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Today in Mailbox we read from our listeners’ comments on Radio Prague’s 75th anniversary and reveal the identity of our August mystery lady. Listeners quoted: Tracy Andreotti, Harold Yeglin, Stan Schmitt, Colin Law, Hans Verner Lollike, Mary Lou Krenek, Ian Morrison, Richard Chen, Charles Konecny, Henrik Klemetz, Jayanta Chakrabarty, David Eldridge.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox.

First of all, I would like to thank all of our listeners who tuned in to Radio Prague’s special August 31st programme and sent us their reception reports (your QSL cards are on their way) and for all the wonderful birthday greetings you’ve sent us over the past weeks. Let’s hear at least a few of them:

Tracy Andreotti is the winner of last year’s annual contest and, as she says, “Radio Prague’s #1 fan in the Midwest”:

“I want to wish everyone at Radio Prague a very happy 75th birthday! It's almost a year since Henry and I were your guests in Prague and at the station, and we are forever filled with wonderful thoughts and memories. You must all be applauded for the exemplary work that you do, especially given the severe budget cuts that you have been forced to deal with.

Tracy Andreotti (middle)
“As a diehard, daily reader, of course I have noticed the changes. Many of my favorite shows are gone, people seem to have disappeared or show up only randomly. It is a testament to the highly professional work that has been done throughout the years that you are able to provide such a rich and varied archive section. I have enjoyed revisiting or newly discovering older stories.

“I love the expanded Sunday Music show, especially Daniela Lazarová's brilliant piece on Iva Bittová! I have thoroughly enjoyed ‘If I had been a boy, I would have been shot’. That, to me, exemplifies all that is great about Radio Prague. Not just the story, which is such a personal and fascinating one, but the story behind the story, how the book and broadcasts came to be, people donating their time and talents to ensure that Jaroslava Skleničková's evocative account will be heard and remembered. Extreme kudos to David Vaughan, Veronika Hyks and everyone else involved.

“On a side note, please do not start having a 'comment' section. Please! Facebook exists for that, and so many people blog, and there are still many of us who are looking for actual journalism; educated, thought out pieces by professionals. Here in the US, in the land of Look At Me, it seems that ALL we have sometimes are 'comments'. And besides, isn't that what Mailbox is for? :-)”

Harold Yeglin writes from Virginia:

“Congratulations on Radio Prague's 75th anniversary. A milestone indeed, through thick and thin, in Czech history. Regarding the demise of Radio Prague's short wave broadcasts: I do not miss them. For me, the advent of internet technology has replaced oft-weak or scratchy short wave signals heard at this location in southeast United States. I am not bound by a short wave schedule; Radio Prague is available on my computer at all hours.”

Also from the United States, Stan Schmitt writes:

“I am very glad to be able to wish the staff of Radio Prague a happy 75th birthday and hope that the powers that be, allow you to reach 100. Back in 1968 I was spending part of the summer at my grandparents’ farm. In the summer kitchen there was an old tube radio in a wooden cabinet that my grandfather still used to listen to the farm reports during lunch and baseball games at night. That 1930s vintage radio was my introduction to both shortwave radio and Radio Prague. As a grade school kid interested in geography and history, I spent the rest of my summer listening to the marvel of radio coming from all around the world. Over the years the staff and programing has changed and evolved, but you have continued to present both quality and informative programs.

"I found changes at Radio Prague during the transition to a democratic Czech state to be of special interest. It was with some sadness to see Radio Prague joining the list of stations eliminating shortwave service this year, but it is understandable. My reception for that last broadcast was not good. Even without shortwave, you still provide a viable service for people seeking news and information on the Czech Republic. I'm just not sure how many people outside of radio know that you exist and are on the internet. (this is true for Deutsche Welle, BBC etc. too) I'm looking forward to your internet program on the 31st. Thank you all for the news and entertainment over the years, and best birthday wishes for the future of Radio Prague.”

Miroslava Šternová
Much as I’d like to devote more time to your birthday wishes, we need to give some space to our monthly competition and your thoroughly researched answers: Colin Law writes from New Zealand:

“Miroslava Šternová Beka was born on 26 February 1926 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She was adopted by Dr. Oscar Štern and his wife Miroslava (née Beka). The family had to leave Czechoslovakia in 1939 because of the Nazi persecution of Jewish people. (They were held in a concentration camp for a period, but then reached Scandinavia and moved on to Mexico in 1940. There in 1944 her mother died from cancer. In that year also, Miroslava took part in a dance at the Country Club of Mexico City where she was chosen as a beauty queen – ‘Queen Miroslava I’.

“Miroslava studied acting and fell in love with another student – Jesus Jaime Gómez Obregón, also known as ‘El Bambi’. They were married in February 1946 and divorced the same year when she found out that he was homosexual. In 1946 she starred in the movie ‘Tragic Wedding’ and went on to star in some 27 movies which resulted in her gaining a reputation as the ‘Mexican Marilyn Monroe’. Miroslava became friendly with a Spanish bullfighter named Luis Miguel Dominguin and while she was visiting Spain they made plans to marry. However, in 1954 she returned to Mexico to continue her acting career. Shortly afterwards, on the first of March 1955, she learned that Dominguin had married Italian actress Lucia Bose in Nevada.

“From that time Miroslava became very depressed and on March 10th her housekeeper was concerned when she was unable to get any response despite repeated calls to Miroslava’s room. When the housekeeper and actress friend went into the room they found Miroslava dead with a photograph of Dominguin in her hand. They also found barbiturates and other drugs, together with three letters, they included one her father and one to her brother.

