Crowds gathered in Prague’s Saint Vitus Cathedral this Sunday at a special mass to commemorate the victims of communism. Worship was led by bishop Václav Malý, who referred to the Communist coup of February 1948 in his sermon as a ‘tragedy, which should never be repeated’. Bishop Malý also preached forgiveness, asking victims of the communist regime to ‘forgive, but not forget’. The service comes a day before the 60th anniversary of the so-called ‘bloodless coup’, when Communist forces seized power in post-war Czechoslovakia. In the period of Communist rule from 1948 to 1989, over 262,000 political prisoners were jailed or sent to labour camps, where thousands perished. A further 241 people were executed, having been found guilty of performing ‘anti-communist acts’.
Around one hundred people turned out on Wenceslas Square on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the Communist coup of 1948. The majority of those present were young people, from the Scouts, the Young Christian Democrats and the Young Conservatives in particular. There were, however, also several older people there who had witnessed the events of February 1948 first hand. They addressed the crowds - in the words of one of the other orators, Mirko Št’astný - ‘to remind them of the horrors that the Czech people lived through’ during the communist period. It was on Wenceslas Square on February 25, 1948, that thousands gathered calling for the then president, Edvard Beneš, to resign, and for Communist Prime Minister Klement Gottwald to replace him at Prague Castle.
Senior members of the Czech Green Party met in Prague on Sunday to discuss party policy. On the agenda were American proposals to build a missile-defence shield in the Czech Republic. The Greens are split on whether such a radar base should be built on Czech soil, and at Sunday’s meeting, the suggestion of having an in-party referendum on the matter was discussed. Also discussed at Sunday’s meeting were healthcare fees, introduced last month by the government coalition, of which the Green Party is a member. Some quarters in the Green Party want to reserve their opinions on healthcare fees until the government next discusses the topic, other Greens want the party leadership to pressurize the coalition into changing aspects of the system of healthcare fees immediately.
One Green Party senator who was not at Sunday’s meeting was foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Mr Schwarzenberg was admitted to hospital on Sunday, where he will undergo heart surgery. It is thought that the foreign minister will spend ten to fourteen days in hospital. There is some speculation that upon his release from hospital, Mr Schwarzenberg may resign from his post as minister for health reasons. His long-term adversary in the government, the Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek, is expected to make a return to the cabinet during Mr Schwarzenberg’s hospitalization. Mr Čunek resigned in November, dogged by several corruption scandals, in the face of which, Mr Schwarzenberg says, he has never convincingly proved his innocence. Mr Schwarzenberg has said that he is unable to sit in the same cabinet as someone who is unable to disprove corruption allegations.
Meanwhile, Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek has said that his return to the cabinet is ‘imminent’. In an interview with Václav Moravec on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Čunek said that he couldn’t rule out a cabinet comeback as early as Monday. Mr Čunek was formerly the minister for regional development and the deputy prime minister, but resigned in November when he came under fire for claiming social benefits while having millions of crowns deposited in various bank accounts. Mr Čunek responds that he only claimed benefits to which he was entitled. Police have subsequently dropped their investigations into the case.
The Czech Republic will be represented at Sunday evening’s Oscar ceremony by Marketa Irglová, who is nominated, alongside Irishman Glen Hansard in the best song category. Hansard and Irglová received a nomination for the song ‘Falling Slowly’ which they wrote and performed in the film ‘Once’. The duo will perform the song at Sunday evening’s Oscar ceremony. The film ‘Once’ follows the relationship which develops between an Irish busker and a Czech immigrant in Dublin, and was one of the surprise hits of last year. It has already won an audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, and an LA Film Critics’ Award for its soundtrack.
Temperature records were broken all over the country on Sunday, as the Czech Republic enjoyed some of the warmest February weather ever measured. The warmest weather was recorded in the South Bohemian town of České Budějovice, where temperatures peaked at 21 degrees Celsius. This smashed the previous record for this day – 17.9 degrees centigrade, recorded on February 25, 1990. In Prague, the record set in 1990 of 16.6 degrees was equaled, while the Czech Republic’s second city, Brno, did not surpass its record, but did enjoy temperatures of up to 14.8 degrees.
A man has died in a skiing accident in Špindlerův Mlýn, North Bohemia. On the difficult, icy, terrain the man veered off course, crashed through a barrier and fell down a steep slope. Rescue workers could only reach the injured man by helicopter. The skier sustained major head injuries and broken bones, and despite the efforts of rescue workers, succumbed to his injuries before he could be taken to hospital.
Czech tennis star Radek Štěpánek is through to the final of the ATP tennis tournament in San Jose, California, after beating American Robby Ginepri in three sets. Štěpánek, who is seeded fourth in the competition, will now face the favourite for the title, Andy Roddick, in the final. Štěpánek stands the chance of winning his third career title after putting an end to wild card Ginepri’s hopes, defeating him 6-7, 6-4, 6-1. Ginepri had already caused an upset, beating the tournament’s second-seed, James Blake, in the quarter-finals.