Agnieszka Holland, one of Poland’s most prominent directors, in March will begin shooting a three-part film about Jan Palach, a Charles University law student who set himself on fire to protest the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion. Holland — who studied at Prague’s famous film and TV school FAMU during the Prague Spring — recently directed a film about the mythical Robin Hood-like figure Juraj Jánošík, a Slovak national hero.
Known as “the father of Czech cinema,” Otakar Vávra directed over 50 films in his lifetime — under both the Nazi occupation and Communist regime — and helped found Prague’s famous academy FAMU, where he taught the craft to generations of filmmakers, including “Czech New Wave” masters like Věra Chytilová, Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel (both Oscar winners), and a decade later, Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica.
A new book maps the thinly explored Russian side of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Compiled and edited by Czech Television’s former Moscow anchor, Josef Pazderka, ‘Invasion 1968. The Russian View,’ looks at the moods and emotions — a ‘psychogram,’ as Pazderka calls it — of Russian soldiers, dissidents and journalists involved in and affected by the Warsaw Pact invasion.
Milena Vostřáková, who in 1969 was sacked as an announcer and moderator for the Czechoslovak state broadcaster for toasting her country’s victory over the Soviet Union in a hockey match as a “moral victory,” died on Wednesday following a brief illness. She had made a celebrated return to television following the toppling of the Communist government after the Velvet Revolution.
Remembered by many Czechs as the Cold War warrior who beat the Soviet Union and helped restore their country’s freedom, the late US President Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican, will be honored in Prague on Friday when the street where the US ambassadorial residence stands is named after him. Current US ambassador to Prague Norman Eisen, a former close aide to Democratic US President President Barack Obama, will have to change his visiting card and headed notepaper.
With the anniversary of the execution of democratic politician Milada Horáková marked today and the formal dissolution of the Warsaw Pact coming twenty years ago on Friday, this week is being billed as the ‘Week of Freedom’ in the Czech Republic with commemorative events, educational programs and a political conference taking place.
Outspoken neo-conservative and former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has hit out at the Czech Republic and other Central European countries that sent Soviet troops home at the end of the Cold War for not doing more to help Libyan rebels fighting Colonel Gaddafi. Speaking in the Czech capital, Wolfowitz said Prague had not even recognized the rebels.
This Wednesday marks the anniversary of the death of Jan Palach, the Charles University student who set himself on fire in a bid to rouse people from the apathy that had set into Czechoslovak society in the wake of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. He succeeded, albeit briefly; his funeral was a mass outpouring of grief and anger, and Palach became — for many — an enduring symbol of resistance.