In Mailbox this week: The tragic death of the Czech ambassador to Pakistan in the Marriott bombing in Islamabad; an alternative Czech national anthem; Radio Prague’s Magazine; the tallest building in the Czech Republic; the country’s state budget for 2009. Listeners quoted: Tharwat Elkorm, Walter Knitl, Saralee Turner, Rassem Ben Brahim, Sahadot Hossain.

Ivo Žďárek,  photo: CTK
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, a programme which gives you, the listeners, a chance to respond to our broadcasts and ask questions about life in the Czech Republic.

It’s not very often that the Czech Republic makes headlines in international media. Sadly, last weekend, it was a tragic event that made the news worldwide – the death of the Czech ambassador to Pakistan, Ivo Žďárek, in the Marriott bombing in Islamabad. Mr Žďárek was among the dozens of victims who perished in the blast and subsequent fire and according to eye-witness accounts he died helping the wounded to safety. We would like to thank everybody for their sympathies expressed via email. Tharwat Elkorm from Egypt was the first to write:

Marriott Hotel in Pakistan after the suicide bombing,  photo: CTK
“My sincere condolences on the death of the Czech ambassador to Pakistan in the suicide bombing in the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan.”

Now, onto other letters that have arrived over the past week:

Walter Knitl who lives in Canada sent in a comment on a recent edition of the Arts titled "Czech musician proposes an alternative national anthem" and featuring an interview with the composer Varhan Orchestrovič Bauer:

“Although I have not yet heard the new anthem in its entirety, I am happy to see the new fresh positive approach. I consider myself Czech even though my family left Bohemia in 1870, lived in Croatia for 97 years, and Canada for 41. I was raised with and still do speak Czech (or close enough). However, it's not until a few months ago that I deliberately listened to the (original) national anthem. I liked it as a melodic tune and because it did not have pompous words of conquests and chest beating as in some other anthems. At the same time it did not feel like an anthem. It lacked something for that purpose - perhaps an expression of pride and hope as every Czech should feel. I fully support the new approach.”

Saralee Turner from Singapore also listens to Radio Prague’s programmes in Canada. She responds to a recent edition of Magazine:

“I really enjoyed your program which was aired on CBC in Canada early on Monday, September 22nd. I like the story about the chef who lied on the 'truth' program and who will likely not be a chef too much longer. What a truly bizarre idea for a program. But funny!”

Pankrác district in Prague
Rassem Ben Brahim from Tunisia would like to know:

“What is the name of the highest building in your country?”

The name of the country’s tallest building is City Tower. It is located in the Pankrác district in Prague. Its construction started in 1985 and the building was first supposed to house the studios and offices of Czechoslovak Radio. After the political changes in 1989 and the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the construction was abandoned and the 109-metre-tall building was empty until recently. Most of its 30 floors of office space have now been rented to different companies.

Photo: archive of ČRo 7 - Radio Prague
Sahadot Hossain from Bangladesh would like to know some details about the Czech Republic’s state budget.

A draft state budget for 2009 was approved by the Czech government last Monday, with a deficit of 38.1 billion crowns (2.34 billion USD). The proposed budget, with government expenditures planned at 1.152 trillion crowns and revenues at 1.114 trillion crowns, will now be sent to the lower house for approval. The state budget for 2008 was approved by the lower house on December the 5th, 2007 with a deficit of 71 billion crowns.

Our time is almost up now, so let me repeat our competition question for this month:

Our September mystery Czech was born in 1926 in Ostrava, into a Jewish family. At age 13 he was among the hundreds of children rescued from Czechoslovakia by Sir Nicholas Winton. He studied at Oxford and later became one of the leading directors of the 1960s new wave of British cinema.

You have until Tuesday to send us your answers to [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. Four of you who send in a correct answer will receive prizes from Radio Prague. That’s all for today, please keep those letters coming and until next week, happy listening.