the official positions of the Czech government.
ledge of the region, something reflect-                                                Subscription orders should be sent to the editorial office of
                                                                                       the magazine. Publisher, in cooperation with the Foreign
ed quite clearly in the interview with                                                 Ministry of the Czech Republic, Theo Publishing.
                                                                                       Editorial office:
Petra. In recent weeks both have writ-                                                 J. Poppera 18, 530 06 Pardubice, Czech Republic
                                                                                       Editor-in-chief: Pavel Šmíd, Art editor: Karel Nedvěd
ten a great deal about the conflict                                                    Chairman of the Editorial Board: Zuzana Opletalová, Director
                                                                                       of the Press Section of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs
between Georgia and Russia. Neither                                                    and spokesman for the Minister of Foreign Affairs
                                                                                       Members of the Editorial Board: Libuše Bautzová, Pavel
of them has the slightest doubt that                                                   Fischer, Vladimír Hulec, Robert Janás, Milan Knížák, Martin
the idea of shared blame – that is, that                                               Krafl, Eva Ocisková, Tomáš Pojar, Jan Šilpoch, Petr Vágner,
                                                                                       Petr Volf, Marek Skolil
Moscow and Tbilisi are equally re-                                                     Translation by members of the Department of English and
                                                                                       American Studies, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University, Brno
sponsible for the current situation –                                                  Lithography and print by VČT Sezemice
is an artificially created myth. So far                                                Articles appearing in The Heart of Europe may be re-
                                                                                       printed without the permission of the editors or authors
Putin, Medvedev and Lukin are win-                                                     providing that the name of the author and source are
                                                                                       acknowledged. Those wishing to use illustrations found
ning the information war, based on the                                                 in the magazine should contact the editorial office or the
                                                                                       individual photographers concerned.
great lie of a “treacherous Georgia                                                                                           ISSN 1210–7727
that did not hesitate to shell a quiet                                                 Internet:
town in its sleep, murdering 2,000 civil-                         Jaromír Štětina      Publisher’s
ians and committing genocide against                                        Senator

                                                                                                                     Mirek Topolánek on a visit to the newly established
                                                                                                                     Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes

    “The Czechs no
    longer fear their
       own past”
      says Pavel Žáček, Director of the Institute
        for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes
       The Czech Institute for the Study of To-           place, because the reporters were more inter-
    talitarian Regimes was created after a long           ested in asking whether my intention was to re-
    and stormy public and political debate. With          move 10,000 police officers from service by ful-
    a mandate for research, publishing and educa-         filling the “lustration” law to the letter. I had
    tion in the spirit of a professional reckoning        to explain that this is nonsense. The institute
    with the totalitarian past, the institution was       isn’t a stick with which to beat one’s political
    finally established by a special law in 2007.         opponents or an instrument for wreaking ven-
    Also falling under the institute is the Security      geance upon the people of the past regime.
    Services Archives, which placed the archives          That is, provided you don’t regard the truth,

    of the Communist secret police (the StB) under                                                                   or rather its objective interpretation, which
    one roof. We asked Pavel Žáček, the man who                                                                      lies in the archives, as revenge.
    created the archives from the ground up and                                                                          What we want is an impartial, objective
    became its Director on 1 January 2008, about                                                                     evaluation of the former regime. In the archives
    the reasons for founding it.                                                                                     we’ll find massive evidence of the web of power
                                                                                                                     that knit the regime together. But we lack infor-
    You’ve said that for the purposes of your                                                                        mation about what went on outside this –
    institute, it would be ideal to work with                                                                        behind-the-scenes – how agents informed on
    agents and members of the Communist                                                                              one another, and so on. These things can be
    secret police, Czechoslovak Communist                                                                            filled out with personal testimony. I’ve inter-
    Party functionaries and others.                                                                                  viewed nearly one hundred members of the
                                                                                                                     state security forces. They spoke about their
       Yes. I wanted to call for this at a press con-                                                                relationships, their Soviet advisors, but almost
    ference on the day the Institute for the Study                                                                   never about themselves. At the moment we also
    of Totalitarian Regimes was founded, as part                                                                     have political prisoners among us; their gene-
    of an appeal for reconciliation. As often hap-                                                                   ration is fading away and we need them to tell
    pens, however, under the pressure of the day                                                                     us what it was like so we can fill in the blank
    and the flood of questions the idea got lost.                                                                    areas, for example the period when the Com-
    Not only that, I was misunderstood in the first                                                                  munist regime was just being established.

                                                 State Security photos of “targets of interest”, shot with a hidden camera
                                                                                           Those who do not know their
                                                                                         own past are condemned to re-
                                                                                         peat it.
                                                                                                      George Santayana
                                                                                                          Philosopher and author
                                                                                               from the book The Life of Reason
                                                                                               Motto of the Institute for the Study
                                                                                                          of Totalitarian Regimes

You’ve said that studying the                                                                      mer employees can put it all
archives would bring to light                                                                      together. It often happens that
new national heroes. Have                                                                          we’re looking for a key file and
you found your own personal                                                                        it’s not there. Sometimes you
hero there?                                                                                        find it later, somewhere else,
                                                                                                   completely by chance. So we’re
   More than heroes, I’m inter-                                                                    putting a lot of effort into a plan
ested in the people with power.                                                                    for digitalizing the archives.
Who they were, and why and                                                                         This will make clear the con-
how they sold themselves out.                                                                      tents of each file. After digitali-
We’re preparing a conference to                                                                    zation we won’t be dependent
take place in April of next year,                                                                  any more on organization ac-
under the auspices of the Czech                                                                    cording to title, a system that’s
Prime Minister. Its topic will                                                                     a legacy of State Security. It’ll
be resistance to the Communist                                                                     be possible to search in the ar-
regime (even armed resistance).                                                                    chives according to key words.
We’re inviting colleagues from
Poland, from the Baltic states.                                                                    You’ve said that the Commu-
In those countries they don’t argue about                                             nist ideology could be overcome by pub-
whether people who defended themselves by             After the fall of the Com-      lishing the maximum information possible
armed force (like the Czech Mašín brothers)        munist regime in Czechoslo-        on what things looked like in practice. Is
were opponents of the regime or simply mur-        vakia, “lustration” laws were      that the real purpose of your archives?
derers. Not only partisan groups, but literal-     adopted. They forbade members
ly whole villages resisted totalitarian power.                                           We should make maximum use of the West-
                                                   of the former ruling elite and
   We have a lot of heroes in the archives. Just                                      ern experience with democracy. And this is
like there are anti-heroes, or those who were      armed forces from holding          difficult, because such experience has to be
heroes for a while and then weren’t. We must       selected positions in the public   personal. It could be done through young
inform the Czech public about many issues          sphere, in the civil service and   people, who bring this experience back with
and many stories. Comparing these stories          in the armed forces. The key to    them from abroad. Just like I came back in
will lead to some interesting conclusions.         determining someone’s ties to      1996 from a year’s stay in the USA, and couldn’t
                                                   the former regime is the infor-    explain to Czech society that what I’d learned
Your archives contain some ten million                                                I wanted to apply for everyone’s benefit. For
                                                   mation found in the State Se-
pages of various documents. How many of                                               me it was like skipping five grades at school,
them have still never been examined?
                                                   curity’s documents, now admin-     and I wanted to pass my experience along.
                                                   istered by the Security Services      We lack the experience to reach the degree
   It’s a giant puzzle. Conspiracy penetrated      Archives.                          of democracy that our society had before
their documents system, too. Only their for-                                          1938. We’ll get it either by dealing with our

                                                             Pavel Žáček (left) with Prime Ministr Mirek Topolánek, in front of a panel for an exhibition entitled “Lest it happen again”,
                                                             dedicated to the history of K 231, a citizens’ organization that the Communists broke up after 1968

    own stupidity, with the remnants of totalitari-
    an thinking, over the long term, or by what we
    absorb from foreigners who live here and
    from those who come from abroad to pass
    along their democratic know-how.

    What kind of ties does your institute have
    to similar institutions in other countries?

      We communicate from Germany to Roma-
    nia; people from the Baltic region came to

          Journalist and historian Pavel Žáček (born 1969) heads
       the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which
       also oversees the Security Services Archives. He is a leading
       figure in that part of Czech society that is attempting to come
       to terms with the Communist past and provide an objective
       interpretation of the archives left behind by the former state.
          Previously he was Editor-in-chief of Studentské listy (a
       student publication), head of documentation and Deputy
       Director of the Institute for the Documentation and
       Investigation of the Crimes of Communism and a member of
       the Czech Television Council. He helped to found the
       Slovak Institute of National Memory. He studied in the USA
       under a Fulbright scholarship. He has published widely on
       the topic of the secret police services in Czechoslovakia.

           State Security photos of “targets of interest”,
                              shot with a hidden camera

    visit us recently in person. We’ll launch our               The post-Communist countries have a hard                of the crimes of Communism and a well-func-
    agreement-based cooperation in September                 time convincing their western neighbors of the             tioning system of lustration. And above all the
    with the international conference I mentioned            fact that Communism was the same as Na-                    Sighet Memorial, commemorating the victims
    earlier; in November we’ll be putting on a big           zism. This voice is strongest in Poland and                of Communism, for which funding was
    international seminar on the KGB.                        the Baltic countries, where the majority of the            obtained from the European Union but also
       As part of the Czech Presidency of the                victims of totalitarianism were victims of the             from Romania. It was donated by the descen-
    European Union we want to foster interest                Communists. Europe simply must recognize                   dants of political prisoners, among others,
    in this topic from a position of leadership.             the residue of totalitarian thought and its un-            who are today business people. When I made
    During this period we’d like our politicians             resolved issues. France is only now discover-              a short report in Romania about the situation
    to declare their support for an international            ing the Vichy regime and its share in the Ho-              in the Czech Republic, it was met with enthu-
    institution that would map the functioning               locaust; likewise in Italy, Portugal and Spain.            siastic applause. Not only the Romanians but
    of totalitarian regimes from Portugal to                    For me personally Romania was a pleasant                all of the post-Communist countries need to
    Greece and the Baltic countries. These                   surprise. There they experienced a very brutal             feel they are supported by the others.
    activities could be accompanied by the                   model of Communism. Whole villages fell vic-
    founding of a European museum of totali-                 tim to persecution; hundreds of liquidation                Couldn’t the ties between similar offices
    tarianism, a grant programme and other                   camps were in operation. Today they have an                and institutions in Europe guarantee their
    such initiatives.                                        office for the documentation and investigation             stability? Your institution is in danger; if

                                                                                                             Obviously you know who he was – a pre-
                                                                                                          war Secretary of the Red Trade Unions! Yes,
                                                                                                          we’re trying to have the street name changed.
                                                                                                             Generally, though, it’s a matter of chang-
                                                                                                          ing the approach. Young people are coming
                                                                                                          on who have a new perspective; we’re carry-
                                                                                                          ing out exchanges with Germany, Poland and
                                                                                                          the USA. We’re preparing fruitful coopera-
                                                                                                          tion with the Baltic countries, a conference in
                                                                                                          Washington, and many other things.
                                                                                                             The institute needs to put down roots and
                                                                                                          justify its role. Political prisoners, most of
                                                                                                          whom are old now, no longer expect much
                                                                                                          from the state. The work of the institute is a

                                                                                                          Pavel Žáček participating in a ceremony of
                                                                                                          remembrance held in Prague-Ďáblice for the victims
                                                                                                          of the Communist regime

                                                  examine what the FBI or CIA did during a                great satisfaction for them. Our role is
                                                  particular time period, for example. They               democratization of the milieu, and this is
                                                  aren’t afraid to look into the dark closets of          reflected positively in society. People are less
                                                  the democratic system. They open up pro-                fearful of the past. I’m not talking just about
                                                  blematic periods, “air out the laundry” in              political prisoners, who are more willing to
                                                  front of the whole nation, and go on from               speak about what happened to them. Even
                                                  there. And we have a problem with “sensitive            Communists, whether they want to or not, are
                                                  information” twenty years after the fall of             starting to come to terms with the past.
                                                  totalitarianism? Why, when we could have
                                                  “aired out the laundry” ten years ago?                  Thank you for your time.
                                                  Democracy needs this.
                                                                                                                                                    The editors
                                                                                                                  Photos: Jiří Reichl, archives of the Institute
                                                  One more thing. Your offices are on                                  for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes,
                                                                                                                                                     the editors
                                                  Havelka Street. Who was Havelka?

the opposition wins the elections there will
be pressure to close it.

