Mailbox

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Today's Mailbox includes Topics: unusually warm weather this winter, Lidice, the Czech town razed by the Nazis 60 years ago, Kromeriz- one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic featured in this year's Radio Prague QSL cards. Quotes from: Nancy Snider, Jack McGovern, Josef Horak, Gordon Blom

Today's Mailbox is, as usual, presented by Olga Szantova and Nicole Klement. And we'll be starting our conversation over listeners' letters with a topic conversations usually start with - the weather. Nancy Snider, from Chicago, USA writes

"My friends, co-workers and neighbours were all exclaiming about the warm temperatures (0 to 15 degrees Celsius) we have had this winter. The general idea was that "something is wrong" and we can expect continued upsets in weather patterns. Has weather been normal in the Czech Republic this winter? If not, are people uneasy about it?"

Well Nancy, the winter season here in the Czech Republic started off beautifully Christmas week was met with lots of snow. So much, in some areas, that snow calamities were announced, roads were shut down and people tried their best to avoid having to leave their homes. Not such a horrible thing when on Christmas vacation. But it was quite an inconvenience since some roads had to be closed.

In fact I was in the mountains of Moravia for that very week. My whole Christmas vacation was spent shovelling snow. Off the roof, off the road, off of walkways. When I left the snow banks were 2 meters high and the snow was still falling.

Wow, did you enjoy the weather at least?

Well of course, the snow was beautiful. And, although it was snowing it was not cold and the snow was fluffy and dry. Beautiful for walking in knee high snow drifts through the forest.

But the weather very quickly changed, didn't it?

Strangely enough - the end of January was unseasonably warm - Prague's meteorological institute recorded record highs for almost a week some of the recorded temperatures shattered 100 year old temperature records.

Oh yes, people took out their spring jackets, put on their sunglasses and the streets were alive with people out enjoying the sun. Everyone was a bit uneasy about the warmth but no one was complaining. It's rare for us to get sunshine in Prague during the winter season.

But Olga, the warm weather wasn't all good news. The heavy snow falls over the Christmas holidays started to melt and river levels began rising which put several regions on flood alert. By the end of January three major rivers had already burst their banks, including the Elbe near the Czech German border, which had flooded the main road between Prague and Decin in North Bohemia.

And that wasn't all was it? Then the country was swept by gale force winds which wreaked havoc in many parts of the Czech Republic. They caused damage to property and claimed one life.

But, this week the weather has returned to normal, many of the river levels have subsided, the temperature has dropped to around zero and the sky is once again grey. So, let's move away from the weather and onto a history question e-mailed to us by Jack McGovern

"I have just read your moving story about the martyrs of Lidice. I cannot understand why no one has ever given it the exposure that it should have, so that the peoples of western Europe who have never heard or read about Lidice and it's suffering should know about it."

I must say that Jack's claim that Lidice has been forgotten surprises me. The fate of the little village burned down by the Nazis on 10th June, 1942, its men killed on the spot and its women and children taken to concentration camps was such an event in the life of my generation, that we can't forget it. But has that really changed. Radio Prague's editor in chief David Vaughan has spent much time studying the fate of Lidice and writing about it. He is now working on a film on the topic and last year he won the Czech Republic's main radio award for a documentary on Lidice. So, David, what do you think - is Lidice forgotten, unknown nowadays?

I think that Lidice is largely forgotten in the English speaking world, but that certainly wasn't the case just after the massacre happened, because the Germans made no secret of what they'd done, in fact they really blew their own trumpet and took pride in telling the world of the atrocities they had committed. At the time there was a great deal of solidarity in Britain and America with the people of Lidice.

But this is 60 years ago.

This is 60 years ago, but the wave was so strong that, for example, a very large initiative was set up in Britain - "Lidice Shall Live" - which raised a lot of money to help re-build Lidice after the war. There were several towns and villages in the United States and in other parts of America, including Latin America that were re-named after Lidice and there was this very strong sense of solidarity. Lidice was a mining village, and miners throughout the world felt a very strong sense of solidarity with the people of Lidice at the time. I think that one of the reasons why Lidice was forgotten was because of the Cold War. The Communist authorities in Czechoslovakia turned Lidice into something like the symbol of the battle of the Czechs against imperialism and I think this is another reason why the iron curtain really cut off the West from the memory of Lidice. But I do believe that now, gradually, Lidice is re-discovering its place both in the hearts of Czechs, who were also affected by the distortions that the Communists brought about, and also in the West now that the borders are open.

So, will it be re-discovered, are we coming back to the fate of Lidice?

I think there will be lots more talk about Lidice and it won't be tainted by all the ideological baggage that was there at the time of the Cold War. But I think there have been so many other atrocities recently, you only have to look at the similar atrocity in Srebrenica in Bosna-Herzegovina that Lidice will inevitably, not disappear entirely, but will fade from the foreground in public awareness.

Is there anything Radio Prague intends to do to stop that?

Well, certainly on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the destruction of Lidice we will be broadcasting a special feature. We have, in the course of recent months, discovered several interesting things in the Czech Radio archives as well, which I hope we will be able to use in our feature for the anniversary. I think it's very important to draw attention, even 60 years later to what happened in Lidice.

That was Radio Prague's editor in chief, David Vaughan. Thanks for joining us in Mailbox.

And by the way, I'm not so sure that Lidice really is forgotten. Just one example, an e-mail from Josef Horak

"Please can you advise me if there will be any events to mark the anniversary of the destruction of Lidice this year, as I would very much like to attend when we visit."

And we'll certainly be coming back to the topic as the anniversary of the destruction of Lidice draws near. For now, then so much for history.

No, we're staying on the topic of historic monuments, because it's time to look at yet another historic QSL card in this year's series from Radio Prague. The 8 verification cards we are sending listeners this year show some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic and each week in Mailbox we talk about one of them, so that listeners, who receive the cards will know what the picture on it shows.

And today we'll take a look at the card that features the castle and gardens in the South Moravian town of Kromeriz.

Ever since the 13th Century the Kromeriz castle was the residence of the bishops of Olomouc. It was re-built a couple of times, but it underwent the most profound changes in the early 16th Century, and the Renaissance style introduce then has been maintained until this day.

The interior of the castle is really beautiful, especially its picture gallery and the historic hall, but I think the most precious place is the flower garden, a very unique and well kept example of landscaping.

I've heard how beautiful it is, and I'm sorry I've never had a chance to see it - and now I won't, certainly not during this stay in the Czech Republic.

Yes, I'm sorry to say that your stay with us in Radio Prague is ending, actually this is your last program on Radio Prague. We really are sorry you're leaving and we'll miss you.

Well, I did come for six months, and they've flown by much faster than I expected. It was nice being here.

All the best, then, Nicole and we're hoping to hear from you - I do hope you'll be listening to Radio Prague, and won't forget our address - Radio Prague, 12099 Prague 2

I'll probably keep in touch via e-mail - English@radio.cz, and I'll certainly look up Radio Prague's web-site - www.radio.cz

That's fine, and thanks for your help and a job well done. And now, for the last time, what song would you like to hear at the end of today's Mailbox?

You know the tune that's played at the beginning of every Mailbox, it's the Manuchao group, so how about a whole song by them?

Authors: Olga Szantová , Nicole Klement
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