Communist councillors lose hold over north-eastern village for first time ever

The Velvet Revolution may have led to the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989 but it was not until this weekend that the Communists lost their hold over a small village in the north-east of the country. Close to 80 percent of the electorate of Sonov went to the polls to give a new party a chance to bring about change. Dita Asiedu reports:

The little village of Sonov has a little over 300 citizens, is close to the Czech-Polish border, and - stretching along 7km - is the longest village in the region. It is only one of the few villages in the country, where the town council was made up of mainly Communist representatives. But this weekend, a new party "Zmena je Zivot" or "Change is Life", won three of the seven seats in the council (the remaining four seats are split evenly between the Communists and the Social Democrats). So what has led to the residents of a village that was nicknamed "Jakesova Lhota" - after former Communist Party leader Milous Jakes, to call for change? A question I put to Stanislav Pitas the man who will most likely become Sonov's new mayor:

"Those who travel past the town of Broumov admit that Sonov is the worst looking village in the region. Not too long ago, Sonov was called Jakes' village. Some residents were sad because of this, others joked about it, and I was angry. That's why I said 'no more' and decided to re-introduce residents to their village's history to make them proud of Sonov and care about its future. The village once had 2,000 residents and used to be a very lively place."

Stanislav Pitas was a signatory of the Charter 77 human rights declaration. So why did Mr Pitas choose to live in the only village in the region where Communist councillors held a majority?

"I lived in Trutnov but was persecuted by the secret police who wanted me to leave the country. So, I decided to move to a different region to get away. That's how I got to Sonov and I've been a registered resident of this village since 1982. I've been jailed for political reasons three times. When the secret police came to raid my home, the mayor of Sonov protested. The residents too have always given me their support, even under Communism. No matter what I needed help with - be it to mow the lawn or borrow a car."

Stanislav Pitas has ambitious plans for the future, if he is elected mayor:

"I'm not the mayor yet but what I think the village needs is a water supply system. We're the only village that has no water pipes and people here use wells and don't have drinking water. The chapel at the cemetery also needs to be renovated. And we also don't have an internet connection although it's important for us to communicate with the rest of the world. Because of that, Sonov's town hall is located in a neighbouring village in someone's home. That is stupid, isn't it?"