A look back at Czech ‘trau­mas’

Ex­hibit re­counts painful past

Toronto Sun - - TRAVEL -

PRAGUE, Czech Repub­lic — The voices of the wit­nesses are quiet. Their heads are pro­jected on screens be­hind a chain-link fence at the site of a former mon­u­ment to Soviet dic­ta­tor Josef Stalin. Their topic: The most painful mo­ments in the his­tory of Cze­choslo­vakia.

A mul­ti­me­dia ex­hi­bi­tion is mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the cre­ation of Cze­choslo­vakia by fo­cus­ing on the na­tion’s ex­pe­ri­ence with two to­tal­i­tar­ian regimes: The Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion in the Sec­ond World War and Com­mu­nist rule.

“The Me­mory of the Na­tion” was cre­ated by the Post Bel­lum non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, which has been record­ing oral his­to­ries of those who wit­nessed key his­tor­i­cal mo­ments. It starts in 1939, be­gin­ning with the Nazi in­va­sion, and goes un­til the end of the com­mu­nist regime in 1989.

“The 20th cen­tury is full of trau­mas,” said Jana Hol­cova, a Post Bel­lum spokesman.

Cze­choslo­vakia was cre­ated as an in­de­pen­dent state on Oct 28, 1918, as the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire col­lapsed at the end of the First World War. It ceased to ex­ist in 1993, af­ter the re­gion peace­fully split into two na­tions, the Czech Repub­lic and Slo­vakia.

Vis­i­tors to the ex­hibit have a rare chance to see the huge, rarely opened un­der­ground space just un­der the former Stalin mon­u­ment site at Prague’s Letna Park.

The al­most 16-me­tre gran­ite statue of Stalin with other fig­ures be­hind him, once con­sid­ered the big­gest rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the bru­tal dic­ta­tor out­side the Soviet Union, was un­veiled in 1955 af­ter six years of work. Its creator, Otakar Svec, killed him­self shortly be­fore that, fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of his wife.

Af­ter Stalin’s Soviet suc­ces­sor, Nikita Khrushchev, de­nounced Stalin’s per­son­al­ity cult, the mon­u­ment that was vis­i­ble from many parts of Prague be­came a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem. It was de­mol­ished in 1962.

A vis­i­tor views a mul­ti­me­dia ex­hi­bi­tion in Prague, Czech Repub­lic, that marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the cre­ation of Cze­choslo­vakia.

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