   One direction that such pressure can come
from is political. Slovakia is an example.
After the death of Ján Lángoš (founder of the
Institute of National Memory) voices were
raising calling for the files to be handed over
to the National Security Office. And this is an
institution for keeping things secret, not for
releasing them.
   Our field of interest and action ends with
1990. Whatever legacy from Communism has
been brought into the new era by the new
authorities, that is up to them. But we should
take an example from the United States,
where after a certain period it is possible to

                                                  Pavel Žáček speaking at the grave of Milada Horáková, a victim of the Communist show trials in 1950
    A Radar and 250 Yanks
    The American Army Base in Brdy – A Historic
         Step, and Not Only for the Czechs
       In the deep forest around Brdy one border with Germany before World                                   The reason for having an American
    won’t even notice it. The abandoned mi- War II by the Czechoslovak Army, army base in Brdy, in the hilly uplands
    litary base will become host to a little then one of the best on the continent.                       south of Prague, is an anti-missile de-
    village, with a population                                                                                       fence radar station that will
    limited to two hundred and                                                                                       guard the security of the
    fifty. The small installation                                                                                    United States and a large
    to be built here will be the                                                                                     part of Europe. Thanks to
    most important, and ac-                                                                                          the radar, the Czech Re-
    cording to some commen-                                                                                          public has become an im-
    tators the most courage-                                                                                         portant player in interna-
    ous, act by Czech politi-                                                                                        tional diplomacy.
    cians in their effort to
    assure the security of the
    Czech Republic. Its signi-
    ficance is comparable to
                                                                                                                            or every journalist
                                                                                                                     interested in the Czech
    the creation of the Little En-                                                                                   Republic, the signing on
    tente, the alliances formed                                                                                      8 July of the first and
    with France and Soviet                                                                                           most important of two
    Russia between the wars                                                                                          Czech-American treaties
    and the building of the line     Czech Minister of Defence Vlasta Parkanová in negotiations with General Henry   has made the radar station
    of fortifications along the                     Obering, Director of the Missile Defence Agency                  in Brdy a topic every bit as

               View of the radar station on Kwajalein Atoll, which is the same as the one planned for the Czech Republic. It was also visited by Czech scientists,
8                                                    who studied the possible effect of the facility on the human organism.
Radar antenna array, earmarked for Brdy
                                                                                                           The armed forces
                                                                                                            For Us a Fortress – for the Ene-
                                                                                                           my a Barrier
                                                                                                                     (Motto from Czechoslovak
                                                                                                                         army standard, 1929)

     absorbing as Czech beer,                                                                                        a small or perhaps medium-
     Prague Castle, Václav Ha-                                                                                       sized country; moreover,
     vel and Prague taxi driv-                                                                                       they are far apart geogra-
     ers. During the past year                                                                                       phically. The Unites States
     not a week has gone by                                                                                          has of course been a prime
     without the telephone ring-                                                                                     ally for every Czech govern-
     ing in the office of the Pra-                                                                                   ment, but the Czech Re-
     gue daily Lidové noviny,                                                                                        public was just one of
     with some Belgian, Austra-                                                                                      many countries in the North
     lian or Portuguese reporter                                                                                     Atlantic Treaty Organization
     at the other end of the line                                                                                    and the European Union;
     desperately trying to find someone to      Minister of Defence Vlasta Parkanová in the operations   naturally it was less important than
     talk to on the subject of radar.            centre of the GMD anti-missile defence system site      other important allies such as Great
                                                                at Fort Greely, Alaska
        Czech diplomats have increasingly                                                                Britain, Germany or even Poland.
     found themselves at the centre of          in government, it is a minor miracle                       Even in the context of Central Eu-
     world politics, of sudden interest to      that these people have remained in the                   rope, the Czechs were overshadowed
     Berlin, Paris and London as well as to     public service.                                          not only by Poland, which sent the
     Russia and China. And of course, first                                                              third largest military contingent to
     and foremost, to the United States.                     To be Important.                            Iraq, but even by Hungary, which
     Extraordinary times require extraordi-                 For the Americans                            attracted Washington’s attention in
     nary people, and I dare say that at this                                                            the 1990s by allowing a temporary
     historical moment Czech diplomacy            The fundamental thing about the                        American military base in Taszár.
     has them. Minister of Foreign Affairs      “American radar” in Brdy is of course                    Under the Social Democratic govern-
     Karel Schwarzenberg, Deputy Prime          the privileged position that partici-                    ments in 1998-2006 the Czechs
     Minister Alexander Vondra and the          pation in this, the most important de-                   showed themselves to be hesitant
     main Czech negotiator, Tomáš Pojar,        fence project of the beginning of the                    allies: though not openly criticizing
     as well as Czech Ambassador to the         twenty-first century, will bring to the                  American policy (for example when
     USA Petr Kolář are the finest to come      Czech Republic’s relationship with                       the Americans bombed Yugoslavia),
     out of Czech diplomacy since 1990.         the United States. Until now these re-                   they offered little support. Czech as-
     At a time when the path to money           lations have suffered from the natural                   sistance in Iraq was negligible, in
     and success is found elsewhere than        asymmetry between a superpower and                       Afghanistan somewhat greater, but

                                                             The American radar station on Kwajalein Atoll was judged to have no negative effects on health
                                                             by a group of Czech experts

     still by no means impressive. Even
     when it comes to its own army, the
     Czech Republic has behaved like a
     “typical Western European country”;
     that is, it did not and still does not ful-
     fil its NATO commitment, spending
     less than two percent of its gross
     national product on the military bud-
     get of its small and obsolete army.
     In the area of defence, the agreement
     concerning the American radar in
     Brdy is a small repayment of the
     Czech “debt”.

       T   he Czech Republic has not be-
     come a key country for American in-
     vestment. Moreover, the era at the be-
     ginning of the 1990s, when Prague was
     a second Paris for tens of thousands
     of young, creative Americans, quickly
     ended, producing no new Hemingway.
       In other words, without the radar
     there would be no reason for any “spe-
     cial relationship” between the Czech
     Republic and the USA.

               The role of the USA
                in Czech history

       In the modern Czech historical tra-
     dition, on the other hand, the role of
     the United States in Central Europe
     has been of crucial importance for the
     very existence of the Czech state. It
     was American President Woodrow
     Wilson who, with his peace conditions
     of 1918, foreshadowed the creation
     of Czechoslovakia. The Pittsburgh
     Agreement, the first and foundational
     agreement between Czechs and Slo-

                                                                                                                      vaks for the founding of an inde-
                                                                                                                      pendent state, was signed in the
                                                                                                                      United States and negotiated by Czech
                                                                                                                      and Slovak immigrants in America
                                                                                                                      together with the future first Cze-
                                                                                                                      choslovak President, T. G. Masaryk.
                                                                                                                      And in fact Masaryk’s wife Charlotte
                                                                                                                      Garrigue was American, which also
                                                                                                                      had an influence on the course of
                                                                                                                         After the First World War the United
                                                                                                                      States withdrew from the European
                                                                                                                      scene, sinking back into neutrality.
                                                                                                                      This proved catastrophic, for Czecho-
                                                                                                                      slovakia and for others. But it was
                                                                                                                      again the United States that helped to
                                                                                                                      determine the outcome of the Second
                                                                                                                      World War, at the very end actually
                                                                                                                      liberating western Bohemia. American
                                                                                                                      soldiers (honouring an agreement
                                                                                                                      made with the Soviets at Yalta) did not

     Demonstration against the construction of the radar base in Brdy organized by the “No to bases!”
10   initiative in Prague’s Wenceslas Square
                                                                                                           the anti-missile defence system. This
                                                                                                           is why the Czechs did not “haggle”
                                                                                                           like the Poles over their role in the
                                                                                                           anti-missile defence system. “There’re
                                                                                                           no trade-offs when in come to secu-
                                                                                                           rity,” was the motto of the Czech go-
                                                                                                           vernment and its negotiators.
                                                                                                              For Topolánek and the majority of
                                                                                                           the centre-right government, the radar
                                                                                                           and the American military presence
                                                                                                           in the Czech Republic are the most
                                                                                                           reliable guarantee of security and
                                                                                                           democracy. This does not imply a lack
                                                                                                           of faith in NATO or scepticism toward
                                                                                                           the European Union, but is rather a
                                                                                                           reflection of the historical experience
                                                                                                           of a country located between Ger-
                                                                                                           many and Russia.

                                                                                                                      Unfinished business
                                                 At an event entitled “The Letna Plain without
                                                 Communists”, representatives of the PRO initiative
                                                 collect signatures for a petition in support                 While the Czech Republic is measur-
                                                 of the construction of the American radar base            ing up from the standpoint of foreign
                                                 in the Czech Republic.
                                                                                                           policy, in domestic politics the situa-
                                                 the Marshall Plan, only to withdraw                       tion is much worse. The government
                                                 under pressure from Moscow. Then                          has failed to respond to the demagogic
                                                 came the Communist putsch in 1948                         attacks of the radar’s opponents, who
                                                 and forty years of totalitarianism.                       are recruited from pacifist-Communist
                                                   When meeting with Secretary of                          groups; nor has it convinced the pub-
                                                 State Condoleeza Rice at the Kramář                       lic. This is nothing unusual; foreign
                                                 Villa in Prague, Czech Prime Minister                     military bases are never popular in
                                                 Mirek Topolánek, Chairman of the                          times of peace. A bigger problem is
                                                 centre-right Civic Democratic Party,                      that no agreement has been reached
                                                 compared the American radar in Brdy                       on the domestic political scene among
                                                 to the Marshall Plan. “We made a mis-                     the democratic, non-totalitarian par-
                                                 take then that we can’t afford to re-                     ties. The Social Democrats, led by
                                                 peat,” said Topolánek.                                    former Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek,
                                                   In Topolánek’s view it would be a                       are siding with the Communists on
                                                 mistake not to accept the American                        the radar issue, and so Topolánek is
                                                 offer, to turn down the base in the                       having a hard time finding the votes
                                                 Czech Republic and not take part in                       needed for the radar in Parliament.
                                                                                                              The radar in Brdy and two hundred
go on to liberate Prague – which many                                                                      and fifty US soldiers at a small base
Czechs to this day regard as the crucial                                                                   in the woods offer a historic opportu-
moment that cast Czechoslovakia into                                                                       nity, the death knell for a vanished
the clutches of Moscow.                                                                                    Communism.
  On the other hand, the presence of                                                                          The radar is part of the most ad-
the American army after the Second                                                                         vanced system in the world against
World War did give Czechoslovakia                                                                          weapons of mass destruction and
the chance to take a democratic and                                                                        rogue states with rockets, so it is more
pro-Western path. Free and demo-                                                                           than just an ordinary military base.
cratic elections were held in 1946;                                                                        This makes it doubly gratifying.
moreover, Czechoslovakia was the                                                                           The Poles like to joke that the Czechs
only Central European country from                                                                         fight only “after the war is over”.
which the Soviet army had to pull                                                                          For the Czechs, this is a chance to
out soon after the end of the war.                                                                         stand up: without exaggeration, it is
However, it was the Communists that                                                                        one of the most courageous acts in
emerged from the 1946 elections as                                                                         Czech history.
the strongest party, and so the country
gradually slipped into the Soviet orbit.                                                                                                      Luboš Palata
                                                                                                                reporter for Lidové noviny, Czech and Slovak
Another key moment was in 1947,                                                                                             correspondent for the Polish daily
when the government at first agreed to                                                                                                      Gazeta Wyborcza
accept American economic aid under                                                                                            Photos: Michal Zdobinský, ČTK

                     From a protest meeting against locating the American radar base in the Czech Republic that was held in Ostrava
                      Czech Footprints
                         in Space
        Eugene Cernan, the last man                                                                                                In Vysoká, Cernan set out
     to set foot on the Moon, came                                                                                              with an interpreter for the local
     to Czechoslovakia in October                                                                                               town hall, and went to the
     1974 on a journalist’s visa. Of-                                                                                           office of the local agricultural
     ficials were afraid to meet with                                                                                           cooperative. He wandered the
     him: the country was undergo-                                                                                              corridors, asking where his
     ing “normalization” at the time,                                                                                           grandfather had lived. Neither
     crushed under the ideological                                                                                              the Chairman of the local Na-
     boot of the Soviet Union. And                                                                                              tional Committee nor the Chair-
     even though Cernan flew in                                                                                                 man of the farm coop would
     from Moscow, where he was                                                                                                  even agree to talk to him.
     negotiating the joint flight of                                                                                               In Prague the situation was
     Soyuz and Apollo to take place                                                                                             the same. Embassy personnel
     the following year, he received                                                                                            telephoned anyone and every-
     no greetings.                                                                                                              one that an American astronaut
                                                                                                                                had brought a precious gift –
           Astronauts with Czech roots                                 Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek               a Czechoslovak flag that had been to the
                                                              with the American astronaut Eugene Cernan (left)      Moon. All the astronaut wanted was some-
        Cernan came here in search of his fa-                    at the press conference they held on 19 June       one to give it to. President Ludvík Svo-
                                                                after their meeting in Prague. Beside Cernan,
     mily history. His grandfather Ondřej                                 his grand-daughter Ashley.                boda didn’t want it, or didn’t dare to meet
     Čerňan, who changed his name in America                                                                        with him. Chairman of the Czech Aca-
     to Andrew Cernan, moved to the USA in                  nad Kysucou; his grandmother was from                   demy of Sciences Jaroslav Kožešník pled
     1900 from the Slovak village of Vysoká                 Tábor, in southern Bohemia.                             lack of time. Finally the flag was accepted

