Vlasta Troblová and Freedom train (Vlasta Troblová a Vlak svobody)

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Twenty-two years ago, on September 21, 1951, at the time of the most brutal communist repression, a driver of a personal train was traveling from Cheb to Aš alongside the German border. Just before reaching Aš, Jaroslav Konvalinka switched to the adjacent track and continued in the new direction until he reached Selb-Ploeszberg in West Germany, which was about 35km from Hof. The train supposed to stop at the border station, but it didn’t. Instead it broke through the Iron Curtain and earned the name the “Freedom train.” It arrived in Selb with the train staff and 111 passengers, who had no idea about the change of the travel plan, and majority of them returned back to the Czechoslovakia. The Toronto Telegram, on October 26, 1951, described this change of the travel plan “as one of the most spectacular escapes from tyranny in modern history.” Continue reading

Ludvík Martinů is changing the world (Ludvík Martinů mění svět)

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Man can change the world in many ways: by planting thousands (or one) trees, by building skyscrapers, by writing a poem, painting a landscape, composing a song. Or by trying to find – and finding – ways how to increase our knowledge about the universe or the human brain or how to do things differently and better. A man we wrote about sometime a year ago, Ludvík Martinů, fits in the last mentioned group. Some of us know, that he is a distinguished scientist; some know him as a member of the Montreal unit of the Sokol Gymnastic Organization, and still others as the husband of Alena, the author of a fascinating book. This brief comment is about Ludvík Martinů, the scientist (and entrepreneur).

He graduated in Prague in 1985 in a mysterious field known as Nanocomposite films formed by metal clusters in dielectric matrices fabricated by a hybrid PECVD process. Continue reading

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs No One Found it within Himself to Apologize (Na ministerstvu zahraničí se nenašel nikdo, kdo by se omluvil)

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Miloš Šuchma (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

Jan Drabek is a Canadian writer born in 1935 in Prague. His father was a prominent Prague lawyer arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. After 1945 his father became the chief prosecutor at the trial of K.H. Frank, boss of the Nazi-controlled Czech Protectorate, who was sentenced to death and executed. After the Communist takeover of February 1948 Drabek´s entire family including Jan’s older brother Jaroslav, escaped to Germany. Later they emigrated to the USA.

Jan Drábek has led a colorful life. In Prague he attended the same high school in Křemencova Street as did many years before the famed actors Voskovec and Werich. He also attended a boarding school in Poděbrady with Vaclav Havel, Milos Forman, Ivan Passer and the Masin brothers as his schoolmates. Continue reading

A summer afternoon at Georgian Bay

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Josef Čermák (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

Canada could hardly complain about being treated by nature miserly. It has been blessed with about one quarter of the world supply of the drinking water. Its size (the second largest in the world) allows it to dedicate huge chunks of land for parks. To its credit, Canada created, on a total land mass greater than all of Germany, a system of 42 national parks (the rain forest of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, The Mountains of Banf Park…), which are to preserve outstanding examples of each of Canada’s 39 natural regions.

One of the 42 national parks is named Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Georgian Bay is a bay of Lake Huron, 220 km long, 100 km wide, covering more than 15,000 sq. km. In its waters dwell and meditate about eternity tens of thousands of islands. Continue reading

Josef Čermák: Four Encounters with H. Gordon Skilling

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(This article was sent to the organizer of the conference, Professor Vilem Prečan. This is his response: „Many thanks for your excellent contribution. It will be posted on the conference website and distributed in written form to all conference participants.”)

I don’t recall when I met Gordon for the first time. Actually, I feel that I sort of knew him always.

68Publishers

It must have been around the time Zdena and Josef Škvorecky arrived in Canada, because I remember how deeply Gordon was involved in the establishment of 68Publishers (Sixty-Eight Publishers), the institution which started with nothing and was to play such an immense role in the survival of the Czech literature during the 40 years of the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. My main involvement was as a lawyer doing the legal work in connection with the incorporation of the charitable corporation which received its charter in 1972 and during its existence published more than 220 titles, after the manuscripts of many of them were smuggled from Czechoslovakia. Continue reading

The visit of the Dalai Lama in Prague – dedicated to Vaclav Havel with love (O návštěvě Dalajlámy v Praze – věnováno Václavu Havlovi)

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Author: Kateřina Erlebachová (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

“What? The Dalai Lama arrives? I have not heard about that!” That was the answer to the SMS sent to a friend from Slovakia who texted me a week before the Dalai Lama arrived in Prague. I immediately began to search the Internet to see if this is correct, because it seemed impossible to me, that such news is not published publicly. I found almost nothing except for pages of Vaclav Havel:

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A Handful of Words for Josef Škvorecký (Hrst slov na rozloučenou s Josefem Škvoreckým)

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The house Zdena and Josef Škvorecký for quite a number of years called their home (and Zdena still does), is located in one of the nicest Toronto residential areas: an area of well-preserved middle-age residences with well-tended gardens and here and there a magnificent old oak (or maple) tree. Škvorecky’s is a truly historical house. Not only because it was a pilgrimage stop for journalists and prominent visitors from the Czech Republic (in February, 1990 – when their native land was still called Czechoslovakia – it witnessed a reception following president Havel’s appearance at the Convocation Hall of the University of Toronto, where he delivered an important speech to several thousands of his countrymen and received an honorary doctorate from the York University); but mainly because it was the editorial and publishing centre of 68 publishers, the most important exile publishing house. It is the house, where the last several years of his life he was cared for by Zdena, and from which he was taken to the hospital, where he died, after just a few days, in the morning hours of January 2, 2012.

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Alena Martinu Enters English Literature (Literární úspěch Aleny Martinů v angličtině)

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Montreal’s Alena and Ludvik Martinu are not just any married couple. Some time ago, we published a piece about Ludvik, a brilliant academician with practical bearings, who is – among other things – presently involved in developing an international research centre at the Mc Gill University. Now Alena, the editor-in-chief of Montreal’s publication Vestnik has decided to show that she, too, received talents from the Fates uncommon. Why did she decide to do so at this particular time?  One of the reasons is quite prosaic: the drawers in her study were overflowing with her manuscripts which she had started to produce many years ago and something had to be done. Why not simply publish some of the manuscripts? And once she decided to publish, Alena, who was born in Czechoslovakia and speaks several languages, chose English as the language of her first published work.

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The Unforgettable Vecernicek Is Not Going Away Anytime Soon (Nezapomenutelný Večerníček ještě nepůjde pryč)

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If you understood the title above, you know we are talking about the short evening children’s series on Czech TV. Vecernicek is the name of a boy (translated: Little Eveninger) that brings short fairytales to  little Czech or Slovak children every evening (“vecer”). During communism, this was a special time for kids, since at that time, the TV program selection was very poor.

Today, Czech and Slovak TV has many shows for children of all ages. Vecernicek is not as popular as it used to be. That is why Czech TV, Ceska Televize, has decided to move this show to their second channel. Continue reading

Tribute to Vaclav Havel (Pocta Václavu Havlovi)

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vaclav-havelToday, the former Czechoslovak and Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has “peacefully” passed away in his sleep in his cottage. He was 75 years old.

Vaclav Havel was the most famous Czech politician in the world. The former playwright, who was a major figure in fight against Communism, later became the president of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic.

His motto: “truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred” will stay embedded in our hearts as well as his contribution to the freedom of all Czechs and Slovaks at home and around the world. We extend our condolences to President Havel’s family. He will never be forgotten.

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