Ivan Hlinka, photo: CTK

In this week's edition: the death of ice-hockey coach Ivan Hlinka; one year since the death of Radio Prague's Olga Szantova; Olympics music request. Listeners quoted: Peter Dickens, Nick Sharpe, Mukesh Kumar.

Ivan Hlinka,  photo: CTK
It's time again for Radio Prague's Mailbox programme in which we read from your letters and answer your questions. Let's begin with an e-mail from Mr Peter Dickens from the UK, responding to a tragic event that shocked all ice-hockey fans - not just in the Czech Republic - two weeks ago.

"Having just heard of the tragic death of [the ice-hockey player and coach] Ivan Hlinka, I am shocked and very sad. Most people know of him through hockey, to me he was someone I will never forget. A man who when you were with him made you feel as if you had been best friends for life. To me hockey was just his work, had he been a doctor or coal miner he would still be a special person. He just made you feel special as if you were the famous person and not him.

"When I once asked if there was anything I could get him from England to repay his kindness to me, he replied "tickets to see Arsenal play Manchester United ". Something due to his commitments I was never able to do and something I will always regret being unable to do for such an outstanding gentleman. To his wife, ex wife and son Ivan I express my deepest sympathy. To Ivan, you will never be forgotten."

A personal memory there of an outstanding sportsman, Ivan Hlinka, who will probably be best remembered as head coach of the Czech hockey team that won gold in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. Mr Hlinka died in a traffic accident on August 16th and was buried in his hometown of Litvinov this Wednesday.

August was also the month when we remembered one year since the death of our dear colleague, Radio Prague's long serving reporter, Olga Szantova - who was for many years the voice of Radio Prague, and also Mailbox. After a long and brave battle with cancer, Olga left us on August 8th last year. Our listener Nick Sharpe from England sent us this e-mail:

"August the 8th will mark the first anniversary of the death of Olga Szantova who was one of the few persons [who worked] as a presenter of both the new and old Radio Prague. It would be a wonderful gesture if this anniversary could be marked in some way."

Thank you, Mr Sharpe for remembering this sad anniversary with us. We did broadcast a special programme remembering Olga - Ian Willoughby spoke with Olga's daughter, Eva Novakova, who is a member of the Czech parliament. In the interview, Eva recalled the tumultuous days of August, 1968 when the Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia, after which event Olga was forced to leave Czechoslovak Radio.

"I can remember really the Russians coming, all the tanks, and that we were really afraid. But fortunately I was with my grandmother at the time. My mother was with my father, they were broadcasting all the time. And I was very proud of her.

"Of course it was very, very difficult for her to leave the Radio, because I think she really enjoyed her work, and it was her life. But I think she realised this was the only way how to behave. And I think it was a very good example for me, for future life. And I am proud that my mother was so brave at that time, really."

A snippet of an interview with the daughter of the late Olga Szantova, Eva Novakova.

Before we get to the end of the programme I'd better repeat the competition question for August. Your mails still have two days to reach us so you'd better hurry up if you'd like to win a special CD from Radio Prague. The question is:

"What is the name of the famous jazz composer who was born in Prague in 1948 to the family of a famous jazz singer and a jazz musician and left Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet invasion to make an outstanding music career in the United States?"

My clue is: He also composed the soundtrack to the American television series Miami Vice.

The address is as usual, Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic, or [email protected]

And finally one music request by our faithful listener Mukesh Kumar from India:

"This has been only the second time in history that the modern Olympic games have been held in their birthplace, Greece - the first was in 1896. Please, play the official song or any appropriate song in the program."

Well, we tried to find a Czech connection there and we have found one. The Czech Republic has a large Greek community and two of its members, the sisters Martha and Tena Elefteriadu, are famous singers here in the country. So here's a song by Martha and Tena.