Ladislav Vácha, photo: Barbora Kmentová

Today in Mailbox: Response to our special programme “The Terezín Ghetto: a perspective from the 1960s”; the curious case of the Petr and Pavel singing duo; Radio Prague's monthly listeners' quiz. Listeners/readers quoted: Jacob Labendz, Joanie Schirm, Valentin Valov, Marisa Churchward, Josef Svoboda, Mark Valentine, Neil Critchley, Alan Blaikley, Francoise Vodrazka, Jaroslaw Jedrzejczak, Deblina Biswas, Hans Verner Lollike, Siva Shanmugham, Jayanta Chakrabarty.

David Vaughan interviews the students of Anglo-American University, photo: archive of David Vaughan
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s monthly listeners’ feedback programme. Thank you for all your messages, comments and reception reports as well as quiz answers to which we’ll get later on in the programme.

Let’s hear some listeners’ response to our recent broadcasts. Dr. Jacob Labendz from the US listened to “The Terezín Ghetto: a perspective from the 1960s” by David Vaughan. He writes:

“I just listened with deep interest to your re-broadcast of a Radio Prague program from 1967 about the history of Terezín. My name Jacob Labendz and I am an historian at Washington University in St. Louis. I am currently writing a book about the history of Jews in the communist Czech lands. Among my many interests is Holocaust commemoration and its political uses.”

Joanie Schirm, the author of the book “Adventurers Against Their Will”, a story of several displaced persons – friends of her Czech father – from WWII, responds to the same programme.

“Dear David, I just listened to your excellent piece about the radio documentary from the 1960s about Terezín and the Jewish cemetery. I particularly enjoyed the comments of the students you assembled. Very well done.”

On a completely different topic, Valentin Valov from Bulgaria sent us this comment:

“I've noticed that you extensively cover news from the Czech Republic and Prague in particular. I thought you might find this online study on the best and worst stag do destinations in Europe very intriguing. More than 300 online reviews by British tourists have been collected and analysed in this massive, 4000 words piece. Prague has been ranked 1st according to this online research.”

Now, as all Radio Prague’s reports stay on the internet, sometimes people from around the world stumble upon a story several years after it was first broadcast and send us their comments.

Photo: Hansa Record
This particular story goes as far back as October 2002 when our listener Marisa Churchward from Canada inquired about a late 1960s record by the Czech duo called Petr and Pavel featuring their songs Láska and Wenceslas Square, released in England after the two emigrated from Czechoslovakia following the Soviet occupation of the country. The first response came almost five years later, in January 2007 from Josef Svoboda from the Czech Republic who was trying to track the songs down. Then in April 2008 Mark Valentine from the UK got back to us saying he owned the record and would be willing to try and find out more about the mysterious duo. Finally in March 2013 Neil Critchley sent us a couple of YouTube links so we were finally able to listen to the songs and shortly afterwards Alan Blaikley shed more light on the issue, telling us the song Láska was written by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley and released before Christmas 1968. But he didn’t know what had become of the two men either. Most recently, we were approached by Francoise Vodrazka from France. This is the English translation of her email:

“You mentioned that you were looking for information about two singers from 1968 who released a record in England called Láska. Their names are Petr Seifert and Pavel Kováč and they were military deserters from Pardubice. If you need more information you will find in the British Newspaper Archive based in London in the Daily Express from 1968.”

So there’s another piece of the puzzle and we’ll be looking forward to more of those in the future.

Now onto our monthly quiz. This answer was sent by Jaroslaw Jedrzejczak from Poland:

“Ladislav Vácha is the name of the Czech gymnast and Olympic champion who received five Olympic medals. He was born on March 21, 1899 in Brno and died in June 28, 1943. He competed at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris where he received a bronze medal in rope climbing and rings. He also competed at the 1928 Summer Olympic in Amsterdam, where he received a gold medal in parallel bars and silver medals in rings and team combined exercises.”

Ladislav Vácha, photo: Barbora Kmentová
Deblina Biswas from India wrote:

“Apart from his success in the sporting arena he was a true nationalist. He joined the anti-Nazi movement and was imprisoned by the Nazis. He was subsequently released from jail. He died on June 28th 1943.”

Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark sent us this answer:

“He worked for the famous Baťa shoe factory. He was arrested by the Gestapo for his resistance activities against the German occupation, and died in 1943 due to the Nazi-treatment.”

Siva Shanmugham from the Indian state of Tamilnadu wrote:

“The hero and important personality of this month’s competition is Ladislav Vácha. He was born in Brno in 1899 and was a gymnast, [member of the] Falcon [sports movement] and Olympian who won five medals. In 1924 he won two bronze medals in Paris and four years later in Amsterdam he won two silver and one gold medal. He was arrested by the Gestapo for his anti -Nazi resistance in 1943 and tortured at Špilberk castle before his release. Ladislav Vácha died in1943 in Zlín. In memory of this late hero a street has been named after him.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty also from India wrote:

“Vácha was a versatile member of the Sokol patriotic movement, the first physical educational organisation formed in 1882 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. One of its founders, the famous Miroslav Tyrš, in fact invented the gymnastic exercises and terminology which are the basis of gymnastics today. Young Ladislav was the darling of the Sokol gymnasium audience. Having won the 1920 Championship in Sokol he was selected for the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics where he won two bronze medals in Men's Rope Climbing and Men's Rings. In rope climbing he was just six tenths of a second slower than fellow compatriot gold medalist Bedřich Šupčík. However he was able to show his full potential in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam where he won a plethora of medals. Gold in Men's Parallel Bars and silver medals in Men's Rings and in Men's Team (All-round) Combined Exercises. In fact just losing by fractions of a score to Yugoslav gymnast Leon Š rings. He also won a gold in Men's Parallel Bars in the 8th World Artistic Gynamistics Championships held in Lyon in 1926.

“He was bold, fearless and outspoken. Being a true Czech patriot, he vehemently opposed the Nazi occupation of his beloved country. He was arrested by the Gestapo for his anti-Nazi resistance and was interned and cruelly tortured in the Kounic dormitories in Brno. He succumbed to a lethal injection and died at the young age of 44, thus cutting short a promising career in rings which has no parallel in the game of gymnastic.”

Thank you very much for your answers and this time our prize goes to Juan Carlos Gil Mongio from Spain. Congratulations and here’s a new question for the coming weeks.

This time we would like to know the name of the Austrian physician, thinker and politician born in 1804 in the East Bohemian city of Hradec Králové. He died in 1878 in Vienna.

Please send us your answers by September 2nd to along with your questions, comments and reception reports. You are also very welcome to leave your comments on our Facebook page. Until next time thanks for listening and take care.