Email interview: Jan Kavalír interviews Josef Čermák (E-mailový rozhovor: Jan Kavalír zpovídá Josefa Čermáka)

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Author: Josef Cermak ( PLUS)


Q.: When did you emigrate to Canada and why? Was it entirely for political reasons? And why Canada?

A. I left Czechoslovakia (on my knees, secretly, “over the hillocks”) with my blacksmith friend Lada Dufek on October 28, 1949 (we were selfishly counting on the police raging in Prague). ‘Our’ ship, ‘U.S.A.T. Le Roy Eltinge’ arrived in Canada (in Halifax) on April 23, 1949. That ship wasn’t completely ‘ours’ but we Czechoslovaks formed a formidable group: 113 people. Continue reading

Czechoslovakia: The State that Failed (Československo, stát, který zklamal)

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Czechoslovakia: The State That FailedAuthor: Josef Cermak ( PLUS)

The author of the book “Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed”, Mary Heinmann, is an American historian teaching at the Strathclyde University in Scotland. Her book was published by the Yale University Press.

According to the review (an example of how reviews should be written) in the Economist (Nov.21, 2009), Ms Heinmann sees the former Czechoslovakia as a political entity which was born out of trickery and died in failure; as an artificial creature, essentially a fraud, and the wily duo responsible for the fraud, Tomas Masaryk and Edward Benes, who duped the victorious Western allies into creation of a new country, which ignored the interests of all ethnic groups (particularly the Germans) except Czechs and Slovaks; its treatment of the Sudeten Germans in the first republic as the ultimate cause of the first Czechoslovak republic’s downfall and (together with reparations imposed on Germany) in large part responsible for the Second World War; following the Munich agreement, it engaged in anti-Semitism, which – in her view – was simply continuation of existing tendencies; and the work of Edward Benes and Jan Masaryk during the Second World War she sees as a story of Czech guile and Western gullibility, while describing the three postwar years before the communist seizure of power as a horrible period of racial revenge, rape, robbery and deportation inflicted on guilty and blameless Germans alike. And the Prague Spring was simply a by-product of a factional fight in the Communist Party. Continue reading

A Unique Way to Compare Historic and Current Prague (Unikátní způsob pro porovnání historické a aktuální Prahy)

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Would you like to see how Prague used to look like 100 years ago? You may want to go to the website below that shows authentic Prague photos and compares them to real paintings by the Czech artist Jan Minarik (1862 – 1937). The website is well done and easy to use, and allows you to move a bar in the middle of the photo to look at the old painting or the most recent photographs. You will be able to see places such as Havelsky trh, Kaprova and Maiselova Street, Charles Bridge, the National museum building, and many other beautiful places in the capital of the Czech Republic. You will be able to explore a total of 29 photograph/paintings and see, in some cases, dramatic changes in the landscape, and building sizes and orientation. Continue reading

The Velvet Revolution and how the Czech public perceives it today (Sametová revoluce a jak to dnes vidí česká veřejnost)

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Ilustrace pro © František FrK KratochvílReaders of PLUS have been following a series on what foreign radios broadcasted in last weeks of the totalitarian regime and the early days of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. As the recent surveys have shown, it was the media and especially foreign radio broadcasts that had a major impact on sharing information with the Czech and Slovak population. This was confirmed by 86% of respondents in the research, which was done early in the autumn of this year by the staff from the Center for Public Opinion Research (part of the Institute of Sociology of the Cs. Academy of Sciences). Miroslav Sigl was invited to the final data presentation from the investigation of a large sample of 1046 respondents from the age of 15 and older. Continue reading

Pilsen…Ottawa….The story o two monuments to the victims of Communism (Příběh dvou památníků obětem komunismu)

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Obětem zlaAuthor: Josef Cermak ( PLUS)

The garden of his soul

The Pilsen monument is today known as the Meditation Garden of Luboš Hruška (the author of a book on the monument and its creator, Irena Kastnerová, named her book “Luboš Hruška and the garden of his soul”). It is also known as “The Monument to the Victims of Evil.” Originally, it was planned by its creator as a monument to the victims of communism. This is what he wrote about communism in January, 1998: “Even today we still don’t know all the catastrophes caused by communist power in the world. Tens of millions dead and mentally or physically marked, thousands of disrupted families, a ruined environment, crippled economy, but worst of all, sick human souls. Continue reading

Celebrating the anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in Canada (Oslava výročí vzniku Československa v Kanadě)

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Photo by: Michel Karpoff - Boris Krajný & Felix SlováčekOctober 28th is a memorable day in the history of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This year, this day marked the 91st anniversary of the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak state. There were many ceremonies happening on this date all over the world, thus the experience below described by Ladislav Krivanek is just one of many that numerous Czech and Slovak compatriots could experience during this celebration. Did you attend one? Just let us know or learn about a unique concert in Canada or the artists below. Continue reading

Peter Nagy in Australia (Peter Nagy v Austrálii)

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Koncert v Melbourne (Concert in Melbourne)Melodies that bring a smile to your face, clever lyrics and recitation “charged” with a peculiar charm – no wonder that the compatriots in Australia evaluated a concert by Peter Nagy as one of the coolest they have ever experienced here.

