Monday, May 26, 2003

On Czech Radio's 80th anniversary, the station's news service runs this story on the 1945 Prague Uprising. About a mile from my apartment, a commemorative plaque out in front of Czech Radio headquarters reads: "Voláme všechny èechy. 5.5.1945 12:33. Signál pražského povstání" or "Calling all Czechs. May 5, 1945, 12:33pm. Signal of the Prague Uprising."

I've always taken a shine to this terse memorial and found it somewhat moving, not simply because of the enormity of what was at stake and the earnestness of the appeal, but also because it's funny, in a macabre sort of way. After all, it's so very Czech: "Attention Czechs. Please report to the uprising. Attendance is mandatory."

Actually, what they said was:

Calling all Czechs. Come to our help at once. Come and defend Czech Radio. The SS are murdering Czech people here. Come and help us. You can still get in through the Balbinova Street entrance...
The broadcasts to American, British and Soviet toops in English and Russian are worth listening to:

Here is Prague! Here is Prague! Americans and English - help us! We need guns. There are too many Germans!
The Red Army did not arrive until May 9, by which time 3,000 people had died in the fighting. All around the city you still see plaque saying "zde padl" or "here fell" following by somebody's name. Sometimes I ask aloud whether anybody helped him up, but I mean no disrespect. It's good that these people's names are remembered, especially when most of the deaths could have been avoided had the Americans moved on from Plzeò.

That reminds me. I have a friend who says the first thing she remembers about the 1989 revolution was a group of classmates standing out in front of her school. She was 13 or 14. One girl said in a whisper that her parents told her it wasn't true that all of Czechoslovakia was liberated by the Russians. "Come on, that can't be," was the response from the crowd of incredulous schoolgirls.


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