Statues –all change!

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This week the city hall of Ústí nad Labem opened a new atrium which it had reconstructed at considerable expense - more than thirty million crowns. It was back-slapping, smiles and congratulations all round as people gathered to view the new site, but the speeches and fanfare accompanying the event were somewhat dampened by the black looks some of the locals directed at members of the local administration. As far as they were concerned there was a fly in the ointment, because the bronze statue dominating the new atrium was more than familiar.

Until recently it stood in Masaryk street – until someone at city hall decided it would look much better in a different setting – gracing the new atrium in the city centre. So it happened that the inhabitants of Masaryk street woke up one morning to find the statue gone – with only the pedestal left to remind them of its existence. The old settlers are not mincing their words and accuse city hall of having stolen their statue. Unfazed, city hall officials counter that they cannot have stolen something that belongs to the city and claim they merely found a better setting for the work of art.

Caught up in the cross-fire the architect who designed the atrium said none of this was his fault – he had designed the atrium with a different statue in mind, but due to the cost-cutting measures in force city hall had not been able to afford it. Apparently most of the 30 million had gone into building a huge underground parking lot directly beneath the atrium.

The townspeople are shaking their heads over this policy and the vast majority of them believe that the statue should be returned to where it stood for decades –even at the cost of leaving the atrium bare until a private sponsor can be found to finance a new work of art. The people of Masaryk street are ready to do battle – especially since this is not the first statue to have unexpectedly moved location in Ústí. A few years ago a statue of the three kings standing on the outskirts of town mysteriously disappeared to reappear in the town park. Clearly, the local administration is used to calling the shots and when it sees fit even stone statues get their marching orders.