The great examination hall

Today in Mailbox: migration from the Czech lands in the first half of the 20th century, political satire, Czech language courses on Radio Prague, an interview with Czech Holocaust survivor Zdenka Fantlova. Listeners quoted: Kimsey M. Fowler, Mark Zubik, Mark and Gail Stacey, David Stern.

The great examination hall
Welcome to Mailbox, the programme for your views and comments. First up, we have fresh response to our recent programmes:

Kimsey M. Fowler from the United States read Monday’s current affairs story on a new bill meant to make it easier for former Czech nationals to have their Czech citizenship returned. He writes:

“I enjoyed your article on dual nationality for former Czech citizens. I was wondering if you have any idea how many people migrated away from Czechoslovakia between 1900 and World War II?”

It is very difficult to estimate the number of people who left the Czech lands in that period. Most of them were economic migrants who settled in the United States. The problem is that upon entering, many of them stated Austria or even Germany as their country of origin. One source says that between 1880 and 1910, half a million people left the Czech lands.

Even though in the interwar period Czechoslovakia was a prosperous country, still there were hundreds of thousands economic migrants, mainly from Slovakia. Many Czech and Slovak Jews fled the country before the outbreak of WWII to the Soviet Union, USA and Palestine.

After WWII, there were two major waves of emigration: after 1948 and 1968. Statistics suggest that altogether there are around 2.2 million people of Czech heritage around the world. Under 2 million in North America, 200 thousand in Europe, and several thousand in South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Mark Zubik, who follows Radio Prague in the USA, responds to Dominik Jůn’s Letter from Prague.

“I read the article regarding the need for political satire and realized that not every country is so irreverent of politicians as we are in the US. It can be offensive sometimes, but mostly it provides a stage for criticism that can be humbling and humorous at the same time. Politicians are human, too. After all, if they cannot tolerate being the target of ridicule for their weaknesses they are not worthy of being the object of admiration for their strengths. Programs like the Daily Show are an entertaining stage for the human side of politics and sometimes even sway public opinion regarding a leader or issue. Much like political cartoons of the past. I enjoyed the story and agree that more political satire is a good thing.”

Mark and Gail Stacey have been enjoying our Czech language courses:

“I have visited Prague twice so far and will do so again in April. My wife and I find the city and, perhaps more importantly, the Czech people very warm and welcoming. We do try and communicate in ‘pidgin’ Czech where possible though my attempts are often met with a smile and a reply in very good English. Thus we have found your audio pages aimed at helping people learn more of the language very good. The idioms/phrases that the presenters use often leave us confused but the gentle sense contained within them soon surfaces and brings a wry smile to our faces. Anyway, ‘Time waits for no man’ and there is a Sunday dinner to cook!”

Just a brief note, we would like to apologize to those of you who experienced problems listening to SoundCzech over the internet earlier this week. There was a temporary fault on the Radio Prague server.

David Stern from Maryland reacts to an older piece he found on the Radio Prague pages, namely an interview with Holocaust survivor Zdenka Fantlova:

Zdenka Fantlová
“I grew up in Czechoslovakia, a Jew, and almost by miracle my parents and I escaped at the end of 1939. I just saw on the internet your two interviews with Zdenka Fantlová and also am reading her memoir ‘My Lucky Star’ which I discovered a week ago. How can I get in touch with the author? She wrote that on the forced march to Gross Rosen Camp her good friend Marta Bloch disappeared, along with many other young women, presumably, dead of hunger, cold or a Nazi bullet.

"She should know that (I think) Marta in fact survived, and in 1984 was living as Marta Jakes in Scarsdale, New York, USA. She was one of 5 girls who in the morning darkness jumped into a ditch and were not seen by the Germans. They later escaped and were freed by the Russian army. At least, that is the story I have from an interview in 1984 with one of the five, my second cousin Elizabeth Reich (born Pollack), now in Israel as Liesel Laufer.“

That’s a truly fascinating story. I’m afraid we do not have any contact details for Mrs Fantlová but one way to get in touch with her could be through the Czech Foundation for Holocaust Victims with whom she cooperates – we have included the details in the e-mail response to your query.

Our time is up, I’m afraid, so let me just repeat our competition question for this month:

March’s mystery man was born in 1861 in the town of Heřmanův Městec. Besides being a prolific writer, translator, teacher and later President Masaryk’s chief of protocol, he was also one of the founding members of the International Olympic Committee and its general secretary at one point.

We await your answers at the usual addresses [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic. They should reach us by the end of the month. Your questions, comments and, of course, reception reports are welcomed at the same addresses. Thanks for listening today and until next week, take care.