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This week in Mailbox we announce the winner of Radio Prague’s 2009 listeners’ contest and read the winning entry.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox. Today is the day when we announce the winner of Radio Prague’s annual listeners’ contest. The deadline for your submissions passed two weeks ago and we received a great many entries. In the meantime, Radio Prague’s six language departments were busy reading and assessing your answers to the question:

What is the most interesting period or event from Czech history for you?

Two finalists were selected by each of our six language sections, along with eight other particularly interesting entries. All ten from each section will receive a special prize. From among the finalists, after much deliberating and long discussions the jury selected the entry by:

Claire le Bris-Cep from France

Congratulations! Claire wins a week-long holiday for two in Prague. The prize, accommodation in the heart of Prague, will be provided by Hotel Ungelt.

The two English section’s finalists are: Michael Elcock from Canada whose entry titled Prague Re-Visited can be found at http://www.radio.cz/en/article/117413 and James Stafford from Ireland whose submission is published at http://www.radio.cz/en/article/117414

August 1968 in Prague
Now let’s hear the winning entry by Claire le Bris-Cep from France translated into English:

“It is summertime and I’m thirteen years old. We are in Sologne where my parents have rented out a summer house. My brother has recently returned from my father’s native country. He was the first member of our family to set out on a fact-finding mission to meet our five uncles and aunts and our 15 nephews and nieces. The four of us were seriously thinking about all moving back to Czechoslovakia in a year’s time.

“In the days when my father lived there he was a well-known writer. He was not what you’d call politically active, but his literary work bore the stamp of his Catholic faith and also his contacts with western intellectuals which the communist regime frowned upon. To avoid being sent to prison he fled the country in secret, getting safely across the barbed wire. His mother died years later in Moravia without him ever getting the chance to see her again.

“After 20 years of exile came the first ray of hope: the situation in Czechoslovakia had slowly begun to improve. My father found it hard to believe, but the rest of us were already imagining how we would all go back to Myslechovice and reunite with his brothers and sisters.

“That morning I got up as usual and went to have breakfast with my parents. But nothing was as it should be. Something serious had happened, though I had no idea what it was. My mother’s eyes were red with weeping, and she was hiding a crumpled hankie in her hand. My father sat there hunched over, head bent, clearly wanting to be left alone. And what was most unusual was that the radio was on so early in the morning. I didn’t understand, I did not want to understand the words that were coming out of the radio receiver, filling the room and taking possession of our lives. They were talking about tanks, Russian soldiers, an invasion. They were talking about people taking to the streets in Prague and building barricades. They were talking about people being killed. Slowly I realized that my father would never be able to return to his native land. It was the morning of August 21st, 1968.”

This year’s winning entry in Radio Prague’s listeners’ contest by Claire le Bris-Cep. Many thanks to all of you who took part this year.

Another annual competition is over but our monthly quizzes continue. You still have three more days to send us your answers to this month’s question:

This month we are looking for the name of a great promoter of the alternative medicine practice of hydrotherapy who was born in 1799 in what is today the North Moravian spa town of Jeseník.

Please send us your answers to the usual addresses english@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague by Tuesday, June 30th. Until next week, happy listening.