Russian anti-communist volunteers commemorated

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In 1917, around 200,000 Russians from various walks of life took up arms against the new Bolshevik regime, to fight for a democratic government. That struggle ended in defeat three years later. Most of the 'White Russians', as they were known, fled the country; many found a new life in Czechoslovakia. On Wednesday Prague witnessed a ceremony to commemorate the Russian volunteers who took up arms to fight the communist takeover. Olga Szantova was there.

The Russian anthem there, or rather, the anthem of the Russian democratic forces who fought the Bolsheviks after the communist takeover in Russia in 1917. For three years they fought under the command of General Petr Vrangel before they were finally defeated. Just 80 years ago, on November 16, 1920, the last of his army fled communist-dominated Russian territory, seeking asylum in the democratic world. Czechoslovakia was one of the countries that offered them a new home.

The country was just two years old, having been founded in 1918, but regardless of its own numerous problems, Czechoslovakia allowed tens of thousands of Russian refugees to finish their studies and to settle down in new lives. They had their own schools, their own newspapers, and in 1925 they built the Russian Orthodox church which stands at the Russian cemetery, where the ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Russian democratic army was held on Wednesday.

But only some of the refugees are buried in the cemetery. Many relatives still don't know how or where they died, or where they're buried. In 1945, when the Soviet Army liberated Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II, many 'White Russians' were arrested by the KGB and dragged off to Russia. Oleg Podgorny, the director of the Prague Spring International Music Festival, was one of those who took part in the ceremony: Yes, the absence of any political representatives, the fact that the only wreath laid was that presented by the descendants of Russian refugees, was an unpleasant surprise. Obviously all politicians are busy this week with the second round of elections to the Senate due on Sunday, says Jiri Karas, the only Member of Parliament who was present:

Author: Olga Szantová
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