Mailbox

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Today's Mailbox includes Topics: The Benes Decrees. Flood damage - Zoo, Spolana chemical plant. Ales Hlinicka.

Yes, it's time now for Mailbox and since Olga is going to be away for a while, I'm afraid you are going to have to stick around and present the programme with me, Jan.

It will be a pleasure. At least I finally get a chance to read every letter or e-mail that we get and we've got quite a wonderful mix of listeners, I should add.

Yes, and I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all of those who expressed their sympathies, concerning the floods that hit much of the country. And since that was the main event last month, Radio Prague had an extensive coverage of the damage and everything else that came with it, most of today's programme will concern answering our listener's questions on the floods.

And quite surprisingly, we have been getting quite a number of e-mails that have been sent as text messages from mobile phones. A quick and easy way of forwarding your questions but please do not forget to add your name and where it is you are from. In most cases, all we get is the telephone number - which was the case here where a listener from somewhere in the Czech Republic - it's a Czech mobile number asks:

"With so many animals having died in the zoo due to the floods, is someone being made responsible?"

Well, that is a question I put to Daniela Lazarova, who actually devoted one of her recent magazines to the state of the zoo after the floods and she answers: That was Daniela Lazarova. And staying on that topic, we got two e-mails from a Rey Vesta again from somewhere in the Czech Republic who certainly does not believe that everything in the power of the zoo keepers was done to free the animals:

"If the extent of the flooding exceeded the Zoo's expectations, preparations and resources they should have acted Frantically at the last minute to FREE the animals NOT to keep them ENCLOSED. They should have erred on the side of Compassion to the animals Not on the side of Safety from the animals. Humans are the source of the Zoo's income. The captive animals account for the Zoo's expenditure. This most likely explains the Zoo's priorities."

I guess it's a topic that will be followed by much debate. But we have to move on and we have also been getting numerous letters from concerned listeners who had planned to visit the Czech Republic in the near future and weren't sure whether it was safe to do so.

Some also wanted to know what the cultural scene was like after the floods and whether hotels in the centre were open at all. And then of course, many of the tourist attractions in Prague are in the city centre - listeners also wanted to know whether they were open to the public.

Well, as far as the cultural scene is concerned, extensive damage has been made to numerous museums and a number of theatres, resulting in damage that goes into hundreds of millions of Czech crowns but many of those institutions hit were not those that tourists visit. So most of the museums and theatres are open and running and, in fact, the directors of the museums, galleries, and theatres have appealed to the public to make a point at visiting their institutions as they desperately need the money to cover the cost of repairs.

That's one part of the cultural scene. Another is bars, clubs, discos. Most of these are open. Although some, those located along the embankments, Club Lavka and Karlovy Lazne especially, have suffered quite extensive damage and will need a while to re-open.

Tourists may have difficulty in travelling from one place to another though. If you are not a walker, you will be frustrated with the current state of the public transport system. With half of the metro network not operating, people are forced to use the trams or special buses. They are therefore packed, slow, and may not be very comfortable, in the summer especially, as people are exhausted, nervous, and clearly tired of spending an hour commuting when it should really just take 20 minutes.

And to make matters worse, it is expected to take several months before the metro or underground will be back in full operation so once the summer ends and people will be coming back from their vacation and children start going to school it will be chaotic!

Nevertheless, that should not keep tourists from visiting Prague and the rest of the country. The picturesque South Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov, for example - on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites - as well as the site of the Terezin concentration camp, both of which have been tourist attractions but were extensively damaged by the floods - need the tourists. Much of their income came from tourism and the authorities in the just mentioned areas are finding themselves struggling to cover the costs of repair work and make up for the loss in tourism.

Yes, so do not hesitate to come. You will certainly be in no danger and will definitely not be cheated on a nice experience.

Okay, so I hope this answered your questions. We move on to another text message, again from an unnamed listener in the Czech Republic:

"I live close to Neratovice, the place where the Spolana factory is located. I am very worried. Has there been any reaction to what is happening from abroad?"

I think we have said enough about the floods and should move on to our listeners' questions on other topics or rather in this case, suggestions - Johanna E. Dimitrov sent us an e-mail from an EU member state and she had the following to say:

You refer to the Benes-Decrees as instruments that dispossessed Sudeten Germans. This is only part of the facts. For many, the most repulsive of these decrees is the decree that gives amnesty to those who committed unspeakable acts of cruelty to other human beings. It allows them to live as honorable citizens in your country: We do not want them to live as honorable citizens within the EU and among us. Although this is for most of them only symbolic any more: please take them to justice. If you do not do this now, your country will live forever with the shame that a generation of murderers was allowed to live their full lives respectfully among your people and you protected them. And most important: when you talk to the public, also refer to the decree that gives amnesty to those who committed crimes against humanity, not only to the decrees that are concerned with the dispossession of property. The public is entitled to know that the outrage is not only about dispossession of property. Most importantly it is concerned with the fact, that those who committed unspeakable act of cruelty live their lives as honorable citizens in your country and have not been brought to justice.

Well, thank you very much for that bit of feedback. And before we respond to it, let me say that we actually appreciate letters such as this one from Mrs or Ms Dimitrov. We are not only out to get praise but also need the criticism and comments from our listeners' to help us improve. And to respond to the question on the Benes Decrees... Well, I was hoping to answer a few more questions but is looks like our time is up. Let me quickly remind you of our website - www.radio.cz/english. It not only has our programmes either transcribed or in real audio but also has other interesting information on the Czech Republic.

And don't forget our e-mail address - english@radio.cz.

And for those of you who like the good old-fashioned letter, please write to Radio Prague English section, 120 99 Prague 2, Czech Republic.

And that's all from us for today. Thanks for listening, writing, questioning, and suggesting.

Looking forward to hearing from you again soon. Good-bye.