Photo: Renjith Krishnan

Today in Mailbox: Floods in the Czech Republic and Central Europe; Prague Zoo during the flood; a replica of a Marian column to be erected in Prague; monthly listeners' quiz. Listeners/readers quoted: Jayanta Chakrabarty, Heike Strehle, Barbara M. Ziemba, Hans Verner Lollike, Valery Luhouski.

Photo: Renjith Krishnan
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s monthly listeners’ feedback programme. As our regular listeners will know, the Czech Republic and other countries in Central Europe have been affected by some extreme weather in the past weeks and months: heavy rains and floods followed by heat waves and then more rain. Even though the floods were not as catastrophic as in 2002, they still claimed human lives and caused enormous damage. We very much appreciate your messages of sympathy, offered from around the world.

Jayanta Chakrabarty from India commented on the recent floods in Central Europe in his e-mail:

“We in India are much appalled and saddened in hearing about the recent floods in Central Europe which have also badly affected the Czech Republic, besides Germany and Slovakia. Radio Prague has dutifully reported regularly on the flood situation. It is good news that in this hour of need and emergency, local people and humanitarian NGOs are coordinating hundreds of volunteers. People are also donating money for relief work to help the state tide over the situation. Flood alert systems and flood defences have been put in place to cope with the situation.

Floods in Prague 2013,  Photo: Jiří Roun,
“Being so far away in India, my family and myself feel so helpless not to be of any help at this hour of grief and misery. However, our hearts go out to all citizens of the Czech Republic that this misery may soon come to an end. We pray for your country and people.”

Visitors to our Facebook page have also left a number of comments, among them Heike Strehle from Germany:

“I feel so sorry for all of you in Prague. Here in Germany is it very bad, too! How is the Zoo, the animal park? Are the animals there safe?”

Photo: Martina Schneibergová
Prague Zoo suffered damage worth millions of crowns but luckily, this time it was better prepared than 11 years ago when many animals died as a result of the massive flooding. This time the keepers managed to transport both animals and property from the lower parts to safety in time. According to the zoo’s website, only two birds and a few smaller animals did not survive. The large gorilla pavilion in the lower part of the zoo had been made flood proof and its inhabitants are all well. However the zoo plans to build a new enclosure at a higher altitude, as they did for the elephants and hippos after the 2002 floods.

Listeners have also enquired about a flood relief bank account. The Czech Radio Foundation has set up a special bank account, entitled Help with Us, where members of the public can contribute to those hardest hit by the recent flood. The number is 888 444 666/0300.

Now on a different topic, Barbara M. Ziemba from the US sent in a question:

“I have been following the story of the Marian Column to be erected in Old Town Square. Yesterday we had a discussion regarding the column in my Czech Language Class. Does anyone know who the four angels at the base of the column are? Are they just four angels fighting evil? Or are they the four archangels?”

Radio Prague recently ran a report on the planned revitalization of Prague’s Old Town Square including the installation of a replica of a Marian column. It stood on the square for over 250 years until it was torn down in 1918 as a symbol of Habsburg oppression. The four figures at the base of the column are angels fighting evils and vices: war (as personified by a lion), the plague (embodied by a basilisk), famine (symbolized by a dragon) and heresy (represented by a serpent). I’m afraid I could find no mention of the angels’ names.

Thank you for your questions and comments, and now it’s time to reveal our mystery man from last month’s competition. The Czech New Wave film director and screenwriter born in 1933 who left Czechoslovakia following the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion and has been living and working in the United States since then is not Miloš Forman as some of you thought but rather Ivan Passer – as Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark wrote in his e-mail:

Ivan Passer,  Photo: Vilém Faltýnek
“This time you really got me, but I assume you are looking for the director and screen writer Ivan Passer, born in July 1933. His films are unknown to me. He defected to USA under the Prague Spring 1968. I must say, that a lot of potential talent was given free by all the people that left Czechoslovakia in 1968.”

Valery Luhouski from Belarus writes:

“What is important are not the facts that I could tell you about the director and screenwriter, but what I found out about him for myself, inspired by your question. The [mystery man] is Ivan Passer who in July will turn 80 years old. I was curious and what I read about him on different internet pages was new to me. It is amazing that there are people who are able to demonstrate by their own example the huge human endurance to withstand torment, to be able to move forward and not be depressed, who can support their friends, maintain optimism and faith, reaching their result in the end.”

Thank you so much for your answers and this time our lucky winner is Luigi Policola from Italy. Congratulations and you can expect mail from Radio Prague soon. As every month we have a new question for our listeners.

In July we are looking for the name of the Czech ice hockey player born in 1972 who has played on a number of NHL teams among others and is considered one of the best ice hockey players of all time.

Please send us your answers by July 31 to [email protected] 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.