Miroslava Šternová
“Miroslava was cremated at the French Pantheon of Mercy and her ashes placed in the Ossuary Crypt.”

Hans Verner Lollike follows us in Denmark:

“It is a strange thing that you have to leave your native country to be famous. In this case – being an actor or actress, you have at least to end up in Hollywood. This is also the case for this month’s Mystery Person: Miroslava Sternova – appearing in more than 30 films in her only 29 years long life.”

Mary Lou Krenek writes from Texas:

Miroslava Šternová
“After her final film ‘Ensayode un crimen’ or ‘Rehearsal for a Crime,’ she committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Her body was found outstretched over her bed with a portrait of bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin in one hand. Friends say her suicide was due to her love for him who recently had married an Italian actress. Her life is the subject of a short story by Guadalupe Loaeza which was adopted by Alejandro Pelayo for his 1992 Mexican film called ‘Miroslava.’

“The date of her death was March 9, 1955 in Mexico City, Mexico. She is remembered as an underestimated actress whose chameleonic film persona left a collection of remarkable performances. In quite a coincidence, she resembled the American film star, Marilyn Monroe, who suffered a much familiar fate.”

Miroslava Šternová and Mel Ferrer
Ian Morrison follows Radio Prague in China:

“The mystery woman in this month's quiz, the Mexican actress who was born in Prague in 1926 and died in Mexico City 29 years later, was Miroslava Stern. She moved to Mexico in the late 1930s with her adoptive parents as war clouds loomed over Europe. She died tragically by committing suicide through an overdose of sleeping pills. Who knows what her talents may have yielded had she not met such an early end.”

Richard Chen listens to us in Trinidad & Tobago:

“Stern moved to Mexico as a child with her adoptive parents in the late 1930's, seeking to escape war in their native country Czechoslovakia. After winning a national beauty contest she began studying acting and participated in various Mexican films and also spent some time in Hollywood. Stern committed suicide in 1955 by overdosing on sleeping pills soon after participating in the film Ensayo de un crimen (Rehersal for a crime). Her friends said Stern committed suicide due to her unrequited love for a bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin who had recently married Italian actress Lucia Bose.”

Miroslava Šternová
Charles Konecny is our regular listener in Ohio:

“Miroslava was a Czech girl with charm and beauty that showed through in beauty contests and then spread by her talent on the big screen, where her films were made mostly in Mexico. It is too bad she did not make a film in her home country after the war, but maybe the political situation was a problem. However, she was an actress who could play many types of roles from comedy to love and romance. But the last romantic role was in her real life with the matador, where she played the game of love...and lost...and then reached for the sleeping pills.”

Miroslava Šternová
Henrik Klemetz writes from Sweden:

“Historically there was the Greek drama. In our time, the cinema, the Argentine tango or the Mexican corrido. Any of these frameworks would be able to handle the tragic ups and downs in the life of ‘the Mexican Marilyn Monroe’, Miroslava Stern.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty follows our programmes in India:

“Born in pre-war Prague, Miroslava Stern became a cult figure during Mexican cinema's golden age, contributing significantly to the cultural arena of her adopted country's film industry. Often referred to as Mexico's Marilyn Monroe, her gifted talent and beauty remained under-utilized. I had the privilege to see the screening of her last film ‘Ensayo de un Crimen’ which will remain in my memory for a long time to come.”

Miroslava Šternová
Harold Yeglin writes from Virginia:

“I believe the answer to the August quiz question is: actress Miroslava, Czech-born and Mexico-reared Miroslava Sterova. She became, quoting an internet source, ‘one of Mexico's most popular leading ladies in the late 1940s’. She went to Hollywood in 1951 and appeared opposite Anthony Quinn in the movie ‘The Brave Bulls.’ She would return to American films only once, opposite Joel McCrea in ‘Stranger on Horseback’ (1955) which, like her most famous film, ‘The Criminal Life of Achribaldo de la Cruz’ (1956), was released posthumously. Miroslava committed suicide in her home in Mexico City. Her tragic life story became the subject of the 1993 ‘Miroslava,’ a Mexican production. . ."

From England David Eldridge writes:

Miroslava Šternová
“Miroslava’s stepfather, Oskar Leo Stern, was from 1931to 1939 the head doctor in the spa Teplice nad Bečvou, Moravia. … When the Germans occupied the Czech lands Oskar Stern managed to emigrate to Mexico. That was fortunate for him and his family as few of the numerous Jews inhabiting the region survived the war.

“At age 17, Miroslava studied architecture and design in New York. She returned to Mexico shortly before the end of World War II when her mother died from cancer. There she began to study acting later having roles in many films, two of the best known were ‘School for Tramps’ (1955) and the ‘Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz’ (1955), also known as a ‘Crime Attempt’, directed by Spanish master Luis Buñuel.

Miroslava Šternová and Ernesto Alonso
“Miroslava suffered from severe depression over several events in her personal life and it was when she read in a newspaper that a close friend had married another person she took an overdose of barbiturates and was found dead with a suicide note on 10 March 1955. That wasn't her first suicide attempt.”

Thank you all so much for taking part in our monthly quiz. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner and this time he is Ganesh Chandra Kundu from India. Congratulations, your Radio Prague parcel is in the post, and I will be looking forward to receiving even more answers to this question:

Photo: Stephanie Hofschlaeger, Stock.xchng
Our September mystery man is an award-winning Czech photographer. Born in 1938, he left Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation and in 1971 joined the Magnum Photos cooperative of photographers and photojournalists.

Please send us his name to english@radio.cz by the end of September. Mailbox will be back again on September 17th. Please keep your letters and reception reports coming and until then good-bye.