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This week in Mailbox: the origin of the name of Jan Zizka of Trocnov, Radio Prague jingles, North Korean workers in the Czech Republic, Skoda cars in winter. Listeners quoted: Timothy Merkel, Angela Golas, George Derringer, Jonathan Murphy, Don Schumann.

Welcome to Mailbox. Thank you very much for the abundance of e-mails that have arrived over the past week, with your competition answers, questions about music played on Radio Prague as well as comments on the current political situation in the Czech Republic.

Before we turn to your letters; a little bird told us that one of our faithful listeners, Mr Charles Konecny from Ohio, will celebrate his 75th birthday in a few days time. Mr Konecny, we wish you many happy returns and please keep tuning in to our broadcasts!

Also in the United States, our listener Alon Raab would like to know whether the topic for this year's annual competition has been decided yet.

For all of you who would like to take part in Radio Prague's yearly contest - there is still a few weeks to go before the competition question is announced. We will let you know in our broadcasts and on our website what the topic is and what prizes there will be for the winner and runners-up.

Timothy Merkel who listens to us in the United States has this question about the legendary 15th-century Czech military leader Jan Zizka of Trocnov:

"I have heard rumours that 'Zizka' was a surname given to Jan of Trocnov because 'Zizka' means 'one-eyed'. Is this reflected at all in the Czech language today?"

It indeed is one of the explanations of his surname which was probably a nickname originally. But the word is no longer understandable to Czechs nowadays. Another explanation is that his name is derived from an old Slavic word for bug or beetle.

Angela Golas from Canada has this query:

"We enjoy listening to Radio Prague International on the Canadian Broadcasting service (CBC) overnight service. We would love to know the name of your themesong!"

What you probably have in mind are special Radio Prague jingles that are based on Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony. They were first introduced in 2005 and replaced our old jingles.

George Derringer listens to Radio Prague in Massachusetts:

"I want to tell you that I have been listening to Radio Prague since the early 1960s, a very different world back then to be sure. I still listen on shortwave, on the World Radio Network through Sirius Satellite Radio and, once in a while, even on the Internet although I am usually either working or otherwise away from my computer for the live streaming over the Internet. I still hope to visit Prague one of these days because I have long understood what a beautiful place it is. Thanks for more than 45 years of service - I appreciate it."

Our regular listener Jonathan Murphy from Ireland sent us this comment and question.

"In your news you had a report concerning the ending of the controversial process of work permits for North Koreans. Could you give more details about the origins of this process and why it has lasted as long as it has? I would have imagined that such a government sanctioned system where part of the wages went directly to the North Korean government would have caused disquiet amongst the Czech public, not to mention those in Amnesty International."

The topic of North Korean workers in the Czech Republic was explored in Talking Point this week. Radio Prague is following the story and will bring you any new developments.

Another faithful Radio Prague listener is Don Schumann from Colorado:

"I note with unfortunate regularity how you bad-mouth old Skodas. [...] Let me say I have driven my 120L, r.v. 1985 for over FIFTEEN years as REGULAR, DAILY TRANSPORT, with the closest Skoda service facility many, many thousands of miles away. We are experiencing the worst possible winter in Colorado now. After yesterday's 8th snowstorm in seven weeks, this morning we just broke a lowest temperature in history... minus 28 degrees Celsius! AND, my intrepid, 1985 Skoda started with no trouble, AT minus 28 degrees Celsius, brought me all the way to work and rests in the bitter cold to take me home again, WITH NO TROUBLE, while all the fancy German and Japanese machines, costing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars are sitting at the sides, stalling from the cold, some with their diesel fuel turning to jelly! Next time you decide to berate the old Skodas, please think again! SOME of us take pride in Czech machines, as it is DESERVED."

All we can say is well done, old Skoda, and we wish Mr Schumann that his trusty car may last for many more years.


And now we only have time to repeat Radio Prague's competition question for February.

Our mystery person this month is a woman. She was born in the former Czechoslovakia, she started off as a skier and was a member of the Czechoslovak national skiing team. Later she worked as a fashion model in the US and Canada but today she is perhaps best-known thanks to her marriage to an American entrepreneur and media tycoon whom she divorced in 1992.

Please tell us the name of this Czech-born American celebrity by the end of February to English@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099, Prague, Czech Republic.