This Friday was the 69th anniversary of one of the defining moments of World War II, the destruction of the village of Lidice near Prague by the Nazis on June 10th 1942. Over the next few weeks, the actress Veronika Hyks will be reading from the memories of Jaroslava Skleničková, one of the survivors of the Lidice massacre. David Vaughan introduces the first episode.
When the English translation of Jaroslava Skleničková’s autobiography was published last year, I was approached by Jamie Athill from the British Embassy in Prague, who asked me if I had any idea how it could be promoted. By then I had already read the book, which bears the stark and self-explanatory title, “If I had been a boy, I would have been shot…”, and I knew that it was a powerful and moving account of Jaroslava’s life. As well as the vivid picture it paints of the Lidice tragedy and life in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, the book’s great strength lies in the way Jaroslava puts these events into the context of her life as a whole and reflects, sometimes reaching surprising conclusions, on how they changed her view of the world. Today Jaroslava and her husband Mirek live in one of the houses built in the post-war Lidice, and it was there that they celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary earlier this year.
Jaroslava Skleničková with her husband, photo: David Vaughan
Recently an audio book was made of the original Czech version of Jaroslava Skleničková’s book, and this gave me the idea of doing the same with the English translation. The British actress, Veronika Hyks, herself of Czech origin, came to hear about the project, and without hesitating she flew over to Prague at her own expense to make an audio recording of the book. The resulting CD is currently being put together by the publishing arm of Czech Radio, Radioservis.
In Czech Books over the next few weeks, we shall be hearing an abridged version of the book, as read by Veronika Hyks. Here is the first episode, evoking a pre-war childhood in a typical Czech village.