In the News 11.8.08

Train crash, Hiroshima, WWII, & much more

Written by Naďa Straková
Aktuálně.cz CzechNews


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Prague – Last Friday saw a terrible accident that still is the major headline in the Czech media this week.

Seven people were killed and around 70 injured during one of the worst train accidents in the Czech Republic in the living memory.

The international Eurocity express train, travelling from the Polish city of Krakow to the Czech capital Prague, crashed at nearly full speed into a collapsed bridge obstructing the railway near the town of Studénka close to the Moravian city of Ostrava, some 400 kilometres east of Prague.

The bridge dates back to 1961. Its construction was in a very bad shape, therefore it has been under reconstruction since April this year. Transport Company Ostrava (Dopravní podniky Ostrava, ODS) has been in charge of the reconstruction.

Aktuálně.cz spoke to some of the locals who claimed there was lots of alcohol drinking going on at the construction site.

„The place was a mess. The workers drank alcohol. My kids saw the workers with a bottle of vodka and our neighbor who has already talked to the media has got anonymous threats but I won’t want keep silent,” said the local man who wants to remain anonymous.

However, the construction companies deny it would be their fault. “No one knows yet why the bridge collapsed and everyone is trying to put all the blame on us,” said director of the Ostrava´s construction company Miroslav Kovalík.


If you thought you know everything about the August 21, 1968 by now, then you better watch public broadcaster Czech Television broadcast on August 20.Czech TV has prepared a special program to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw pact troops´ invasion on August 21, 1968.

There is a chance you may discover new facts and figures if you watch the program, dubbed The August Night, which will be broadcast live using pre-filmed memories, archives and live entries. The program is also to interlink the TV broadcast with its web page, viewers’ reactions, archives, testimonies of the witnesses and commentaries of the historians.

Also read:  Donald Trump Jr. stood in bread lines in communist Czechoslovakia, he tells Fox News


Have you ever wondered why communist East Germany had much more informants than Czechoslovakia?

Did you know that StB aka state security had the largest number of informers, as much as 100,000, at the turn of 1959 and 1960, while it decreased down to 15,000 around the 1968 Prague Spring reform?

The liberalization trend of the regime was halted by the armed intervention of the USSR and its Eastern European allies in August 1968.

And were you aware of the fact that under communism if you were beaten by your wife, you could not work as an informant for the secret police?

You can find answers to the these issues and more in an interview Aktuálně.cz conducted with Pavel Žáček, director of the The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, here.


There was another infamous anniversary last week. Wednesday marked the world´s first nuclear attack in the history of humankind.

Vigils were held across the world to remember one of the biggest tragedies in the history of humankind but hardly any one remembers the creator of the only building that survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack. His name was Jan Letzel and he came from Czechoslovakia.

The bomb flattened the entire city centre, except the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall, nicknnamed A-bomb Dome later on, which was designed by Jan Letzel.


Two Czech scientists who were arrested in India for what the local authorities called illegal bug collection are now awaiting charges before their trial begins. According to local laws, they could receive prison sentences of three to seven years.
Finally, after more than a month in prison, Petr Švácha and Emil Kučera were released on bail on July 25.

Petr Švácha and Emil Kučera talked to Aktuálně.cz about their time in the Darjeeling prison, difficulties with local lawyers, arrest by local foresters and much more.


Czech audience and critics often grumble that the local film industry produces only romantic comedies, while historical films, for example, are missing from the screens. Now, they will have less reasons to complain, as three films about World War II are being released.

Václav Marhoul’s “Tobruk”, a story of Czechoslovak soldiers fighting in Tunisia in the early years of the war, is going to premier.
Marek Najbrt has been filming “Protektor”, with financial support from the fund, about the life of a Czech actress around the time of Reinhard Heydrich’s assassination in Prague.

Another ambitious project “Lidice” will also return to this turbulent period in the wartime Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

Some of the worst Nazi terror in this country was unleashed after Czechoslovak parachutists, trained and sent in from Britain, fatally injured the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia on May 27, 1942.


Now for something completely different. There are millions of trees growing in the Czech Republic, yet only twelve of them made it to the shortlist for the annual “Tree of the Year” contest, held by Nadace Partnerství (Partnership Foundation).

Independently of the contest, Aktuálně.cz has prepared its own The Tree of the Year contest for its readers. See the chosen trees and read the legends that are closely related to them.


And with trees we’ll stay for a while. We have millions of trees in our own forests but apparently, we import millions of trees illegally felled in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Therefore Czech environmentalists have prepared a TV ad called Forest Love that is to draw attention to the problem of illegal wood imports from tropical zones.

Also read:  Prague 6’s planned Bořislavka Centrum wins international award

It may not seem so at first but this topic concerns each and every one of us, as producers of toilet papers and napkins and tissues are said to ignore the origin of the imported material. It is estimated that every day some 270 thousand of healthy trees are flushed down the toilet or thrown into the garbage in that way.


Nobody wants it but everybody needs it. Do you know what it is? Nuclear power. We all need energy but who wants to have nuclear waste deposited at one´s doorstep?

Now, the Radioactive Waste Repository Authority has come up with an solution – they would pay a volunteer that would help the state counter the opposition of citizens who refuse to have nuclear waste deposited near their houses.

The “activist” would be responsible for convincing his or her neighbors to agree to a geological survey of the area. For the service, the volunteer would be paid a monthly salary of several thousand crowns by the organization.

To me, any door-to-door convincing evokes Bible salesmen. We may as well call the paid activist a nuclear power evangelist, what do you say to that?

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