Sokol slet ends in Prague on Sunday

The 13th Sokol slet, or rally, ended in Prague on Sunday. The mass event, bringing together members of the Sokol sports organization from all over the Czech Republic as well as from abroad, even from countries as distant as Australia, was more than just a performance of mass calisthenics, it was a demonstration of unity and, in spite of all odds, of patriotic determination to keep national traditions alive, says Olga Szantova.

Yes, in spite of all odds. For months before the event many felt it shouldn't happen, and if it did, it couldn't possibly be a success. Sokol was founded in the mid-19th century, at a time of national awakening. For Czechs living under Austrian domination, Sokol played an important role in building the new Czechoslovak state after 1918, many of them sacrificed their lives fighting the Nazi German occupation during the Second World War, and they were among the strongest protesters against the communist takeover in 1948.

But all of that is history and by-gones should be left for the history books. This is no time for patriotic traditions, people are more interested in getting on with their lives, with economic success, and let's face it, whether we like it or not, globalization really is here to stay. Well, as the 13th Sokol slet showed, that's not always true.

Those were the citizens of Prague welcoming the Sunday morning Sokol parade. True, most of those who showed up were members of the older generation. But still, the enthusiasm was there, and it was mutual, just as strong among those who were marching. Joan Sedlacek came all the way from St.Paul, Minnesota in the United States for the event. More than 21 thousand people took part in the mass calisthenics at the stadium in 13 various performances - from the smallest children playing with their parents, through schoolchildren, men and women, all the way to the oldest, the faithful guard, Sokols who had participated in previous slets, certainly the one in 1994, the first one after the Velvet Revolution, but most of them even in the one before, the last slet before the organization was banned after the communist takeover in 1948. And most of them are determined to take part, if not on the field, then certainly in the audience when the next slet comes around in 6 years time. Because, after the success of this slet, there aren't many doubts about there being a 14th slet in 2006. A nation with such historic experience, a nation oppressed and occupied over and over again needs to keep its traditions alive.

Author: Olga Szantová
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