            Eugene Cernan, “the last man on the Moon”, came to the Czech Republic in June 2008 on the invitation of the General Director of the National Museum,
12                                  Michal Lukeš (right). Cernan is presenting the National Museum with a photograph taken on the Moon.
The historic dome of the observatory of the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences at Ondřejov plays
an important role in Czech participation in projects of the European Space Agency (ESA).
                                                                                                                             We can observe dozens of
                                                                                                                           satellites in the sky, especially
                                                                                                                           right after the winter solstice,
                                                                                                                           when the sun drops low in the
                                                                                                                           sky. Some shine like stars, others
                                                                                                                           are barely visible.

     by the Director of the Astro-                                                                                                     James Lovell, the commander
     nomical Institute of the Aca-                                                                                                  of Apollo 13, the ship that was
     demy of Sciences, Luboš Pe-                                                                                                    crippled by an explosion on the
     rek, who placed it in the most                                                                                                 way to the Moon but made it
     dignified place he could find                                                                                                  back, also has Czech roots. At
     – the dome of the two-metre                                                                                                    the end of the nineteenth cen-
     telescope at the observatory                                                                                                   tury poverty drove Anna and
     in Ondřejov. “But after Perek                                                                                                  Jan Mašek from Dolní Lu-
     left the new Director told me to                                                                                               kavice south of Plzeň across
     put the flag away, because we                                                                                                  the ocean. The Mašeks had six
     didn’t have a corresponding                                                                                                    children, and their daughter
     article from the other side, from the So-                       The largest telescope in the Czech Republic,       Blanka-Blanche married an American nam-
     viets,” recalls the astrophysicist Jiří Grygar.                with a mirror objective two metres in diameter,     ed Lovell – who had a son named James.
                                                                  situated at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech
        The previously announced press confer-                             Academy of Sciences at Ondřejov
                                                                                                                           The two visit the Czech Republic as
     ence with the American astronaut had to be                                                                         often as they can. Cernan was here for the
     cancelled. Only three reporters who were                   nartice where the two had been wed; there               sixth time in 2008; Lovell has visited
     deeply interested in space flight went to                  he knelt, and quietly prayed. At the Třeboň             twice, on the first occasion – in 1992,
     lunch with him – and were severely repri-                  district archives they presented him with               when he visited his uncle, Dr. František
     manded by their Communist bosses later.                    copies of the records of his ancestors back             Mašek in Plzeň – in secret.
        Twenty years later, in October 1994,                    to the mid-nineteenth century.
     Cernan turned up again. People who go into                    The astronaut spent his last evening at                  The Czech Republic joins ESA
     space are tough; they do not give way easi-                the Astronomical Institute in Ondřejov. It was
     ly to emotion. But when he visited southern                only then that he learned what kind of troubles           On Tuesday, 8 July 2008 the Czech Re-
     Bohemia it was clear that he was moved.                    had been caused by his Moon flag. He spoke              public joined the European Space Agency.
     No wonder: in Bernartice and Nuzice in the                 about the story behind it: “Each of us could            The agreement was signed by the agency’s
     Tábor region the local inhabitants showed                  take a few small things with us in a little case.       Director, General Jean-Jacques Dordain,
     him the houses where his grandparents                      I had the flags of several countries, Czecho-           and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topo-
     Václav Cihlář and Rosalie Peterková had                    slovakia included. I’d bought them in a store.          lánek, making the country a full and equal
     been born. He went to the church in Ber-                   I knew my ancestors were from there.”                   member of the prestigious space agency.

                                                           Eugene Cernan (left) and Luboš Perek, former Director of the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences,
                                                           thanks to whom a Czechoslovak flag that had been to the moon (foreground) was placed on display in Czechoslovakia,
                                                           despite the wishes of the Communist regime.

     James Lovell, American astronaut and head
     of the legendary Apolla 13 mission, flew in an L-39
     Albatros light training jet aircraft when visiting
     the 34th Military Training Air Base in Pardubice.
     After the flight he accepted a pilot first class
     commemorative badge.

        Under the Communist regime, cooperation
     between Czech scientists and the West was
     very limited. When the Soviets and Ame-
     ricans began to send up probes and satellites,
     they acquired much valuable information
     that could not be obtained by earthbound
     observatories. At that time Czechoslovak
     astronomers, geophysicists and other spe-
     cialists were in danger of falling behind the
     rest of the world. In the mid-1960s Soviet
     experts realized that there was great unused
     scientific potential in the countries of their
     bloc. Thus the Intercosmos programme was
     begun, with the Kremlin’s blessing.
        Czech and Slovak specialists eagerly
     took up the offer – it was the only way for
     them to get into space. Astronomers and
     geophysicists began to design instruments
     for the Intercosmos satellite and other
     interplanetary probes. As time went by
     they were joined by medical laboratories,
     communications experts and others who
     began to learn how to make use of space-
     based Earth research for economic pur-
     poses. A team from the Institute of Atmo-             less some projects with Russia continued,                an agreement. Cooperation with Western
     spheric Physics of the Academy of Scien-              for example micro-accelerometers – instru-               institutes is conducted according to rules
     ces built the Magion series of all-Czech              ments for measuring non-gravitational                    and regulations that Czech institutes and
     satellites, which were very successful.               forces in space – continued until 2003.                  firms had to conform to, and this was
        Many experts were sidelined by so-called           The end of the Communist regime allowed                  sometimes difficult to achieve. Therefore,
     “normalization” after the 1968 invasion.              Czech scientists to seek cooperation with                in 2003 the Ministry of Education set up
     They were only allowed back just before               the West, especially with NASA in America                the Czech Space Office as a non-profit
     Czech cosmonaut Vladimír Remek went                   and the European Space Agency as well as                 association to coordinate and expand co-
     into space, after being approved by the KGB.          with a number of universities.                           operation with ESA, organize training
     Although the majority of Soviet scientists               ESA, like the aeronautics industry and                courses and promote student participation.
     were happy to work with them, some saw the            the atomic research going on with CERN                      Later ESA created a special program
     Czech and Slovak scientists as unwelcome              in Geneva, became the driving force be-                  for countries that are not members but
     competition. Bureaucratic barriers were also          hind a rise in scientific and industrial stan-           wish to work with the agency, as a pre-
     used to effectively limit cooperation.                dards. Czech scientists were well aware                  cursor to full membership. The Czech
        When the Soviet empire and finally the             of this. At their urging, the Ministry of                Republic joined four years ago.
     USSR itself disintegrated, the Intercosmos            Education made an official request for                      Since that time Czech institutes and
     programme collapsed as well. Neverthe-                cooperation with ESA in 1996 and signed                  companies have implemented 27 projects

                                                                                                         teorite craters on the Earth’s surface and the
                                                                                                         development of methods for monitoring
                                                                                                         biological experiments in space. Long-dis-
                                                                                                         tance transmission research focuses on the
                                                                                                         enhancement of information from images
                                                                                                         and radar tracking of the Earth. Industry is
                                                                                                         developing new approaches to the con-
                                                                                                         struction of space-based X-ray telescopes
                                                                                                         and computer programmes for more reli-
                                                                                                         able satellite navigation. The Aeronautical
                                                                                                         Research and Testing Institute in Prague-
                                                                                                         Letňany has won an important contract to
                                                                                                         manufacture components for the SWARM
                                                                                                         satellite, to be launched in 2010.

                                                                                                                        Going for Galileo

                                                                                                            Investment in the field of space rocketry
                                                                                                         has provided very quick returns. Even the
                                                                                                         immediate benefit has been outstanding.
                                                                                                         For example, in 2005 overall volume in
                                                                                                         space applications was 180 billion dollars.
                                                                                                         The largest profits were made by operators
                                                                                                         of communications and navigation satel-
                                                                                                         lites. Ever greater possibilities are opening
                                                                                                         for the use of information from pictures
                                                                                                         taken of the Earth’s surface. Computer
                                                                                                         firms are developing new methods of pro-
                                                                                                         cessing satellite data. Today the Czech
                                                                                                         Republic is one of the countries competing
                                                                                                         to become the headquarters of the Euro-
                                                                                                         pean satellite navigation system Galileo. If
                                                                                                         successful, the building of the headquarters
                                                                                                         would mean a major injection into infra-
                                                                                                         structure and an important opportunity for
                                                                                                         a number of domestic firms developing
                                                                                                         software and communications technology.
                                                                                                            Participation by the Czech Republic in
                                                                                                         ESA brings new jobs for highly-qualified
                                                                                                         specialists. It improves the quality not only
                                                                                                         of Czech research and industry but also
                                                                                                         of our lives.
                                                                                                                                            Karel Pacner
                                                                                                                               Photos: ČTK,,

with a total value of 8.5 million euros. Last
year 19 projects amounting to 2.6 million
euros were funded; this year the figures
have risen to 25 projects and 3.5 million
euros. These include instruments for sa-
tellites, computer software, participation
in astronomical, ionospheric and magneto-
spheric research and the use of satellites
for everyday purposes, especially long-
distance information transmission.
   Czech institutions have taken part in
ESA projects in four areas: research, Earth
observation, communications and naviga-
tion, and industry.
   Czech research institutes are working
on the study of space in the near-Earth
environment, the search for hidden me-

                                                During his visit to the Czech Republic in June 2008, Eugene Cernan, the last man to have stood on the Moon,
                                                met with ex-President Václav Havel. In the centre Cernan’s grand-daughter Ashley.                             15
                       A Symbol of the Dispute over
                            Nuclear Energy
       In April 1986 the world learned        plans for its expansion. Paradoxically,    tention between the Czech Republic
     that a catastrophe had taken place at    Communist Czechoslovakia, a part of        and neighbouring Austria. But it is
     a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl,      the Soviet bloc, began to build a new      also the acid test for a possible re-
     Ukraine, which killed 31 per-                                                                naissance of nuclear energy,
     sons and injured 140. One                                                                    once so hard hit by the
     hundred thousand people                                                                      Chernobyl disaster. Temelín
     had to be evacuated. Despite                                                                 remains the only nuclear
     the scale of the disaster,                                                                   reactor in Europe built dur-
     the Communist regime in                                                                      ing an era when nuclear
     what was then the Soviet                                                                     energy underwent a general
     Union hid it from the world                                                                  decline from its former days
     as long as possible and down-                                                                of glory. The dispute over
     played its consequences.                                                                     the Temelín power plant has
     The tragedy at Chernobyl                                                                     become a symbol of the dis-
     was more than just a dem-                                                                    pute over whether the peace-
     onstration of the low value                                                                  ful use of “atomic” energy
     a totalitarian state placed                                                                  should be given a chance to
     on the lives of its people.                                                                  regain its lost position.
     What happened at the pow-
     er plant in Chernobyl shook people’s     nuclear power plant that same year.             The building of Temelín
     faith in nuclear power for a long time   In the south of the country near the
     to come. Most European countries         village of Temelín a nuclear power           In 1986, when the Communist
     abandoned the use of nuclear reac-       plant began to rise that in the fullness   government of then-Czechoslovakia
     tors to generate electricity or froze    of time became the focus of con-           decided to build a nuclear power

                                                                                       In the Czech Republic there is uni-
                                                                                     versal consensus that within the next
                                                                                     ten years the country will go from
                                                                                     being an exporter of energy to being
                                                                                     an importer. The question is where
                                                                                     we will import this electricity from.

