FOREIGN CZECHS WEEK -- PRAGUE 28.9 -- 4.10.2003
The event started already with the meeting of Czech emigrants in Vienna from 24 to 26 September. I do not wish to tire the reader with details that will be published in a collection of studies. Rather I will try to convey my impressions and perceptions as a participant and to provide some general information.
Vienna welcomed us with wonderful weather. The program included panel discussions featuring interesting people. We visited the Jan Amos Comenius school, the Austrian National Library with its fascinating collection of documents kept by the Austrian secret police on T.G. Masaryk, the Czech embassy, the Czech Centre, SOKOL Vienna with its fine new sports halls, and it was all rounded off with a wonderful ball at the Auersberg palace. The event was attended mostly by Czech emigrants from Western countries, which from the financial point of view was understandable.
It was positive that senators from the Czech Republic Senate committee for emigrants Jitka Seidlová and Jaroslav Šula honored us with a visit. The sending of a third senator, a member of the Communist Party (KSCM), was truly tactless. A demand was included in the concluding resolution that members of a party which, for the overwhelming majority, was the cause of their leaving or being forced to leave their homeland should not be elected to the committee for emigrants.
The event in Prague followed on immediately after Vienna with a ceremonial welcome for emigrants which was attended by the rector of Charles University Professor Wilhelm and representatives of the state and of political parties. We again experienced current Czech political reality, when Mister Topolánek, the ODS leader, took his place in the presidency with chewing gum in his mouth, which he proceeded to place on the table on being asked to make a welcome speech...
(By the way, the ODS along with the KSCM has always been against the wishes and requests of the exile community, whether this has concerned restitution, return of Czech citizenship, and so on. In short, the motto of these parties has been: no one had to leave. But I would like to see what kind of smile on his face Mister Topolánek would have had, if he had been born slightly earlier and been sent to the uranium mines for his opinions to dig up that "enlightened" mineral, and how he would have liked being kicked by sadistic prison guards? - editor's note, which the author agrees with.)
The program was similarly rich and packed as that in Vienna - discussions, visits, films, and a closing reception at the Valdstejn Palace. Without in any way wishing to undervalue the official proceedings, I would dare to say that the main benefit of the meeting of emigrants from all over the world was the opportunity to talk and make contact with others who know what is at stake and are seeking paths to the future. This is a question of quick and effective mutual communication, and work with young people. From among the many people, I would like to mention Dagmar Takacsová, the chairwoman of the Czech Association in Slovakia, who with her brilliant argumentation and rhetoric has contributed to the resolution of problems.
In Prague, there were more fellow Czechs from the "poorer" countries. Without wishing to offend Czechs living in the West -- I myself lived there for a long time and I much esteem them -- I would dare to say that our fellow Czechs from the East can give us far more than we can give them. Conversations with them were all the more charming and humane. They are not, if I may be allowed to say so, so "spoiled" in the thinking and behavior by the consumer lifestyle as the majority of emigrants who live in the West. Perhaps this is best captured by a citation from Egon Hostovsky: "happy consumers of devoid-of-content boredom". Perhaps the West in general needs certain spiritual impulses from the East for it to become more human again?
One representative of the Bulgarian-Czech association told me that they are unhappy and disappointed that in Sofia the post of director of the Czech Centre has been taken up by Mrs. Ransdorf, the wife of a leading representative of the KSCM...since she "won" the selection competition. I can only be ashamed that we are "capable" of committing such an unbelievable case of tactlessness towards our fellow Czechs abroad.
We experienced some marvellous moments and it was a great honor for all of us to be able to personally greet "Important Czech Women Around the World" and be present when they received their awards.
One of them, Mrs. Barbara Lee Podoski, a 90-year-old lady, told us of her first return home: "I jumped out of the carriage and recalled how Jan Masaryk at Christmas 1943 thought about his return -- When we go back home, I will be in the last carriage. As soon as we cross the border, I will come out and ask the first railwayman whom I see if he will permit me to get out. And then I will kneel down and caress the earth -- I knelt down and caressed the earth." I will never forget the silence and the tears of many of those present before an ovation eventually broke out.
The life stories of these remarkable women should be disseminated by the media as an example for the young generation, who are desperately waiting for such positive impulses and are negatively influenced by the ever more stupid products of today's media, which lower the level of civilization of society and in their essence constitute a force against mankind and the true values of a worthwhile life.
History is the witness of time, the light of truth, a living memory, the teacher of life, and the messenger of the past.
CiceroJan Šinágl (translated and edited by Ian Finlay)
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