Uranium mine may become national memorial

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During the 1950s and 60s in former communist Czechoslovakia, thousands of prisoners - many of them convicted simply for their beliefs - were sent to work in dreaded Uranium mines. Many died during and after their sentences as a result of the tortuously hard labour and conditions brought on by exposure to radioactive material. Many here in the CR now believe that such former mines and labour camps should be recognized as memorials to crimes of communism. Peter Smith reports.

Former prisoners, local councilors, government representatives and members of the general public gathered in the Culture Centre in the Central Bohemian village of Milin earlier this week. They were there to discuss designating the nearby Tabor Vojna uranium mine a national memorial with the same significance as Lidice or Terezin. It was there that I met Ivo Kozak, a member of the Confederation of Political Prisoners and a man that served seven years in Vojna.

Ivo Kozak: We prisoners we had no possibility to obtain our money from our work. We became only a part of them - we we're obliged to pay for our stay in the concentration camp. Accommodation was in wooden barracks in a room of 20 or 26 men on stage beds.

The bottom line when it comes to establishing national memorials is money - Pavel Jirasek is Director of the Dept. for Museums and Galleries at the Ministry of Culture.

Pavel Jirasek: The government accepted the idea of a monument for all those that died and all those that were here in prison. Problem is that the state budget doesn't have enough money for new projects, but I am optimistic because we are in the procedure to discuss the new material about all these monuments dealing with democracy and history of the 20th century in this country, and we will present the new version material next month to the government

That will come as a some relief to people like Katerina Blazkova - her husband - a member of the post-WW2 Benes government, never recovered from the 11 years he spent in the camp.

Blazkova: I visited him very often - when it was possible because it was only possible when he was able to work. When he didn't do the work they wanted from him, so he had no visits. And after prison he had seven operations on the central nervous system, which was damaged. And after seven operations he died.

And you can here Peter's full report from the Tabor Vojan uranium mine in Spotlight this coming Monday.