                                                                                                     František Janouch
                                                                                                                 (born 1931)
                                                                                                    nuclear physicist, author
                                                                                            since the 1960s a firm proponent
                                                                                                           of nuclear energy

plant of the Soviet type                                                                        sector simply could not
on a hilltop near Teme-                                                                         do without Temelín. Gen-
lín, with four reactors                                                                         eral concerns over the
and an output of 4000                                                                           safety of the Soviet tech-
megawatts, it had a much                                                                        nology used at Temelín
easier position than gov-                                                                       were to be addressed by
ernments in any demo-                                                                           the government seeking
cratic system. If anyone                                                                        a new contractor for the
from the area had wish-                                                                         control system; the con-
ed to complain about the                                                                        tract was won by the
power plant, their oppo-                                                                        American firm Westing-
sition would have been in vain. Sev-     against the plant, at that time still a   house. The original design for four
eral villages had to be evacuated to     giant construction site. “In the first    reactors was scaled back to two. And
make way for Temelín and dozens of       unofficial referendum in 1991, some       so construction went forward, despite
people lost their homes. But by the      80 percent of political leaders in the    the opposition of several NGOs.
time the cooling towers were visible     vicinity of the unfinished power plant
from afar, the Soviet Union was ex-      were in favour of halting construc-             A nuclear-free Austria
periencing perestroika, and soon the     tion,” says Monika Wittingerová of
Communist regimes in the former          Mothers of South Bohemia, one of            Besides the Czech opponents, Te-
Soviet satellites, Czechoslovakia in-    Temelín’s main opponents. One year        melín also had to face pressure from
cluded, collapsed one by one. After      later Czechoslovakia split into two       neighbouring Austria, which decided
the fall of socialism in Czechoslo-      independent countries, the Czech Re-      in a 1978 referendum not to put into
vakia in 1989, the entire society then   public and Slovakia, and the Temelín      operation its already-completed nu-
began, in a democratic way, to come      electric power plant became the ex-       clear power plant at Zwentendorf
to some decisions on what to do with     clusive affair of the Czech Republic.     near Vienna. The margin of the refer-
the half-completed project. Civic as-    Some politicians, technicians and         endum was so close, however, that
sociations as well as many residents     officials of the state energy concern     for eight whole years everything at
of southern Bohemia began to protest     ČEZ argued that the Czech energy          Zwentendorf remained just as it was:

                                                           On 7 October anti-Temelín activists gathered on Přemysl Otakar II Square in České Budějovice to mark the seventh
                                                           anniversary of the inaugural fission reaction in the first reactor of the nuclear power plant at Temelín.

     Austrian opponents of Temelín holding signs with
     the names of Czech-Austrian border-points,
     threatening that if the Austrian government did not
     lay charges against the Czech Republic on the basis
     of international law within four weeks, they would
     block all sixteen crossings.

     all they had to do was press a button,
     more or less, to start the reactor up.
     In 1986 there was to be another refer-
     endum over whether to start up the
     Austrian reactor. Instead, fate took a
     hand in the form of the disaster at
     Chernobyl. Immediately polls in Aus-
     tria showed over 90 percent opposed
     to any use of nuclear power. It was at
     this moment that the Czechoslovak
     government announced that it was
     beginning construction of another
     Soviet-type nuclear power plant at
     Temelín in southern Bohemia, which
     lies just a few dozen kilometres from
     the Austrian border.
        As soon as the Communist regime                    If the amount of water is lowered,                       times; the first reactor at Temelín
     in Czechoslovakia fell, the Austrians                 or if its temperature rises, the reac-                   began operations in 2000 and the
     started to mount a massive campaign                   tion comes to a halt by itself because                   second one two years later. The total
     against Temelín. Czech experts ar-                    of the lack of slowed neutrons,” ex-                     investment in the nuclear power
     gued that no Chernobyl-like accident                  plains Drábová. She also points out                      plant came to over one hundred bil-
     could happen at Temelín because                       that Temelín has a number of other                       lion crowns.
     they are two different types of reac-                 mechanisms, independent of one
     tors, but this did nothing to calm                    another, that are able to stop the nu-                         The uniqueness of Temelín
     Austrian fears. “Because of their dif-                clear reaction.
     fering constructions, the Chernobyl                                                                               Rather paradoxically, with their
     reactor behaves physically different-
     ly than the Temelín VVER type at
     higher temperatures and pressures
                                                             H     owever, the Austrians had little
                                                           faith in assurances of Temelín’s safe-
                                                                                                                    firm opposition to Temelín, the
                                                                                                                    Austrians played into the hand of
                                                                                                                    the power plant’s Czech defenders.
     and in the event of loss of water from                ty. In 1998 Austrian activists, sup-                     Many Czechs did not appreciate their
     the nuclear circuit,” says Dana Drá-                  ported by many Austrian politicians,                     Austrian neighbours involving them-
     bová, head of the State Office for                    began their first blockade of Czech-                     selves in the affairs of another coun-
     Nuclear Safety. In reactors of the                    Austrian border crossings. At one                        try, and although there are other,
     Chernobyl type, in such a situation                   point the NGOs protesting Temelín                        much older nuclear power stations
     the neutrons continue to be slowed                    blocked the entire Czech-Austrian                        along Austria’s borders with Ger-
     and the splitting of atoms continues,                 border, turning the dispute over the                     many and Slovakia, it was Temelín
     so the nuclear reaction has a tenden-                 power plant into an international                        the Austrians saw fit to criticize. As
     cy to accelerate instead of halting.                  problem. On top of that, the con-                        for the Czechs, their originally nega-
     “At Temelín, however, water works as                  struction project started running into                   tive attitude towards Temelín has
     a coolant but also at the same time as                major problems. The delivery dead-                       gradually shifted: today 60 percent
     a moderator of the nuclear reaction.                  line was postponed a total of seven                      of Czechs support the development

                                        precisely the catastrophe at Cherno-
                                        byl that caused the level of security
                                        at nuclear power stations to be ra-
                                        dically improved. However, for this
                                        same reason the head of the State
                                        Office for Nuclear Safety does not
                                        try to minimize some of the concerns
                                        about safety at Temelín on the part of
                                        its Austrian and Czech opponents.
                                        “Temelín is apparently the first
                                        nuclear power station in the world to
                                        be built under such intense public
                                        scrutiny and such widespread inter-
                                        est on the part of the media. And such
                                        scrutiny has surely brought a number
                                        of insights that will be useful in the
                                        future,” says Drábová.
                                                                     Marek Kerles
                                                 Photos: ČTK, Temelín Nuclear Power
                                                                      Plant archives

of nuclear energy. The International
Atomic Energy Agency found no se-
rious flaws at Temelín. Austrian and
Czech anti-nuclear activists have
counted over 100 technical problems
at the Temelín plant since it started
up; however, officials of the Czech
atomic oversight agency say that the
vast majority of these were problems
in the non-nuclear part of the plant,
where the heat removed from the
reactor is converted mechanically
into electricity. Nuclear safety was
never threatened, they insist.

  I  s Temelín absolutely safe then?
Even Dana Drábová admits that such
a statement would be too categorical.
On the other hand, the power plant is
said to be backed up so that every
possible operational problem can be
dealt with to the maximum extent by
several measures independent of one
another. According to Drabová it was

     1   2

     3   4


           Those who’ve forgotten what it’s like to go
        barefoot and wake up drenched in dew won’t
        have a clue as to what it’s all about. But
        believe me, it’s totally different to begin the
        day fresh and full of energy.
                                   Josef Moucha
        1. From the book Libuna;
           Photo: Iren Stehli
        2. Roma, photographed by Viktor Richter
        3. First day out of prison, Šternberk, 1990;
           Photo: Jindřich Štreit
        4. Man with child, Arnoltice, 1975;
           Photo: Jindřich Štreit
        5. From the book Libuna;
           Photo: Iren Stehli
        6. Man with a hat, Těchanov, 1975;
           Photo: Jindřich Štreit
        7. Romani workers during the floods
           in Prague, 2003; Photo: Karel Cudlín
        8. A group of Ukrainian Roma;
           Photo: Karel Cudlín

6   7


              Olga Sommerová’s
                 Seven Lights
        On Yom Ha’Shoah day, Jews light                                                                             They sent my 72-year-old mother off to
     seven candles in memory of the victims of                                                                    Auschwitz, with a rucksack on her back,
     the Second World War. The symbolic                                                                           a year before us. I was struck by the
     lighting of the menorah marks the begin-                                                                     thought – none of us can help you, not
     ning of the story of six Jewish women as                                                                     your husband, not your son, not you your-
     told in the documentary film Seven Lights,                                                                   self. An inner voice spoke to me. And
     by the Czech filmmaker Olga Sommerová.                                                                       in that instant I heard “Chopin – Études
                                                                                                                  op. 25”. I ran home and started playing –

       T     he film begins with the words of
     the oldest of the witnesses to the Shoah
                                                                                                                  day and night, over and over.
                                                                                                                    Zdena Frantlová, aged 85: On 15
                                                                                                                  March 1939 my father called us to the
     (the Jewish term for the Holocaust), Alice                                                                   window. The German army was passing
     Herz Sommerová, aged 105: Hitler                                                                             by below – loud rumbling and the soldiers
     mostly punished me by forcing us to wear                                                                     in their helmets – and we had no idea
     the yellow star. I said to myself, everyone                                                                  what was next. But everyone was afraid.
     who sees me probably hates me, but why?                                                                        Erika Bezdíčková, 77: Before the
     After all, they don’t know me … My                                                                           actual deportations of Jews began, there
     little boy asked me who Hitler was, and                                                                      was talk of sending us somewhere. I had
     I really thought hard how to explain it                                                                      lovely hair, flowing down far below my
     to him so that he wouldn’t be marked                 Zuzana Růžičková at Terezín: “They take you away        waist, and one day my mother said “We’ll
                                                         from home, you lose everything and then you’re only
     by hatred after the war. Because hatred                     fighting against hunger and cold.”
                                                                                                                  have to cut it, otherwise it’ll attract lice”.
     breeds hatred, otherwise nothing.                                                                            We lived in a continuous state of fear, our

                                 Erika Bezdíčková at Auschwitz: “Strip naked, shave off all hair, have a number tattooed on the arm.”
Erika Bezdíčková lighting seven candles in memory of the victims of the Second World War
                                                                                                                               Shoa – “destruction” (Hebrew);
                                                                                                                             holocaust – “burnt offering” (Greek).
                                                                                                                             The murder of around 6 million
                                                                                                                             Jews in the course of the Second
                                                                                                                             World War

                                                                                                                                          The Diderot Encyclopedia

     rucksacks packed and ready. Then they                                                                                mother said “Go ahead, I’ll follow you
     rang the doorbell and said “OK, get your                                                                             and bring the family silver and Persian
     things and follow us”.                                             The documentary film Seven Lights                 carpets with me”. But of course none of
        Pavla Kováčová, 95: My sister Anča,                          was directed by Olga Sommerová (born                 this came to pass.
     she was always good, and she was the                            1949), who shot it in 2008 for Czech                    Zdena Fantlová: They arrested my
     first one they killed in Auschwitz. It’s the                    Television. She was inspired by a book               father at home while he was having
                                                                     entitled They Fought on All Fronts,
     good ones who always suffer. We weren’t                         which gave her the idea of shooting a                dinner – a neighbour had denounced him
     good, and so we survived. That’s the truth                      film about Jewish women who had with-                for listening to Jan Masaryk on the BBC.
     – we other three siblings, we were bad,                         stood the Nazi terror.                               In that instant our family was completely
     and so we resisted.                                                The documentary tells of the experi-              shattered.
                                                                     ences of six women who suffered the fate
        The building was empty, our family was                       of the Czechoslovak Jews after 1939.                    Pavla Kováčková: We escaped to
     the only one who hadn’t been sent off. The                      After the occupation of Czechoslovakia               Slovakia. My old man managed to get
     Gestapo came looking for us and the care-                       by Hitler’s army and the proclamation of             some fake documents and he said “We’ll
     taker of the building, Mrs. Pížlová, kept                       the Protectorate of Bohemia and Mora-                go on New Year’s Eve, everyone’ll be
                                                                     via, the persecution of Jews within the
     moving us from one flat to another.                             society was launched. Only after the con-            drunk and they won’t inspect the papers”.
        Zuzana Růžičková, 81 (later to be-                           ference in Wannsee in January 1942 did                  Even the partisans in Slovakia ques-
     come one of the leading interpreters of                         the Nazis embark on their programme                  tioned me, asking whether I wasn’t
     music for the harpsichord): The Nazis                           aimed at the total liquidation of the Jews,          Jewish. I denied it. In Bánská Bystrice
                                                                     termed the Final Solution. A network of
     actually got children to hand out the                           death camps was established where Jews               there was a big cache of weapons. A cer-
     “invitations” to gather for the transport                       were slaughtered in their thousands in               tain Mr Matuška made a wagon available
     to the concentration camps. It happened                         gas chambers. The Czechoslovak Jews                  and I travelled with him, distributing the
     that we came to a place and there was                           were first transferred to Terezín (the town          weapons. We handed out seven rifles in
                                                                     that Hitler “bestowed upon the Jews”),
     a crowd of people in front of the flat of                       and there then followed transport to Ausch-
                                                                                                                          every village. We lived there in the moun-
     a Jewish family, and gas was leaking out                        witz, Belsen, Dachau and other concen-               tains in abandoned shepherds’ huts with
     from under the door.                                            tration and death camps in Europe.                   rotting floors, but each time there was
        Ruth Tosková, 82: When the Germans                              During the Second World War around                some little area where you could live, and
                                                                     six million Jews were murdered in Eu-
     came, my father said “I’m not staying here                      rope. Another two million individuals
                                                                                                                          behind the place a tree that apples fell
     and I’ll take the children with me”. His                        were executed or died as the result of               from, and we ate those.
     idea was that we’d cross the border illeg-                      hunger and illness in the ghettoes.                     Zuzana Růžičková: We arrived in Te-
     ally into Poland and then move on. My                                                                                rezín in January 1942. When they were

