Lidice children remembered in special art exhibition at UNESCO headquarters in Paris

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Lidice tragedy, the Czech village razed to the ground by the Nazis in 1942 as revenge for the assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich. 340 people were murdered, including 88 children. For the last 50 years, an international children’s art competition has taken place to commemorate the child victims, and now a special exhibition comprised of some of the best entries from over the years has opened in Paris to mark the anniversary.

Photo: Martin Balucha,  Czech Radio

Over 200 pictures painted by children from more than 60 countries around the world are now on display at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The artworks are all prize-winning entries from the last 20 years of the Lidice International Children's Art Competition, which was established to honour the memory of the children murdered in the Czech village of Lidice during WWII. The competition celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Curator Veronika Trubačová says the exhibition is divided into two parts, the first part presenting a selection of the best works from the last 20 years reproduced on banners, and the second part presenting last year’s winners.

“Some of them are presented on textile banners and some are in the original form. This is last year's edition, the 49th year, which was on the theme of robots and artificial intelligence.”

Veronika Trubačová | Photo: Martin Balucha,  Czech Radio

Each year, the competition has a different theme, chosen by the Lidice Memorial in cooperation with the Czech Commission for UNESCO. The topics can be as diverse as music, biodiversity, and happiness. The theme of this year's competition was "museums", eliciting drawings and paintings of mammoths, ships, and archaeological excavations.

On average, the competition receives around 20,000 entries from children in 70-80 countries annually. Curator Veronika Trubačová says that she hopes children from Ukraine will participate in next year’s edition once again.

“There may be children from Ukraine in the Czech Republic or Germany, for example. We'll see – the deadline is February 10th. We'll be very happy if we receive some artworks by Ukrainian children.”

Véronique Roger-Lacan | Photo: Martin Balucha,  Czech Radio

The exhibition commemorates not only the 50th anniversary of the competition, but also the 80th anniversary of the Lidice atrocity itself.

French ambassador to UNESCO, Véronique Roger-Lacan, compares the Lidice tragedy to the events taking place in Ukraine today. Despite this, she says, the ambassadors of some countries still refuse to condemn Russia’s act of aggression.

"Many of them abstain when we ask them to condemn the Russian aggression against Ukraine. At the extraordinary meeting held in March, 33 countries voted to condemn the Russian aggression, but many countries either abstained from voting or did not participate. Among these countries were, for example, China, South Africa and Brazil."

Martin Baxa | Photo: Martin Balucha,  Czech Radio

Czech Culture Minister Martin Baxa, who opened the exhibition, also sees parallels between the suppression of democratic principles in the 1930s which led to the rise of the Nazis, WWII and atrocities such as Lidice, and Russia’s war on Ukraine today.

“What is happening today is, in a sense, a very similar story. The story of a country where normal democratic principles are not functioning, and which can then unleash such incredible aggression as the Putin regime has unleashed in Ukraine.”

This makes the exhibition especially relevant today, says Mr. Baxa, as well as sending an important message that the atrocity which took place 80 years ago has not been forgotten.

“The fact that the exhibition is here at the UNESCO headquarters is a message that we nowadays are not indifferent to the fate of the children of Lidice. It's not just a story from the past.”

The exhibition is running until Friday October 28, 2022.