Again, I had an opportunity to participate in the implementation of the Melbourne tour, organized in October in Sydney Australia by, as usual, an impresario Peter Vitek. Unlike singers Karel Gott, Helena Vondráčková, Marta Kubišová, and Olympic that we presented to Czech and Slovak viewers living in Australia in the past ten years, a Slovak singer Peter Nagy is not as known in the former exile since the beginnings of his artistic track dates from 1983. Continue reading

The Lives and Fate of Our Compatriots in the World (Životy a osudy našich krajanů ve světě) (1/3)

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Kniha Kdo byl a kdo je kdoAuthor: Miroslav Sígl ( PLUS)

I did not realize how much attention the encyclopedia “Who was and who is” (of Melnik, Kralupy and Neratovice, a region with a total of 76 municipalities) would get. The encyclopedia was published in 2008 by Libri Praha. In its 640 pages one can get to know more than two thousand people. As compatriots they lived or still live, worked or still work abroad. It is commendable that one still remembers them and that many of our towns, villages, schools, institutions or businesses continue to be in contact with them and are met with interest when they visit their native places. Our Czech Institute of Foreign Affairs in Prague pays them great attention, but also the press of foreign countrymen. I briefly mention some of the significant among them, their story is generally very interesting and their remarkable life deserves further interest from the public. Some names are missing some biographical data, I shall welcome (as well as the publisher) any further comments or additional information.

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A Historical Journey in Memory of a Heroic Act (Historická jízda v upomínku na hrdinský čin)

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Exactly 70 years ago hundreds of mostly Jewish Czechoslovak children were saved from their eminent deaths in Nazi concentration camps. All of them and their descendants owe their lives to one man, a Briton named Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized the Winton Train rescue mission from the Czech Republic to Great Britain. Winton, who just recently celebrated his 100th birthday, did not speak about his heroic act for 50 years. Thanks to his wife, the rest of the world could learn about the rail “Czech Kindertransports” that he organized at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The steam train transport reenactment, with some of the now-elderly “Winton children”, brought lots of emotions and awareness to the rest of the world and reminded everybody that even one person’s heroic act can have a great impact on the lives of many others. Continue reading

September 1st – The Slovakian Constitution Day Celebrated (1.září – Den ústavy SR)

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Today Slovakia commemorated another anniversary of the adoption of its Constitution. This binding document was adopted by the Slovak parliament on September 1st, 1992 to establish the independent Slovak Republic. The Czechoslovak Federation was subsequently disbanded on January 1st, 1993. This important day in the Slovak calendar was celebrated in many ways. You could see folklore dances, listen to traditional songs, tour the National Council of the Slovak Republic (the parliament) or the Bratislava castle, or enjoy the evening concert featuring the bands Desmond and Kalinka. The day was concluded by the ceremonial lighting of the Bratislava Castle. Continue reading

Jakub Cermin – a Political Prisoner and a Symbol of Freedom and Humanity (Jakub Čemin – politický vězeň a symbol svobody a humanity)

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The number of people with deep national values and knowledge of Czech and Slovak history over the last half century is shrinking. One of the people that fell in this small margin of the Czech and Slovak population just passed away. Jakub Cermin (May 2nd, 1917 – August 27th, 2009), the former head of the Freedom Fighters, could really say a lot about his life experiences. As a matter of fact, he wrote hundreds of articles reflecting his memories, feelings, views, and hopes about our nation. His blindness, towards the end of his life, however, did not stop him as he still continued in sacrificing his life and dignity for our liberty until his passing. Continue reading

1968 – A Year Without a Summer (1968 – Rok bez léta)

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Today, like every year, Czechs and Slovaks commemorate the infamous anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. On that day the former liberator put an end to Dubcek’s effort to build “socialism with a human face.” The invasion reflected the disapproval of the rebirth of social and political freedom known as “Prague Spring.” On the night of August 20 to 21, 1968, the country was invaded by five Warsaw Pact countries. On that day the Prague Spring ended and was followed by the cold “Brezhnev’s Doctrine” that brought a new chill to the Cold War. The “Détente” was over. Continue reading