Jan Neruda

Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Radio Prague's Winter schedule. Looking for two Czech songs. Poets Jan and Pablo Neruda. Thefts of works of arts. Quotes from: Michael Stevenson, Marisa Churchward, Ian Morrison, Joan Flemings

Hello, and welcome to Mailbox today, on the 20th of October - and the reason I'm stressing the date is that we're starting the last week of broadcasting according to our summer schedule. As regular listeners know, we change our schedules twice a year - for the Summer and the winter seasons.

And a number of listeners have written to ask for the new winter program. But there's no need to do that, we send the new programs out to all listeners on our mailing list, so if you have written to us in the past, you've probably already received our new winter schedule.

But, just in case, let's sum up what difference in our programs listeners can expect as of next week, i.e. as of October 27th. And to explain just exactly what changes to expect, and why we are making them, here is Vladimir Tax, the head of Radio Prague's English section.

Well, there will be a few changes in the programme. As of the end of October, you will be able to hear Talking Point every Tuesday. We have discontinued Central Europe Today - but if you are interested in issues common to the whole region, you can listen on Saturdays to Insight Central Europe - a central European magazine jointly produced by Radio Prague, Radio Austria International, Radio Slovakia, Radio Polonia and Radio Budapest. Now, on Wednesday, Profile will also be discontinued, so that Czechs in History will alternate with Spotlight. Friday's Magazine will be replaced by the Arts, currently broadcast every Sunday. Most changes concern the weekend, to reflect your opinions and comments. So, on Saturday, you will be able to hear Magazine, followed by ABC of Czech and one of our four different music shows. Alternatively, at certain times and frequencies we broadcast Insight Central Europe. And finally, the Sunday programme begins with Mailbox, followed by Letter from Prague, and readings from Czech literature. Of course, if you write to us, we will send you a detailed programme schedule with all the times and frequencies.

That was Vladimir Tax on the changes in our programs as of October 27th. And of course you can find the new schedule on Radio Prague's web-site:

Or, if you aren't on our mailing list and haven't received the new program, or any other publications about Radio Prague, send your address to Radio Prague, 120 99, Prague 2, Czech Republic. But that's not all, as far as the future is concerned. We still keep receiving suggestions for next year's Radio Prague QSL cards, from Michael Stevenson, of Port Macquarie, N.S.W., Australia, for example:

"On the subject of what Radio Prague's QSL cards should feature for next year - how about featuring some of the modern things that are wholly made within the Czech Republic, cars, electronic products, ovens and hotplates, beer etc. I think this would be very interesting and make a nice collection."

Well, thanks for this and all the other ideas - we'll let you know just as soon as the definite decision has been made.

And now on to other issues. We do try to help listeners find the information they want on the Czech Republic, its history, and culture whenever we can, but I'm afraid there are some questions we just cannot answer. Here is one example: Marisa Churchward from Ontario, Canada.

"I really enjoy logging on to and I think you guys do such a great job! I am wondering if you can help me with a search I am doing. I used to have a 45 single record from the late sixties or early seventies - The record was by singers PETR AND PAVEL and the songs were: LASKA LASKA on one side of the record and WENCESLAS SQUARE on the other side. I would so much like to have these songs again - can you help me?"

Ever since we received that request a couple of weeks ago, we've been trying to find the answer, we even had the Czech Radio music department help us, but to no avail. So, as a last resort, we're turning to our listeners, just in case anyone knows the recording and could help. Marisa Churchard adds this explanation:

"The record was released in England by an English record company . The singers were two Czech youths who had emigrated to the West and they sang this song in English. It was played regularly on Radio Luxembourg and also on the BBC. It was a great record."

So, if anyone knows the record, or even has it, do let us know.

Now, here's a question to which we DO know the answer. Ian Morrison of Kilwinning in the United Kingdom writes that he liked Bill Bathurst's Readings from Czech Literature dedicated to the 19th Century Czech poet Jan Neruda and asks:

"Hearing the name "Neruda" made me wonder - was the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda from a Czech family? Is he related at all to Jan Neruda?"

The answer to both those questions is No. The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda's real name was Neftalí Tuyes and Neruda was his pen name. He had heard about the 19th Century Czech writer Jan Neruda and liked the name so much that he decided to use it.

I don't know how much of Jan Neruda's actual writing he knew, but there certainly was a certain similarity between the orientation of the two Nerudas. Both had very strong social feelings, speaking up against social injustice - not only in their books, but as journalists and commentators of everyday events around them.

I wonder what Jan Neruda would have had to say about some of the negative aspects of contemporary life - such as the numerous thefts of works of art that Joan Flemings from Chicago, Ill., USA mentions in her letter:

"I read in one of our local papers about how many historic works of art are being stolen from Czech museums and even from churches and sold throughout the world. Is it really that bad? And if so, why aren't those precious objects better protected?"

They are - in places like art galleries, museums, the castles that are open to the public. The safety precautions and security systems are up to international standards, but there are so many other places full of precious baroque and other historic statues and works of art that it's virtually impossible to protect them all. Just one example - the Konopiste Castle not far from Prague. The building is well protected but there is a huge park all around it, and that is full of historic statues -too big to carry away, but in one case somebody got around that problem simply by cutting off the head of the baroque statue - I'm sure he had no problem selling it.

Then there are the country churches, many of them open just once a week for mass - so there's plenty of time to brake into them and steal the paintings or statues. And there is a very open and eager market where all of these works of art can be sold - most of them abroad.

It's one of the negative aspects of the changes after the fall of the iron curtain. Before the borders were opened, there were some 50 thefts of historic works of art a year, in 1990 over 600 and just one year later, in 1991 nearly a thousand. And that trend has continued.

The problem is just too big to cope with. There are 70 million precious items in Czech museums and art galleries, some 3 million of them in castles and churches - and nobody knows how many in parks, on squares in old historic towns, etc.

And there's not enough money to protect all of them. The only solution is international co-operation, cracking down on the markets with stolen items both here and abroad - and every once in a while that does bring results. Just recently the Czech police found some 1200 works of art stolen from various churches - all prepared to be smuggled across the border.

So, it's not a lost battle, but a very difficult one.

And on that note we'll end today's Mailbox, this is DA...

and RC...

hoping to hear from you and looking forward to next week's Mailbox.