Memorial to Czechia’s 20th century resistance movements to open this week
Memorial commemorating Czechia’s 20th century resistance movements to open this week
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A new memorial to Czechs who took part in three resistance periods in the 20th century is set to open this Friday. The monument stands at the home of Josef Mašín, whose family were active in all three.
Contemporary Czech historians have marked out three resistance periods during Czechoslovakia’s troubled 20th century. The first took place during the First World War, the second during the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia from 1939 to 1945 and the third was a period of resistance to the Communist regime.
The family of Josef Mašín, on the site of whose birthplace the memorial stands, is an example of a group of people that took place in all three forms of resistance. Mašín himself served first as a Czechoslovak legionary on the Eastern Front during the First World War, then in the underground second resistance during the Nazi occupation. He was eventually captured by the Nazis and died in imprisonment. Mašín’s wife Zdena and his two sons Ctirad and Josef were then active in the third resistance against the Communist regime.
Tomáš Hradečný, who teaches architecture at the Czech Technical University in Prague, told Czech Radio about the memorial’s design.
“Very few authentic items have survived from the Mašíns here. These buildings were rebuilt several times and decades of totalitarianism have left their mark on them. That is why we chose to strip the structure to its bare bones – to remove any wooden annexes, ceilings, non-original windows and doors.
“All that remains is the stone and masonry skeleton. We covered this with a reinforced concrete shell and that is the memorial’s final form.”
In the centre of the roofless concrete remains of the Mašíns’ house, visitors will be able to see a mulberry tree that was planted on the spot two years ago. The mulberry was Josef Mašín’s favourite tree and used to grow on the surrounding village greens when he was a child.
Historian Pavel Blažek is a member of the association behind the place of remembrance. He says that there is also a story tied to the plant which speaks of Mašín’s character.
“When Mašín was growing up, there was a girl that was being teased by the other children from the village. They took her shoes and threw them into the crown of the tree. She couldn’t get them back and cried. Young Josef came, bravely climbed to the top where the others were too afraid to go, gave her the shoes back and told her to stop crying and go home.
“We very much liked this story and we are glad that the mulberry is coming back.”
As part of the memorial, the tree is supposed to symbolise life, resistance, the will for freedom and surviving through tough times. A symbolic plaque, citing Mašín’s last letter to his family that was found in the walls of his cell after the war, will be placed below the tree.
Aside from the mulberry, three lights, each projecting one of Czechia’s national colours, will be placed inside the memorial that is set to open this Friday, August 26, on the occasion of the 126th anniversary of Josef Mašín’s birth.