Mailbox

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Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Anniversary of the end of World War 2 Radio Prague listeners' competition. Anniversary of 1945 Prague Uprising. Czech-German relations. Tourist season. Radio Prague QSL cards. Listeners mentioned and quoted:Doug Giddens, Bill Farmer, Karl Knechtel, Paul Westman, Danny Jameson, Louis Smith

Welcome to the first Mailbox in May, the loveliest Spring month in our part of the world. And of course, the month of love. There was a Czech poet, Karel Hynek Macha, who lived in the 19th century and he wrote a very popular poem about the 1st of May, the time of love. And people still gather in front of Macha's statue on May 1st and bring flowers there every year, this year was no exception.

But the beginning of May is also a reminder of the end of World War 2. Prague was liberated from Nazi German occupation after the Prague uprising, which started on May 5th, just 57 years ago today. For the younger generation that's only something out of history books, but there still are many, who remember those days of fighting in the streets and hopes of finally living in peace.

Many people in Prague lost their lives in those street battles, defending the barricades they built and defended against the Nazi army. 1691 civilians lost their lives in the Prague Uprising and there are many plaques on Prague buildings commemorating those who were shot there.

People took to the streets and set up 1600 barricades in the streets all over Prague to keep the German army from organizing a really tough battle in the city. The Germans had planned on making Prague their last big stand and the people prevented that and actually saved the city's historic sites. That's why Prague has so many precious historic sites intact. When the Russian army finally arrived, the Germans had actually given up. But still, there were 436 Russian casualties in Prague.

And the 1691 Czech casualties.

But it's not only we here, in Prague, who remember the end of the Second World War. Some of our listeners are old enough to remember, too. One of them, Doug Giddens, from Auckland, New Zealand is one of them and he writes:

"My memories go back to World War 2 when I was an Air Force prisoner of war in Lamsdorf near the Czech and Polish borders for 3 years and finished up with a 400 mile forced march westward to Germany. But, as I say, those days are just bad memories."

Mr.Giddens actually wrote to ask for a program schedule, adding:

"I'm 83 years old and still enjoy my shortwave listening, having been doing so since 1936."

That is nice. I've noticed that a number of listeners find short wave radio the ideal occupation after they have retired. And some of them have written that they intend to take part in our competition this year, even though they don't count on winning the first prize and coming to visit Prague.

And so far the shortest competition entry of all comes from one of those listeners, Bill Farmer, who listens to Radio Prague in Hillarys, West Australia.

"Prague comes to my mind (I'm 82 now) from my younger days when I listened regularly to your Stamp program in which I won several prizes. Those were the days!"

As a rule we do not quote from competition entries before the deadline, which is in the middle of June, but I thought we could make an exception here, because I don't think Mr. Farmer considered his brief note as a real competition entry. And besides, I would like to stress that when we decided on the question for this year's competition: What comes to my mind when I hear the word Prague, we did not, necessarily, have Radio Prague in mind.

No, we are hoping you'll write about your impression of our city, if you have visited Prague, or about its history, culture, any aspect in which you have come to hear about it.

And, if Radio Prague was your source of information, or if you consider it important for your knowledge of Prague, or your feelings for it, then of course add that, too.

Just don't forget, the main prize is a visit to Prague, with all expenses paid. The winner will be taken to the CR courtesy of Czech Airlines, the Airlines that make you feel at home in the air. And while you are in Prague the Prague brewery Staropramen will take care of an important part of your program, which will, of course include more than one drink of their beer - Staropramen.

There will also be a number of runner up prizes, and all listeners who send an entry will receive a souvenir. Your entries should reach us by the middle of June, and you can send them by e-mail to our address: english@radio.cz, or by surface mail to Radio Prague, Prague 120 99, Czech Republic.

I think many listeners will be inspired to write by the anniversary of the end of the war, which we mentioned a little while ago. Those events 57 years ago still have an impact on our life today, as far as Czech-German relations are concerned, for example.

And that's a topic very much in the foreground in connection with the so called Benes degrees, which our listeners know all about from our other programs.

And which they comment on, mostly agreeing that the fact that Germans were moved out of Czechoslovakia was a direct consequence of the events of the war, but not always agreeing with our contemporary stand on the issue. Karl Knechtel, e-mailed us on the topic some days ago:

"Seen from outside Europe it remains sad and illogical how educated political leaders of a country with a long cultural tradition, a country that only 12 years ago regained freedom, appear unwilling to declare the decrees officially invalid. Now is a chance for the CR to show the international public that it regrets the major human rights violation committed "by law" and in the name of the Czech people in 1945. If the Benes decrees were done away with, it would make the CR look real good. It would give an example to the rest of the world and help stop similar ethnic cleansing attempts under consideration elsewhere."

Well, as regular listeners know, President Havel and other representatives have expressed regrets over the excesses connected with the way many of the Germans were moved out of the country after the war. There was much hatred and a strong feeling of getting even right after the war. That's one aspect. But the laws passed then are a matter of history. They dealt with the situation then, and as such cannot be cancelled. History doesn't work that way. Every nation has laws and decrees in its past that would not stand up to contemporary standards, but you cannot start changing them.

So much on the topic for now, we do discuss it in detail on many of our programs.

So, back to listeners' questions. Paul Westman from Stockholm, Sweden asks:

"How is the tourist season in the Czech Republic this year? Have the events after the September 11th terrorist attacks brought down the number of visitors?"

No, not really. At first there were fears that people would be afraid to travel, but now that the season has started in earnest, it's evident that it was a false alarm. In fact it seems that in a way the international situation has helped increase the number of tourists visiting the Czech Republic. Some people who are afraid of going to the Middle East, for example, are coming to Prague instead.

And many people from Britain who are worried about flying across the Atlantic, are choosing Central Europe for their holiday destination instead. More than 300 000 visitors from the United Kingdom are expected to come this year, that's nearly 30 000 more than last year.

It's a pity, though, that many of these visitors only stay in Prague and don't see any of the other beautiful places in our country.

I think this year's Radio Prague QSL cards are convincing many of our listeners of that fact. Many of them have commented on them. Danny Jameson from Cheshire, England:

"Thank you for the last QSL card. The card of Kromeriz is excellent. Quite different from last year's collection, but well done."

And many listeners are expressing interest in this year's cards. Louis Smith from Thumont, Merriland, USA:

"I'd like to have all those new QSL cards you mentioned in your program."

That's simple, all you have to do is send 8 reception reports - and you'll receive one for every program you reported hearing. I say 8, because that's the number of QSL cards in this year's series - each one showing one of the UNESCO protected historic heritage sites in various parts of the Czech Republic.

And since we have had some questions from new listeners, I'll just add that the report should include the time and wavelength on which you heard our program, its contents, the reception quality - and some comments, because we do want to know what our listeners think about our programs.

Even though, as we keep saying, we cannot fulfil all wishes, like this one:

" Please add Mandarin Chinese language broadcasts to your program schedule. China Radio International broadcasts in Czech (with Chinese speakers!)."

I'm sorry, but we do not have the resources China Radio International obviously does have, so no Chinese program from Radio Prague, I'm afraid. But, short of wishes like this, we do try to comply, so join us again a week from today in our next Mailbox, the program in which we answer listeners' questions.

By the way, have you sent us one lately?

Authors: Olga Szantová , Pavla Horáková
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