Mailbox

Photo: Kristýna Maková
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This week in Mailbox: Fathers’ Day in the Czech Republic, trees blossoming in May and June, singers Karel Kryl and Věra Bílá. Listeners quoted: Ashraful Islam, Hidemitsu Miyake, Mike Feist, Howard Barnett.

Photo: Archiv of ČRo7
Hello and welcome to Mailbox. Once again it’s time to browse through your letters and answer your questions concerning our broadcasts and life in the Czech Republic in general.

Ashraful Islam from Bangladesh recently celebrated Fathers’ Day and writes:

“My father is the best father in the world. All of his feelings in life are devoted to me. He always prays and works for my continuous progress. On Fathers’ Day I pay my great respect to all the fathers of the world and especially my father. How is Fathers' Day observed in your country?”

I’m afraid Fathers’ Day is not widely celebrated in the Czech Republic. Just like Mothers’ Day, it is a holiday that was not observed in communist Czechoslovakia and neither of the holidays has taken strong root in the country since the political changes of 1989. However, a few gender and family-oriented NGOs have been promoting Fathers’ Day in recent years and last weekend events were held in a number of places around the country to mark the occasion.

Hidemitsu Miyake who listens in Japan would like to know:

“Which flowers bloom in May in the Czech Republic?”

Photo: Kristýna Maková
I am sorry for the belated reply. The list of flowers blossoming in May in the fields and gardens of the Czech Republic would not fit in this programme, I’m afraid. But let me just tell you that here in the city, it is mainly the trees that everyone notices. May is the month when fragrant lilacs bloom, the horse chestnuts with their white cones visible from afar and also various fruit trees whose white petals sprinkle the pavement like snow. Now, in June it is most noticeably the Czech national trees, the linden trees, which fill the air with their heady smell and also the sweet-smelling ash trees, but also elders causing allergic reactions to many people.

Mike Feist listens to Radio Prague on the web in California:

“We have just returned from a week in Prague and heard one of Karel Kryl's songs at the Museum of Communism. I think the English subtitled translation was 'Open the gates'. We would have bought his CDs but all the sleeve lyrics were in Czech and nobody in the several shops we tried could advise where we might be able to get English translations that would enable us to understand and better appreciate Kryl's songs. I think it will take me too long to learn Czech well enough to translate them myself. Can you help or advise any other sources of help as I could not find anything helpful on websites.”

I’m afraid I have not found any references to any translations of Karel Kryl’s lyrics either. They are beautiful poetry and Karel Kryl indeed had a remarkable vocabulary. The song you have in mind is probably ‘Bratříčku, zavírej vrátka’ or ‘Little brother, close the gate’ which is most likely his best-known song – a metaphor of the Soviet invasion of 1968, likening Czechoslovakia to a lamb, the invaders to a wolf and the whole occupation to a long night.

And staying with Czech music, Howard Barnett from England sent us this letter:

“I was listening to your programme ‘Magic Carpet’ today, Sunday June 1 where I heard some music by a Gypsy singer and her musicians. The announcer said they are known around the world. Well, as I’m not very familiar with this artist, please tell me more, such as where have these artists performed? As I enjoyed the music and the programme ‘Magic Carpet’ I’d also like to know the name of the artist.”

The artist is Věra Bílá who until three years ago was the lead singer of the band Kale. The band became very popular in the 1990s with ethnic music audiences and appeared at many world-music festivals, for example in France, Sweden, Finland and the United States. They went on tours around Europe, the United States and Japan, held concerts in Canada, Israel and the Vatican and their CDs were released simultaneously in many countries.


Thank you very much again for all your letters, e-mails and reception reports and please keep them coming. All that remains now is to repeat our competition question for June:

Born in 1942, she remains the most decorated Czech gymnast ever, with seven gold Olympic medals, four World Championship titles and eleven gold medals from European Championships, besides many other titles. In the 1990s, this outstanding sportsperson was also president of the Czechoslovak and later Czech Olympic Committee.

If you send us a correct answer by the end of the month, you can be among the lucky four who will receive Radio Prague goodies. The address, as usual, is english@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic. Until next week, happy listening and take care.