Posts Tagged ‘Czech Republic’

2:57 pm

St. Agnes Is Losing Her Currency

In an earlier post about Czech currency, I commented upon the fact that St. Agnes of Bohemia is featured on the 50-crown note. Well, her days of currency stardom are numbered. According to this article, the 50-crown note is being phased out in favor of the coin (which does not picture the saint).

I wonder how the Czechs plan to make it up to her?

10:30 am


Today, I visited Lidice, the village destroyed by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

The History in Brief

Reinhard Heydrich died on June 4, 1942 as the result of May 27 attack by Czechoslovak parachuters sent by the government in exile. Hitler ordered reprisals, commanding that, in any village involved in Heydrich’s death, the SS should:

  1. Execute all adult men;
  2. Transport all women to a concentration camp;
  3. Gather the children suitable for Germanization, then place them in SS families in the Reich and bring the rest of the children up in other ways; and
  4. Burn down the village and level it entirely

The choice of Lidice as the victim was somewhat arbitrary: reportedly there was a letter written that suggested some connection between Heydrich’s assassination and the Horák family in Lidice, who had a son serving in the Czechoslovak army in Britain. At any rate, on June 10, the SS descended upon Lidice and carried out the Führer’s orders. 173 Lidice men and boys over the age of 15 were shot in the garden of the Horák farm. The next day, another nineteen men who had been working in a mine, along with seven women, were sent to Prague, where they were also shot. The women were sent to Ravensbruck. The children, except for those selected for re-education in German families and babies under one year of age, were gassed at Chełmno in Poland; 82 died in Chełmno.

The village was burned to ground and the remains dynamited. Even the cemetery was dug up and the remains destroyed.

143 Lidice women (of 184) returned home after the war ended, and a new village was built nearby. By the end of a two-year search, 17 children (of 105) had been restored to their mothers.

The Memorial

If you can ignore the history, the memorial site is quite lovely. The main complex (gloriette, museum, education center, and in memoriam building) is a little bit south of the original village. The gloriette:

The museum has a multi-media exhibition that starts off with a brief film giving a history of Lidice and in particular the events of June 10, 1942. There are pictures and a few remaining artifacts of the village. Just before leaving the exhibition, there’s a film showing interviews with some of the survivors; this film is simply heart-breaking.

From the memorial site, looking north at the former site of the village:

The men’s grave:

The memorial specific to the men’s grave:

"The Woman with a Rose", at the site of the men’s grave:

The remains of the Horák farm, where the men were shot:

The Child Victims of War monument:

People have left stuffed animals and others toys at the monument:

The church was not spared; the museum exhibition has the door, but the rest was destroyed:

"The Grieving Woman" is next to the site of the church:

The school was just in back of the church and its site is marked by the "Mother and Child":

The former cemetery is at the northernmost edge of the former village:

Looking back towards the memorial from the cemetery:

There’s an extensive, quite lovely, and beautifully fragrant rose garden that runs from the memorial site to the site of the new village:

The collection at the Lidice Gallery is the result of efforts by an English doctor, Sir Barnett Stross, who appealed to artists around the world to donate exhibits. The Gallery is also home to the International Children’s Exhibition of Fine Art. The statue in front is described as "(recording) a male nude who is killing three vipers with a gunstock. It epitomizes (maybe German, Italian, Spanish or Japanese) fascism.

The new village is all perfectly ordinary.

I have to wonder, though, about the people who live here: it must be terribly creepy. I remember that, when I visited Terezín, the tour guide mentioned that property prices are very low there, since so few people wish to live in a town with such associations. Is that true here, too?

9:44 am

Svata Dobrotiva

Last year, I joined the pilgrimage to svatá Dobrotivá. This year, I did so again.

The experience was very similar to last year’s: the bus ride to Olešna, where we began our procession:

Then the cross-country procession. I remain amazed that the area surrounding Prague becomes so quickly pastoral on leaving the city:

The Augustinians (with the help of some of sv. Tomáš’s parishioners) are continuing to restore the monastery, with the view of turning it into a family retreat center. They’ve made a fair amount of progress since last year:

But there’s still a good deal more:

The church, too, is only partially restored. The main altar has been finished, of course:

But the side altars and aisles still need work:

3:18 pm

Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day

As International Students Day, November 17 commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the killing of Jan Opletal and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the execution of nine student leaders, over 1200 students sent to concentration camps, and the closing of all Czech universities and colleges.

In the Czech Republic, as Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day, it also marks the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In 1989, a memorial march in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the first International Students Day was organized. Some 15,000 people came out to take part in the solemn march that led from Slavín cemetery at Vyšehrad and was making its way to Václavské náměstí. They were stopped however on Národní třída by members of the State Security Service, who brutally attacked the marchers. This in turn sparked a series of popular demonstrations from November 19 to late December that resulted in the collapse of the Communist government.

There’s a memorial plaque in an arcade on Národní třída. Today it was completely mobbed by people who had come to leave flowers and candles:

I suppose it’s also in keeping with the theme of the day that there is a demonstration, opposing the planned US radar base today. Bring your own candles.

12:40 pm

St. Martin’s Day

Burčák and the late summer vinobraní notwithstanding, November 11, the feast of St. Martin, is when the new vintage makes its debut. In honor of the occasion, there was a "wine festival" in Staroměstské náměstí to introduce the new wine to Prague. There were only a couple of dozen booths, though, and it was rather sparsely attended:

There were maybe a dozen wineries with booths and a smattering of booths selling cheese and other preserved food. And, of course, there were several booths selling food: sausages and bramboráky (potato pancakes) and roasted pork:

And, of course, there was the usual trdelník stand.

I had expected that the vintners would be offering wine tasting, but instead, the wine was being sold by the (.2 liter) glass (as well as by the bottle), so sampling one’s way through the festival was not feasible. Though it does explain why there was so much food available!

The posters for the festival had advertised that St. Martin would make an appearance on his white horse, but alas, I saw neither saint nor horse.

Restaurants have been marking St. Martin’s Day this week with special menus featuring goose and Svatomartinské víno (St. Martin’s wine).

St. Martin and the Geese

According to one legend, St. Martin of Tours was reluctant to become bishop so he hid in a stable filled with geese. The noise made by the geese betrayed his location to the people who were looking for him. Another story has it that a flock of geese interrupted one of his sermons with their honking. In either case, goose as supper is St. Martin’s belated revenge.

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