         Alice Sommerová: “My little boy asked me who Hitler was, and I really thought hard how to explain it to him so that he wouldn’t be marked by hatred after the war.”
                                                                                                                 The director Olga Sommerová (left), holocaust survivor Alice
                                                                                                                 Sommerová and the camerawoman Olga Špátová (right)

     counting us, my father looked at the Ge-
     stapo man in such a way that he immedi-
     ately slapped him in the face. Seeing my
     father in such a situation was a terrible
     shock. They take you away from home,
     you lose everything and then you’re only
     fighting against hunger and cold.
        Alice Sommerová: In the morning
     black water – they called it coffee – at
     noon white water – that was called soup –
     and in the evening black water again.
     Once we were sitting by ourselves in the
     room and my boy started to cry, saying he
     was hungry. By chance I happened to spy
                                                             Olga Špátová preparing for filming exterior
     a bit of bread, so I gave it to him. I was              shots at Auschwitz
     now a thief! I’ll never forget it.
        Zuzana Růžičková: Mrs Sommerová                      wife and children links, and that settled
     performed around a hundred concerts                     his life.
     of Chopin’s music at the Sokol club                        Zuzana Růžičková: Even today I
     in Terezín.                                             don’t know whether Mama would have
        Alice Sommerová: Every evening                       been sent to the left or the right. I was
     there was a concert. Old people came,                   carrying with me a piece of paper with
     children, the sick, people weakened by                  the notes for the Sarabande from Bach’s
     hunger, but the music was food. That                    French Suite No. 6 in E major. And as
     was something awfully special. Maybe                    they loaded us into the lorry, the paper
     when they have something spiritual,                     flew away from me. Mama knew that it
     people don’t need to eat.                               was a kind of talisman for me, so she ran
        Zuzana Růžičková: Then they herded                   after it and the women in the lorry lifted
     us together into the cattle wagons that                 her up to join us. Bach saved her life.
     were waiting, and three days we travelled,                 Erika Bezdíčková: Dr Mengele asked
     without food or drink … to Auschwitz.                   me how old I was and I obediently replied
        Erika Bezdíčková: We entered the                     sixteen. He had a kind of walking stick
     cruellest place people who arrived there                in his hand and he thrust it at me and
     were subjected to. The first order was                  suddenly Mama was somewhere else

                                                                                                                 immense heaps of clothing and footwear.
                                                                                                                 The Gestapo women threw clothes and
                                                                                                                 boots at us at random. I caught a ballroom
                                                                                                                 dress made of heavy green silk, the jacket
                                                                                                                 from a women’s suit, and a pair of men’s
                                                                                                                 patent leather shoes. And that’s what I
                                                                                                                 wore till the end of the war.
                                                                                                                    Erika Bezdíčková: I have the feeling
                                                                                                                 that in the trees around the camp and in
                                                                                                                 the grass, that’s where my parents are.
                                                                                                                 That’s where they spread the ashes from
                                                                                                                 the crematoria. It’s just that … nothing
                                                                                                                 can disappear with no traces whatsoever.
                                                                                                                 And so I brought my children here, so
                                                                                                                 they could see where their grandfather
                                                                                                                 and grandmother are buried.
                                                                                                                    Zuzana Růžičková: There was a
                                                                                                                 children’s building there and I started
     “Men and women separately”. No one                      than where I was. As they were taking her           working in it as an assistant minder. The
     knew what was happening, we were in                     off she cried out “It isn’t true, she isn’t         Gestapo got used to going there when
     columns of fives, and there stood Dr                    sixteen yet!” – she wanted us to remain             we were rehearsing some play with the
     Mengele along with some other people,                   together. It was a second, and that second          children, for example Snow White and
     and they were making a selection.                       is my nightmare.                                    the Seven Dwarfs. Dr Mengele came too,
        Zdena Fantlová: Links links rechts                      Erika Bezdíčková: Strip naked, shave             and a certain Dr Klein. He always carried
     links – no one knew that links meant                    off all hair, have a number tattooed on             sweets with him, and offered them to
     instant death and rechts a bit more time                the arm …                                           the children. And if a kid took one of
     till it came. The conductor Karel Ančerl                   Zdena Fantlová: Then we passed                   them, he didn’t show up the next day.
     was ahead of me, he was sent rechts, his                through a kind of barn where there were             Klein simply had him killed.

     Ruth Tosková: “When the Germans came, my father said I’m not staying here and I’ll take the kid with me.”
                                                                                                           Zuzana Růžičková: When they libe-
                                                                                                        rated me, I weighed 25 kilos.
                                                                                                           Pavla Kováčková: We counted it up:
                                                                                                        they killed 320. Three hundred and
                                                                                                        twenty of my relatives.
                                                                                                           Zuzana Růžičková: Of my whole fami-
                                                                                                        ly, only Mama and I survived, no one else.
                                                                                                           Zdena Fantlová: I never considered
                                                                                                        myself a victim, more like an observer.
                                                                                                        Your instinct tells you which direction to
                                                                                                        go, where the person with the whip is.
                                                                                                        When you emerge from it, you have the
                                                                                                        impression that you’ve awoken from a
                                                                                                        dream. And you don’t want to go on living.
                                                                                                           Zuzana Růžičková: I ran to my piano
                                                                                                        teacher, and she simply wept when she saw
                                                                                                        my hands. But I refused to give in, and
                                                                                                        spent ten, twelve hours a day at the key-
                                                                                                        board. When they destroyed my life, I felt
                                                                                                        sorrow rather than anger. But that destruc-
                                                                                                        tion keeps on going, people never learn.
                                                                                                           Erika Bezdíčková: The same things
                                                                                                        keep happening. Humanity is paving the
                                                                                                        way to its own extinction.
                                                                                                           Zuzana Růžičková: Neo-Nazism drives
                                                                                                        me frantic, I can’t sleep, it’s a monstrous
                                                                                                        desecration of what we all remember.
                                                                                                           Zdena Fantlová: We lost everything –
                                                                                                        our homes, our families, our relatives, our
                                                                                                        freedom. On the other hand, we learned
                                                                                                        who we were, what we can depend on,
                                                                                                        what’s important in life and what isn’t.
                                                                                                           Alice Sommerová: This advanced age,
                                                                                                        it’s the most beautiful part of our lives.

   Zdena Fantlová: Once again they
loaded us into a wagon for coal, there
were 130 of us there, a young woman sat
under me, dead, and the only place I could
brace myself against was her teeth – her
mouth was open. At every station we
stopped at, they unloaded the bodies of
those who’d been pressed to death. This is
where human nature showed itself: when
they unloaded the dead, we were happy,
because we’d have more space.
   Zuzana Růžičková: We’d been starv-
ing several years by then. You can’t pos-
sibly imagine what hunger is when you’re
starving year after year. Once I fainted
and apparently someone standing above
me commented “She looks like a person.”
The propaganda was so effective that
they didn’t regard us as people.             with Belsen it was only the antechamber                    The fact that we’re aware of the beauty of
   Zdena Fantlová: We travelled on, and      to hell. The soup was only for those                       our lives. When we’re young, we live
suddenly – beautiful countryside. A birch    who volunteered for work, and the work                     through our bodies, when you’re old and
grove blanketed in snow, blue skies, sun-    was dragging dead bodies into heaps to                     have that huge experience, it leads you to
shine. The train stopped and I said to       be burned.                                                 the realization that we’re in fact a miracle.
myself, it’s so wonderful here, nothing        Zdena Fantlová: You stop noticing                        There are beautiful things in the world.
bad can happen to us here. And that was      corpses – it’s like trees that have been                   Life is wonderful.
the worst camp of all.                       cut down in the woods. It was a charnel
                                                                                                                                            The editors
   Zuzana Růžičková: If what we’d gone       house. Some were breathing, some                                          Photos: Olgy Sommerová’s archives
through before was hell, in comparison       weren’t. I was still breathing.

                                             Erika Bezdíčková at Auschwitz: “I have the feeling that in the trees around the camp and in the grass,
                                             that’s where my parents are. It’s just that – nothing can disappear with no traces whatsoever.”               25
     I’m Vasyl, a Czech
       Altanzul Yadamjav, Vasyl Savinets
                                               Worker                                                        wheels for Apos-Auto, situated in a
     and Tran Auyc Tri. Ms Altanzul is 43                                                                    small town in southern Moravia.
     and comes from Mongolia, Vasyl is a                                                                       All three came to the Czech Re-
     28-year-old Ukrainian and 35-year-                                                                      public in search of a better job. “I have
     old Tran Auyc Tri hails from Vietnam.                                                                   to make money in order to pay off
     What do they have in common? All of                                                                     the debts my husband and I owe in
     them are employed by Czech firms.                                                                       Mongolia. I’m planning on returning
                                                                                                             home in a year or two,” says Altanzul

       M       s Altanzul works along with
     several hundred other Mongolians at
                                                                                                             Yadamjav. She knows how to say hello
                                                                                                             in Czech and to express thanks, but
                                                                                                             otherwise she communicates through
     the Foxconn assembly line in the eastern                                                                an interpreter. She doesn’t plan to learn
     Bohemian town of Pardubice, where                                                                       Czech. Why not? For her the Czech
     computers are assembled. Vasyl Savi-                                                                    Republic is only a place where she plans
     nets has a place with a construction firm                                                               Ukrainians working at the Czech Shipyards
     that sends him out to work on building                                                                  in Ústí nad Labem – Valtířov. Currently there
     sites in eastern and central Bohemia.                                                                   are around 150,000 Ukrainians in the country,
                                                                                                             with two-thirds here illegally.
     Tran Auyc Tri sews covers for steering

