Prague commemorates the 35th anniversary of the death of the woman who founded the Czechoslovak Red Cross

Alice Masarykova

This week is the 35th anniversary of the death of a fascinating but lesser known figure in twentieth century Czech history, the founder of the Czechoslovak Red Cross, Alice Masarykova. A small commemoration was held on Thursday at the Red Cross headquarters in Prague, the same building where Alice spent much of her childhood. Alena Skodova was there and brings back this report:

The ceremony began with a rendition of the folk song "Ach, synku, synku", the favourite song of Alice Masarykova's father, the first Czechoslovak President Tomas Masaryk. Like her father, Alice had strong humanitarian feelings, and devoted all her live to helping the needy. She was well known for her courage and later for her diplomatic skills, as we hear from Slavica Erceg-Verem of the Czech Red Cross:

"She had a strong social feeling for affected and vulnerable people and during WWI she helped the wounded and the sick, and after the war, in 1919 she founded the Czechoslovak Red Cross and was its president for 20 years. Besides these social and humanitarian activities she was also very active on international field - she was for many years a member of the Assembly of Delegates of the International Federation of the Red Cross. By that time no one from the Red Cross actually succeeded in what she had succeeded on international level, she was very well-known in the international world."

The early days of the Czechoslovak Red Cross were not always easy, but Alice didn't hesitate to sacrifice her private life for the sake of Red Cross ideals:

"Since the financial means were quite difficult to obtain, she dedicated lots of her financial sources to the Red Cross, even the first room where the Red Cross worked was her own room, where she lived, only afterwards they obtained sponsors and spread their activities, but the very first ideas and very first work was done from her offices."

Alice Masarykova spent many years in exile, during the Second World War in Switzerland and Britain, and later, after the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia, in the United States, where she continued her work helping others. Although she died in exile, in Chicago in 1966, she is remembered in her home country after years of deliberate neglect by the communist regime, and her remains now rest alongside those of her father.

"After many, many years we managed in the year 1994 to bring here her ashes from the United States, and yesterday there was the 35th anniversary of her death, so we out flowers on the graveyard where her urn is placed."