                                  Ukrainian construction workers at the Saturday “labour exchange” by the Prague Fairground.
26                                            Ukrainians make up two-thirds of the workforce in the building trade.
                                                                                                    “At Na Hůrce I found a three-
                                                                                                 room flat let by Ukrainians. Seven
                                                                                                 young women from the Ukraine
                                                                                                 lived there. We took turns. Some of
                                                                                                 us worked at night, others in the
                                                                                                        Ms N., a piano teacher from Lvov
                                                                                                      in the Ukraine, now living with her
                                                                                                                         family in Prague

to spend two or three years, and Fox-        The Taiwanese-Chinese firm Foxconn makes         – is that of Ukrainians, who can ex-
conn, where she works, is a “little Mon-   computers at its factory in Pardubice, where the   pect to make much more here than at
                                              workforce includes individuals people from
golia”: it employs several hundred           Mongolia, Romania, Bulgaria and Vietnam.
                                                                                              home. And Vasyl Savinets too left his
Mongolians, who live together in hos-                                                         native Ukraine because of the difficult
tels and can talk to each other whenever                                                      economic situation there. “Even though
they want. Their bosses use interpreters                                                      things in the Ukraine have improved
when giving them their orders.                                                                in the past two or three years, as a
   On the other hand, the Vietnamese                                                          mason here I still make twice as much
worker Tran Auyc Tri came to the                                                              as a teacher back home,” says Savinets.
Czech Republic with the intention of                                                            Second place among foreigners goes
starting up a business, and is only tem-                                                      to Slovaks: since their country was part
porarily employed. He needs time in                                                           of the former Czechoslovakia and is
order to learn the language and to go                                                         also a member of the European Union,
through all the steps that are required                                                       they fit in here with the minimum of
to set up a business. “I had a business                                                       fuss. Third in the list are the Vietnamese.
of my own back in Vietnam. Here in           Foreign nationals in the Czech
the Czech Republic I know a lot of           Republic: the ten leading states                  Czech – a prerequisite for success
people, and I have a few relatives.          (as of 30 April 2008)
People here have more money than                                                                 Sooner or later every foreigner who
back in Vietnam, which is fine for            1.   Ukraine                  125,826           wants to spend an extended period of
business,” says the Vietnamese, who                                                           time in the Czech Republic, or settle
                                              2.   Slovakia                  71,014
speaks quite respectable Czech.                                                               here permanently, runs up against the
                                              3.   Vietnam                   55,626           problem of the Czech language. The
     Ukrainians – heading for                 4.   Russia                    24,109           average Czech is not particularly keen
        the promised land                     5.   Poland                    21,020           on learning foreign languages or on
                                              6.   Germany                   16,968           using them here at home. “I was a bit
  According to the Czech Statistical          7.   Moldavia                   8,437           surprised when I discovered that not
Office, more than 406,000 foreigners                                                          even the foremen here at work are
                                              8.   Mongolia                   6,950
were living in the Czech Republic in                                                          able to communicate in English, not to
April 2008. Traditionally the largest         9.   Bulgaria                   5,301           speak of shop assistants or personnel
group – accounting for more than a           10.   USA                        5,136           in ordinary restaurants. One of the
quarter of the foreigners in the country                                                      first things I learned in the Czech Re-

     public was that I had to learn at least
     a bit of Czech,” says Oyunzul Dergelkg-
     bulag, who comes from Mongolia.
        But it is not easy for foreigners
     to learn Czech. It has a complicated
     grammatical structure and mastering
     the correct pronunciation is very
     tricky for anyone who did not grow up
     speaking it in childhood. “It’s more
     difficult than I’d expected. I have to
     work very hard at it. I’m enrolled in a
     language course. I try to read Czech
     newspapers and to speak Czech at
     home with my kids. I have to master
     it,” says Tran Auyc Tri. Without Czech
     he can’t fulfil his dream of starting
     up a business in the Czech Republic:
     in accordance with the latest amend-
     ments to the Trade Act, every busi-
     nessman has to have in his shop,
     restaurant, workshop or stand (during
     business hours) at least one person
     able to communicate in Czech.

       A      good knowledge of Czech is
     also a necessity if an individual wants
     to be employed with a Czech firm in
     a job corresponding to his qualifica-

                                                           tions. This was something experienc-                     Czech scepticism towards
                                                           ed by Henryk Zabrocki, from Poland.                             foreigners
                                                           At home he worked for an insurance
                                                           company, but here in the Czech                         Insofar as something in the be-
                                                           Republic he found a better paid job in              haviour of Czechs bothers foreigners,
                                                           the Kierkert factory at Přelouč in east-            it is the former’s reserve and standoff-
                                                           ern Bohemia, where he is involved                   ishness. At least at the beginning,
                                                           with the production of automobile                   most Czechs are somewhat mistrust-
                                                           locks. As a Pole he understands Czech,              ful of foreigners, especially in small
                                                           while Czechs have no problem when                   towns where foreigners are uncom-
                                                           he speaks Polish with them. But if he               mon. This is something felt particu-
                                                           wants to do more responsible work at                larly by Asians and Blacks, whose ap-
                                                           a higher salary, he has to learn Czech.             pearance makes it clear at first sight
                                                           “I got a textbook and I’ve enrolled in              that they are not locals.
                                                           a language course. I’m capable of                      “The first few months at work I felt
                                                           more than just working at a conveyor                like a pariah. No one talked to me
                                                           belt,” he explains.                                 more than they had to, and when I
                                                              Lyudmyl and Oleksandr Tyahur, a                  came into the changing room at the
                                                           married couple from the Ukraine who                 workshop, conversation suddenly
                                                           want to settle permanently in the Czech             stopped. Over time things got a bit
                                                           Republic, agree that the Czech lessons              better. That was when I realized that
                                                           they took have paid off. Thanks to their            for the most part Czechs are not very
                                                           improved Czech, they have moved up                  open among themselves,” says Tran
                                                           at Foxconn from working at the con-                 Auyc Tri, speaking about his experi-
                                                           veyor belt to better-paid jobs in the               ence in Blansko.
                                                           quality-control section. “Without Czech
                                                           this would never have happened. Now
                                                           we’ve rented a flat and if the autho-
                                                           rities give us a residence permit we’ll
                                                                                                                 W     orkers from countries of the
                                                                                                               former Soviet Union are even worse
                                                           take out a mortgage and buy something               off here. They’re easily recognizable
                                                           of our own. We want to live here for                because of their distinctive accent.
                                                           good, for our children to be born here,”            Some Czechs have still not forgiven
                                                           says Oleksandr Tyahur.                              them for the occupation of Czechoslo-

     The largest Asian community in the Czech Republic comes from Vietnam; already back in the Communist era
28   they were well established as vendors of footwear and inexpensive textile products.
                                                                                                     meals at company canteens and an
                                                                                                     extra week of vacation.

                                                                                                        W     hen problems do arise with
                                                                                                     the authorities or in connection with
                                                                                                     the law, in most cases these involve
                                                                                                     individuals who are employed illegal-
                                                                                                     ly. This is the case of a Ukrainian
                                                                                                     worker who refused to give her name.
                                                                                                     “I worked alongside another thirty or
                                                                                                     so Ukrainians and Belarusians for an
                                            is enforced. For example, employees                      agency involved with the construction
                                            have a right to a minimal twenty days                    industry – it’s owned by a group of
                                            of vacation a year and during vacation                   Ukrainian and Belarusian business-
                                            they continue to be paid (on the basis                   men. No one ever signed a contract
                                            of their average monthly pay). Other                     with us. We had to pay them 4,000
                                            provisions concern the working hours,                    crowns for a permit to stay in the
                                            which are strictly fixed, as is the min-                 Czech Republic and a work permit
                                            imal period between two shifts.                          here. We lived in an isolated hostel
                                              In addition, foreigners in the Czech                   and worked sixteen-hour shifts. When
                                            Republic have the right to health care                   I realized how badly the firm was
                                            and sickness benefits and, after work-                   exploiting me, I escaped and arranged
                                            ing a certain number of days, they can                   for a new permit to stay in the country
                                            draw on various forms of support from                    and a new, legal job.”
                                            the state in cases of need. In addition,
                                            some employers offer their employees                                                    Vítězslav Dittrich
                                                                                                                            Most pro lidská práva, o.s.
                                            various other benefits, most common-                                       (an advice centre for foreigners)
                                            ly contributions to travel-related costs,                            Photos: Foxconn, Radek Kalhous, ČTK

vakia in August 1968. “I’m living in a
village near Náchod in northeastern
Bohemia. Every Saturday evening I go
to the local pub. I sit down, drink two
or three beers, have some crisps. At
first it wasn’t easy there. No one spoke
to me, and many people made it very
clear that I wasn’t welcome. Once it
was quite scary. The guys drinking
beer began making all sorts of pointed
comments. But the woman running the
place defended me. She told off every-
one in the room and warned them to
behave properly. She said they should
keep their grudges for Brezhnev, that I
wasn’t the one who’d sent the tanks in
forty years ago. Soon after that the ice
broke, and today I’m on first-name
terms with a lot of the locals,” says the
Ukrainian Boris Malkoskiy.


  From the point of view of the labour
laws and social security, the Czech
Republic is a very hospitable country.
The Labour Code, whose provisions
guide labour relations here and which
applies to foreigners as well, as long
as they are here legally, provides more
or less the same benefits to employers
and employees. The state sees that it

                                            Firms like Foxconn benefit from tax breaks introduced to encourage investment in the Czech Republic.
                                            It is expected that in future similar measures will induce them to migrate further “east”.                     29
      “I Enjoy Great Dramas”
                 says the reporter Petra Procházková
        The Czech journalist and author Petra                                                                   for blind children in Afghanistan and the
     Procházková spent eleven years in Russia                                                                   training of Afghan doctors to be able to
     and five years in Afghanistan as a war cor-                                                                carry out this operation.
     respondent. She is now 43, and as she points
     out, she has spent a third of her life “stum-                                                              It would seem that Czechs have some-
     bling about in the trenches”. While moni-                                                                  times found it difficult to accept your
     toring the Georgian-Abkhaz war she was                                                                     rather controversial personality.
     kidnapped. In Chechnya she earned a very
     large sum of money from the sale of her                                                                       You’re right. Sometimes their reaction to
     photos of public executions to international                                                               my humanitarian activities is “Hmm, there
     agencies. She then used the money to set up                                                                must be something behind that.” And they
     a children’s home in war-torn Grozny.                                                                      speculate about embezzlement, family ties
                                                                                                                … Or someone will say “Well, I wouldn’t

       S     he was involved in the establishment
     of the humanitarian organization Berkat
                                                                                                                have any trouble either in living in Afghan-
                                                                                                                istan for a few years and then going around
                                                                                                                giving talks.” I just tell them to get off their
     (Chechen for mercy, happiness), which at                                                                   butts and go there.
     first helped families hard hit by the war in
     Chechnya. The association gradually ex-                                                                    Czechs certainly don’t hold back when
                                                        “In Kabul they gave me this monster to look after …
     panded its activities, which now include a          a dog raised for dog fights. He’s not much use for
                                                                                                                it comes to making comments about you
     programme focused on corneal transplants                   guarding homes – he likes people.”              in internet discussions and chats. They

                                       Procházková in war-torn Chechnya, seeking information on people’s most pressing needs.
Petra Procházková (right), Afghanistan, Shamali Plain, 2002
                                                                                                                           “A war reporter is faced with the
                                                                                                                        issue of how much to present human
                                                                                                                        poverty and violence. It makes much
                                                                                                                        more sense to offer a story that
                                                                                                                        moves the viewer. So that that mi-
                                                                                                                        ddle-aged man sitting in front of
                                                                                                                        the TV set at least doesn’t stuff that
                                                                                                                        sausage in his mouth.”
                                                                                                                                    Petra Procházková
                                                                                                                                           journalist and author
                                                                                                                                                     (born 1964)

     claim, for example, that when you work-                                                                             There’s a humanitarian organization in
     ed as a journalist in Chechnya you took                                                                         the Czech Republic called People in Need, a
     the side of the Chechens.                                                                                       group I stand in awe of – I believe in what
                                                                                                                     they’re doing and admire how they work.
        To a certain extent I’m paying for my col-                                                                   The other large humanitarian organizations
     league Jaromír Štětina, who was a publicist-                                                                    don’t have my one hundred percent trust.
     anti-correspondent – his views were more                                                                        They spend too much on administration,
     extreme than mine. Today he’s a member of                                                                       for example – things like that. When I’d
     the Czech Senate, and since I’m still in the                                                                    made a bundle of money in the war, I had
     newspaper business I take the rap for him too.                                                                  no idea what to do with it. I didn’t have a
        In fact we’d said in advance that we’d be                                                                    family, so I travelled – I lived in Hong Kong,
     reporting from the Chechen front. It wasn’t                                                                     in Nairobi, in New Zealand, I had no cares
     possible to cover the whole sector objective-                                                                   in the world.
     ly. We were honest in admitting that we were                                                                        And then came a strange period in
     only offering a slice of reality. For example,                                                                  Chechnya. First we hit a mine while travel-
     we arrived in the town of Shali and simply                                                                      ling in a convoy – I literally caught our
     described what we saw there, nothing more.               The village of Childochtaron, where the local women    driver dying in my viewfinder. My colleague
                                                               sew and embroider traditional Afghan clothes for
        We were Epicentrum, an agency consist-                Berkat, which the group sells in the Czech Republic,   Jaromír Štětina was no longer travelling
     ing of two renegade journalists with a single                   with profits flowing back to Afghanistan        to the region: because of his earlier work
     car, not CNN. Because we lived alongside                                                                        there, the place had got too hot for him.
     civilians in Chechnya, quite naturally we                caring a lot and being so committed, I’m               I had a strong sense that I wasn’t getting
     experienced the same things they did.                    reproaching them for something. I go some-             any response to my work, that I was too
     Reporting from the place where something                 where and people start saying “You know,               far away from my readers. So I took the
     is happening is something more than just                 we’d like to do something, to help in some             money I’d earned and put it into building a
     information – it’s also emotion, and do you              way, but we can’t, because …” And they                 children’s home. And it started to function
     really think there’s any way for emotion to              start defending themselves. But I couldn’t             right away, the children got food to eat, new
     be objective?                                            care less whether they give something to               clothes, toys and they were happy. People
                                                              charity, whether they help or don’t help – it’s        in Need began to send me supplies they had
     But there must also be some deeper                       their choice. I’ve got lots of good friends            left over from their humanitarian work. As
     reason why Czechs view you as a contro-                  who haven’t given me a penny for my proj-              a way – an official way – of ensuring these
     versial person.                                          ects. Reproaches and charity simply don’t              were delivered, my friend Jana Hradílková
                                                              go together.                                           and I set up Berkat. Our idea was as fol-
       People have the unjustified feeling that                                                                      lows: whether we invest time or money in it,
     I’m placing a mirror before them. That by                How did you set up Berkat?                             it’s a win-win situation, for us and for the

     “The Orient ... is continuous bargaining.” Procházková in the village
     of NauNioz, the site of Berkat’s sewing an embroidering project

     others. And that’s how it worked out: in
     my case, it brought great happiness, a huge
     change in my life.

     What are you involved in now?

        We came up with something that helps
     finance corneal transplants for the blind
     in Afghanistan. Old women here in senior
     citizens’ homes, people in psychiatric clinics
     and others sew charming dolls for us. We
     then get them signed by well-known public
     figures – former President Havel, Minister
     of Defence Vlasta Parkanová – and sell
     them at auctions. And the result is that
     two people are happy – not only the blind
     person we’ve selected for a new cornea,

                                                                                                        but also the woman who sewed the doll
                                                                                                        in the senior citizens’ home.

                                                                                                        Are there any special features of your
                                                                                                        approach to charity work?

                                                                                                           When we started up we fitted in perfect-
                                                                                                        ly with the social climate at the time. There
                                                                                                        were many women around forty here in the
                                                                                                        Czech Republic that wanted to help those
                                                                                                        in need. For example, in 2001 I went into
                                                                                                        a pub and suddenly a man approached me
                                                                                                        and said “You’re Procházková? My wife’s
                                                                                                        a great admirer of yours, so here’s 2,000
                                                                                                        crowns – I’ll tell her I gave it to you and
                                                                                                        she’ll be happy.” And I said “But what
                                                                                                        about the tax-man, where should I send the
                                                                                                        receipt?” and he just laughed: “I know
                                                                                                        you’ll find a good use for it.”
                                                                                                           Berkat wasn’t set up as an organization
                                                                                                        but more as a group of like-minded people.
                                                                                                        I prefer coming together like that rather
                                                                                                        than setting up an organization.
                                                                                                           Then we had to take on some employees.
                                                                                                        One, two, ten … until we finally reached
                                                                                                        thirty-five. Now we have an organization
                                                                                                        with a fixed working day, and all the time
                                                                                                        we’re trying to deal with the fact that some
                                                                                                        people want to get together rather chao-
                                                                                                        tically in the name of charity and fool

     One of the women from the village of Fakiro not far from Kabul, who sews and embroiders clothing
32   for the Berkat project.
                                                     A primitive type of heater used in Afghan villages:       Procházková was in at the birth of the Adzhamal
                                                     the mountain people put glowing coals or charcoal         project: corneal transplants have given back their
                                                     into the clay vessel.                                     sight to dozens of Afghans.

                                                     with the international Hanno R. Ellen-                    How did the project for corneal trans-
                                                     bogen Citizenship Award, chose you as                     plants in Afghanistan begin?
                                                     its recipient.
                                                                                                                  One time a person by the name of Marta
                                                       I always admired Ms Albright, I circled                 Nollová called me up by satellite phone in
                                                     round her when she was involved in Russian                Kabul. She said “They kicked me out every-
                                                     negotiations, shouted out at her in Czech                 where, now you’re my only hope.” What
                                                     [editor’s comment: Madeleine Albright, neé                had happened was that she’d seen a picture
                                                     Marie Jana Korbelová, was born in Pra-                    of a blind young Afghan boy in a newspaper
                                                     gue], and so on. It was amazing to observe                and decided that she’d save him. And I was
                                                     her negotiations back then with Russian                   supposed to find him. We spent a number
                                                     Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov – it was                of years in the attempt and in the end we
                                                     a concert, they both had a certain noblesse.              really did find him – his name’s Adzhamal.
                                                     So she was presented with the award, which                It’s a strange paradox that even though he
                                                     involved the opportunity to present a sum of              was the inspiration for a major project that
                                                     around 6,000 euros to whoever she chose.                  has given back their sight to dozens of
                                                     And she chose me.                                         Afghans, medical science can’t help him.
                                                                                                                  At an early stage Dr. Martin Filipec be-
What kind of contacts do you have with                                                                         came part of the project. He protested:
Chechnya these days?                                                                                           “Don’t be crazy! There’s no point in bring-
                                                                                                               ing those children here – I’ll go to Afghanistan
   Jana Hradílková manages to travel there                                                                     and do all the operations there.” Ms Nollová,
on a regular basis. She’s in charge of all our                                                                 a technician at a business school, who lives
Chechnya-related activities (my field is                                                                       in a block of flats in Prague and whose
more Afghanistan). In Chechnya, in addi-                                                                       greatest asset is her ordinary decency, was
tion to the standard humanitarian work, we                                                                     the one who started the project on her own
help people who aren’t even able to stand                                                                      initiative. Isn’t that fantastic?
in a queue for flour. This is a category of                                                                       Thanks to her, the Czech Republic was
people who simply can’t manage to make it                                                                      the first country in the world to carry out
for the usual help. They have mental pro-                                                                      a transplant in Afghanistan. Today the
blems, they’re confused or isolated. There                                                                     Afghans do it themselves. Professor Filipec
aren’t many of them, but aid has to be                                                                         went there, operated on around seventy
brought to them. Large organizations can’t                                                                     people and taught five Afghan doctors there
afford to do this. Two full days of work for                                                                   the surgical techniques needed. And it all
only three families – that doesn’t look very                                                                   began when Ms Nollová sent a crumpled up
good in the charts they create to prove                                                                        one-dollar bill to me in Afghanistan.
how efficient they are. But this is how we                                                                        In order to keep enjoying Berkat, I want to
distribute aid to crazy and helpless people                                                                    bring together various people with various
scattered about in the cellars of Grozny.                                                                      crazy ideas and see what comes of it. It’s a
That’s why we began to call the project                                                                        challenge: to transplant corneas in Afgha-
“Podvalshchitsi” – cellar people. Today                                                                        nistan, when some groups in the society are
they fall under what’s called Friendly Aid.                                                                    dead set against it and the whole thing is one
We find a specific Czech family and it                                                                         great drama. That’s what I enjoy.
becomes the sponsor of a specific Chechnya
family. This is very important – it’s a ques-                                                                  Thank you very much for the interview,
tion of the principle of mutual cooperation.                                                                   and we hope that your ideas will continue
                                                                                                               to meet with success.
Not long ago former American Secretary                                                                                                              Jakub Šmíd
of State Madeleine Albright, presented                                                                          Photos: Iva Zímová, Petry Procházková’s archives

                              During her travels around Afghanistan, Petra Procházková also visited a psychiatric clinic in Kabul,
                                                            whose patients include drug addicts.                                                                    33
                                                                                                                 Hence the academy is nominating him for
             The Roma                                        Court Finds Communist                               the Nobel Prize in medicine.
                                                                                                                   “We’ll do our utmost to ensure that the
          in Photography                                       Prosecutor Guilty                                 criteria for the Nobel Prize, as set out by its
                                                                                                                 founder, go back to the original idea, which
                                                              A court in Plzeň brought down a verdict
                                                           of guilty in the case of an 86-year-old for-
                                                           mer prosecutor charged with participation
                                                           in the legal murder of the National Socialist
                                                           Member of Parliament Milada Horáková
                                                           in 1950. At the time of the trial, Ludmila
                                                           Brožová-Polednová not only demanded, as
                                                           Communist prosecutor, the death penalty
                                                           for Horáková, but also made inflammatory
                                                           speeches, signed the death sentence and was
                                                           even present at Horáková’s execution.

       Roma as seen by the photographer Viktor Richter
                                                                                                                 was that the Nobel Prize for medicine
        As far back as the nineteenth century pho-                                                               should go to a scientist whose discoveries
     tographs were being made of the Roma as                                                                     have saved human lives,” says the President
     a distinctive Central European minority. They                                                               of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Václav
     appeared fleetingly as a kind of exotic ele-                                                                Pačes. The Academy intends to remind
     ment in Beautiful Times (published in 1895),                                                                world-famous research institutes and well
     a selection of photographs by Rudolf Bruner-                                                                known figures, as well as Stockholm itself,
     Dvořák, one of the founders of photo journal-                                                               of Antonín Holý’s achievements in the
     ism, who called himself a “photographer of                                                                  development of unusually effective medi-
     the informal”. More revelatory explorations                                                                 cines for the treatment of deadly diseases
     came after World War II, with Viktor Richter                                                                such as AIDS and hepatitis B.
     (born 1919). He did not photograph indistinct                                                                 “Holý’s handicap lies in the fact that he’s
     shadows seen from a distance, but instead was                                                               most at home in the lab and refuses to boast
     invited into Roma homes. This was the begin-
                                                                                                                 of his discoveries. He’s a chemist, but his
     ning of a period marked by an enchantment
                                                                                                                 medicines save people’s lives. So does he
     with other ways of life and priorities. This was
     evident not only in the revealing images of                                                                 deserve the prize for chemistry or for medi-
     photographers but also in literary works, for                                                               cine?” asks the daily MFDnes in reporting
     example those by the Romantically-inclined                                                                  Holý’s nomination.
     Bohumil Hrabal. Roma simply seemed attrac-            From Milada Horáková’s trial. By means of a series
     tive because they had no interest in building a       of show trials in which death sentences were handed
     career for themselves and so did not knuckle            down, the Communists consolidated their power
                                                                      in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s.
                                                                                                                     Point-Alpha Award
     under to the totalitarian state.
        Beginning in the 1950s and continuing for             The judge stated that Brožová-Poledno-                  for Václav Havel
     four decades, the sociologist Eva Davidová            vá’s greatest crime was her awareness be-
     (born 1932) assembled a vast archives. Her            fore it started that this was a show trial and
     photographs of Bohemian, Moravian and Slo-            that as a result she knew what the sentence
     vak Roma are unmatched for their realism.             would be from the very beginning. For this,
     A monograph of her work published by Torst            the court imposed an unconditional sen-
     in 2004 offers visual evidence of the changes         tence of six years in prison on the former
     in the life of the Roma after February 1959,
                                                           prosecutor. “Brožová’s case is a counter-
     when the Czechoslovak bureaucracy forced
                                                           part to the sentencing of guards from Nazi
     them to abandon their natural nomadic exist-
     ence (a process that of course also took place        concentration camps. They too are being
     in different ways in other countries in Europe).      brought to justice today, despite their age,”
        In the 1960s Josef Koudelka (born 1938)            said the Director of the Institute for the
     took up the theme. In order to ensure that            Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Pavel Žáček,
     he would be free to return among the Roma             in a recent television appearance.
     – in eastern Slovakia, Bratislava, the southern
     Moravian town of Strážnice, northern Bohe-                                                                     On 30 September 2008 ex-President Vác-
     mia and elsewhere – he showed them the pho-
     tos he had taken of them. If anyone was disple-
                                                              Holý Nominated                                     lav Havel accepted the prestigious Point-
                                                                                                                 Alpha Award for his contribution to Ger-
     ased with what he saw, then he simply tore up            for Nobel Prize                                    man, and European, unification. The German
                                                                                                                 Unity Curatorium presented the award to
     the photograph. Koudelka’s selection of Roma
     photographs first appeared in English in the                                                                Havel at the German Embassy in Prague.
     mid-seventies, and in 1977 in French. A warm-           The Czech Academy of Sciences will                  Earlier recipients have included leading
     ly recommended book devoted to the Roma is            nominate the Czech Republic’s most fam-               world statesmen, among them former So-
     the recently published selection of photo-            ous scientist, Antonín Holý, for the Nobel            viet President Mikhail Gorbachev, former
     graphs by the Czech culture, and which conta-         Prize in 2009.                                        German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and for-
     ins twenty-seven years of the work of the Czech-        As a chemist, Antonín Holý has disco-               mer American President George Bush, all
     Swiss photographer Iren Stehli, Libuna.               vered a whole series of medicines that save           of whom played a part in bringing about the
                                            Josef Moucha   the lives of thousands of people every year.          end of the Cold War.

                                                                                                                   Photo: German Embassy in the Czech Republic

                                                  On Monday 22 September the ambas-
         Awarding                              sador’s body was brought back to the Czech
                                               Republic. The special flight with his re-
                                                                                                      The Republic
        of an Emmy                             mains touched down at Prague’s Ruzyňe                   1918-1939
                                               airport; President Václav Klaus, Prime
                                               Minister Mirek Topolánek and First Deputy
                                               Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar were present
                                               at the non-public memorial ceremony that
                                               took place at the airport.
                                                  Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwar-
                                               zenberg phoned his condolences to the fa-
                                               mily from New York: “Ambassador Žď      árek
                                               always carried out his duties bravely under
                                               the most difficult and riskiest conditions.
                                               His death puts us under an obligation: to
                                               stick to the path, to confront evil and fight
                                               against it.”
                                                  The Czech diplomat had only recently
                                               taken up his position. He survived the first
  This year the Academy of Television          explosion, in which the suicidal bomber
Arts and Sciences (ATAS) made an               had exploded a lorry loaded with 600 kilo-
Emmy award in the area of technology           grams of explosives. However, his fate was
and engineering to a CNN team that in-         sealed by the subsequent explosion of gas
cluded the current Czech Television cor-       in the damaged building.
respondent in China, Tomáš Etzler.
Etzler’s team won the Emmy for de-
veloping and implementing a system for                 The Magion                                 From 28 October 2008 to 15 March 2009
                                                                                               this year’s most important exhibition will
gathering news and sending live broad-
casts without the need for transmission
                                                        Satellite                              be taking place. Organized by the National
                                                                                               Museum, the Senate of the Czech Republic
vehicles. Etzler used this system when
                                                                                               and the Military History Institute, it sets
working as a CNN war correspondent in
                                                                                               out to present the history of the First
Lebanon. Subsequently he spent more
                                                                                               Czechoslovak Republic in its broadest con-
than two years as CNN war correspon-
                                                                                               text. The exhibition aims to introduce vi-
dent in Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. Since
                                                                                               sitors to the atmosphere of the period, illu-
2006 he has been Czech Television cor-
                                                                                               minating not only all the most important
respondent in China.
                                                                                               aspects of the era that Czechs look back to
                                                                                               today with pride but also those events and
   Death of a Czech                                                                            phenomena that have tended to be forgot-
                                                                                               ten. The exhibition will open on the nine-
    Ambassador                                                                                 tieth anniversary of the declaration of an
                                                                                               independent Czechoslovakia and close on
                                                                                               the seventieth anniversary of the death of
                                                                                               Czecho-Slovakia. As part of the exhibition,
                                                                                               visitors will be able to see the “Munich
                                                                                               Agreement”, signed by the leaders of the
                                                  This year marks the thirtieth anniver-       four great European powers of the day –
                                               sary of the launching of the first Czech        Eduard Daladier (France), Neville Cham-
                                               (Czechoslovak) satellite, Magion I. Sent up     berlain (Great Britain), Benito Mussolini
                                               on 24 October 1978, the satellite weighed       (Italy) and Adolf Hitler (Germany). As a
                                               14.5 kilograms and was designed for pro-        result of this document, Czechoslovakia
                                               bing the Earth’s magnetosphere and iono-        was forced to hand over its border regions
                                               sphere. Hence the name Magion. The satel-       to Germany and other neighbouring states.
                                               lite, constructed in the ionosphere division    To this day, Czechs regard the Munich
                                               of the Geophysical Institute of the Czech       Agreement as a betrayal, convinced that
                                               Academy of Sciences in Prague, operated         on 9 September 1938 the great powers
                                               for longer than had originally been planned.    “sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler”.
                                               It fell silent just before disintegrating          Today, seventy years after the “Munich
                                               in the thick layers of the atmosphere on        diktat”, the German Foreign Office has
                                               10 September 1981. Between 1989 and             agreed to lend this unique document to the
  The Czech Ambassador to Pakistan, Ivo        1996 four further satellites of the same        Czech Republic. For the first time, the
Žďárek, died tragically on 20 September        name, weighing from 50 to 70 kilograms,         Czech National Museum will be putting on
2008 in the suicide attack on the Marriott     were constructed and sent into space. All       display all four original pages of the agree-
hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.     were guided from the telemetry station          ment, only one copy of which exists, writ-
At least 52 others also perished as a result   at the Panská Ves observatory in northern       ten in German, typed, and with a red stamp
of the attack.                                 Bohemia.                                        declaring it to be a secret document.

     “So bark! You’re a dog!”
                           or, A Reporter in Female Dress
        In 1911 the famous Circus Henry                                                                                 Like many women longing for
     set up its tents in Prague on Charles                                                                           a more intellectual role rather than
     Square. The internationally famous                                                                              labouring over a stove or pursuing
     company employed a number of local                                                                              “genteel” crafts, Fastrová chose a
     artistes for the programme: popular Pra-                                                                        teaching career. After two years in the
     gue songwriter and cabaret performer                                                                            teaching profession she decided to
     Karel Hašler entertained the public                                                                             marry, and so she had to leave her
     from the hump of a camel with his                                                                               post: the laws of the day only enabled
     “Prague, Mother of Cities”. In the re-                                                                          single women to be teachers or state
     frain of the song, which caught on quick-                                                                       employees. Her mother was not happy
     ly with the public, he cast an ironic eye                                                                       when Olga introduced her to her
     upon the fame of a woman widely                                                                                 fiancé, Otto Faster. The young man
     known under the pseudonym Yvonna.                                                                               came from a respected and affluent
     The amused people of Prague were well                                                                           Prague family, but he had abandoned
     aware of the woman he was referring                                                                             the career of businessman that his
     to: the first Czech female professional                                                                         parents expected him to follow and
     journalist, Olga Fastrová, who had in-                                                                          opted instead for the world of theatre.
     vaded what was previously an ex-                                                                                While courting Olga he was celebrat-
     clusively male profession. In doing so                                                                          ing his first success with a theatre
     she attracted a great deal of malicious                    Portrait photograph of Olga F. by the popular        revue celebrating the Czechoslavonic
     comment, criticism and even ridicule.                       J. Schumpeter studio in Prague-Vinohrady            Ethnographic Exhibition, that year’s

             On a trip to Venice, in front of St Mark’s Cathedral with a friend              Otto Faster in an arranged photograph, during his recovery from a serious
36    (probably Bohdan Pavlů, Slovak journalist and diplomat and later Czechoslovak                 bout of pneumonia in an Upper Austrian spa near Ebensee
                                 Ambassador to Bulgaria)
The always energetic journalist absorbed in the daily press
                                                                                                                                The media
                                                                                                                             “As a journalist, you were creative
                                                                                                                           in the best sense of the word,
                                                                                                                           blazing an independent, successful
                                                                                                                           new trail, so your work was also

                                                                                                                                From a citation in honour of Czech
                                                                                                                            journalist Olga Fastrová (1876 – 1965)
                                                                                                                                            on her sixtieth birthday

      most popular attraction in Prague.                                                                                also translated and adapted more than
      He began to help produce the leading                                                                              forty plays.
      theatre magazine Thalia, which he                                                                                    Even so it was mainly financial rea-
      soon took over completely, but at no                                                                              sons that transformed her in 1907 into
      profit to himself.                                                                                                Yvonna. Under her elegant new pseu-
                                                                                                                        donym Fastrová added a new column

         T   he unemployed Olga Fastrová
      began helping her husband in his work
                                                                                                                        entitled “Fashion” to the conservative
                                                                                                                        daily Narodní politika (National Po-
                                                                                                                        litics). It soon became very popular:
      – she took responsibility for Thalia’s                                                                            Yvonna’s column was a must for any
      paperwork and subsequently helped in                                                                              woman who wanted to be chic and
      a variety of ways in the production of                                                                            elegant in Prague. The whole feminine
      the periodical Divadelní listy (Theatre                                                                           world read her articles about the latest
      Journal), which her husband had                                                                                   news from Paris, the fashion capital of
      founded. She saw to the accounts as                       Olga F. as a widow with her three daughters (after
                                                                                                                        Europe. The rationally-minded jour-
      well and watched helplessly as her                       1907, in J. Schumpeter‘s studio in Prague-Vinohrady)     nalist, however, was the last one to
      husband sunk what was left of his                                                                                 approve of women spending too much
      inherited wealth in the money-losing                                                                              of the family budget on female vanity.
      magazine. In 1907, just when it was                                                                               The articles in her column put the
      finally beginning to do better, he died                                                                           practical perspective first, a priority
      at the age of 35 from tuberculosis.                                                                               clearly reflected in the title of one
         Fastrová was left alone, with three                                                                            of her lectures for the Central Asso-
      daughters. To support them she would                                                                              ciation of Czech Women: “Fashion
      have to get busy. While her husband                                                                               and taste, harmony in the family
      was still alive she had begun to con-                                                                             income”.
      tribute to Divadelní listy with reviews
      of Prague premieres, reports on the
      German-language theatre in Prague
      and premieres in Austria and in Paris,
                                                                                                                          I n 1908 she began editing a maga-
                                                                                                                        zine entitled Česká domácnost (The
      feuilletons, portraits of actors and                                                                              Czech Household); a year later she
      obituaries. In 1904 she edited the new                                                                            took on Dámské besedy (Ladies’ Dis-
      fortnightly Vesna, focusing on the                                                                                cussions). When she became a regular
      problems of Czech women. She trans-                                                                               member of the editorial board at Ná-
      lated from French and German; be-                                                                                 rodní politika in 1910, she also be-
      sides novels and short prose works she                                                                            came the first woman to enter the pro-

                                     Olga F. with her daughter Ludmila in the French Alps on the Mer de Glace glacier near Chamonix, July 1926
                            With friends in the famous Prague Functionalist café Mánes, May 1941 (Olga F. at right, beneath the star)

     fession in the Czech-speaking world,                                                                       Yvonna became almost a literary stereo-
     the archetypal Czech woman journal-                                                                        type, characterizing a certain era and
     ist. For 27 years she edited the Sunday                                                                    a certain social class. The emerging
     supplement. Besides the “Fashion”                                                                          high-spirited Bohemian avant-garde
     section, she introduced right at the                                                                       saw in her a perfect target for satire
     beginning the first regular column                                                                         and caricature. But the song mentioned
     devoted to social issues from a female                                                                     at the beginning of this article was
     perspective and wrote her own feuil-                                                                       not the only shot taken at her from
     letons. Her columns were among the                                                                         the cabarets. For a long time she also
     paper’s most widely read.                                                                                  served as an object of ridicule on the
                                                                                                                part of those with an aversion to things

       S    omewhat paradoxically, Olga
     Fastrová won her greatest fame in a
                                                                                                                new. Where needed, however, the
                                                                                                                always sophisticated Fastrová was
                                                                                                                able to face down the jeers without
     field that she only entered into in                                                                        flinching: an inappropriate jest at her
     order to make a living, and one that                                                                       expense by Karel Hašler in her pres-
     did not reflect her highest literary                                                                       ence at Prague’s Cabaret Montmarte
     aspirations: her novels and stories,                                                                       she brushed off with the remark:
     mostly autobiographical in nature,                                                                         “You’re not a man, you’re a street
     were by no means ground-breaking,               braved the vicissitudes of life with                       urchin. Smacking you in the face
     and from the literary point of view             her children.                                              would be like giving a medal to you.”
     none of them rose above the conven-                Under other circumstances the world                     Her friend Ema Destinnová also
     tional. But with the introduction of            of fashion would have interested her                       encouraged her to look on the funny
     a new women’s section in Národní                little more than life on the Moon.                         side of things when she wrote from
     politika she not only became one of             However, as a passionate traveller she                     London, “Don’t get angry if someone
     the most prominent reporters at the             saw in Paris that the subject of fashion                   barks at you from time to time,”
     most widely-read newspaper at that              was becoming an integral part of the                       humorously adding some lines from
     time. She also became the fashion               newspapers there. Here was an oppor-                       the Czech poet Viktor Dyk: “Rabid
     dictator of the age, so to speak. The           tunity to make a living and get ahead.                     beast, coming after me, barking, bark-
     foremost literary critics of the day            She was the first in the Czech lands                       ing – so bark! You’re a dog!”
     praised her feuilletons, in which they          to write regularly about fashion and
     espied talent and a ready pen; they             she lived to see the day when no daily                                         Petra Štěpánková-Ježková
                                                                                                                            Department for Czech Theatre Studies
     bowed to the power of her personality           newspaper could get by without a fa-                                                Theatre Institute, Prague
     and the courage with which she “so              shion section. However, popularity has                              Photos: Archives of the Museum of Czech
     smoothly, elegantly and humorously”             always had its flip side. The name                                                       Literature in Prague

                                                       A portrait photograph from J. Schumpeter’s studio

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