Monday, March 29, 2010

Sounds like a Healthy Debate About Patriotism in Slovakia

Slovak Flag

The New York Times recently chronicled a healthy debate about patriotism that is going on in Slovakia.  Politicians are playing to populism asking all schools to display the flag and play the national anthem every morning.  This is all taking place in advance of upcoming elections.  Critics, including Martin Simecka, (son of Milan Simecka, who would be so proud of his son's public intellectual role) say the efforts aren't inclusive of ethnic minorities and may glorify the past with uncomfortable truths glossed over. Click on my title to read the article.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

'Soul Of A Citizen': Barack Obama and Vaclav Havel, And When Small Steps Yield Unexpected Fruit

Recently I saw the Czech movie "Twenty-One Spokespersons of Charter '77." What a great film for showcasing the singular courage individuals had to possess to work for change at a time no one thought change was possible.  In the film, Vaclav Havel said that Western reporters would always come and interview him and then tell him that what he was trying to do was impossible.  You are only risking your life, they intimated.  The balance in power is too great.

A grateful Czech nation is glad he ignored that advice.  He did not work alone to create change.  As more and more Czechs not only didn't believe in the totalitarian system, but grew willing to show their lack of belief,  Charter 77 evolved from dissident protest group to celebrated speakers of truth to power.  I was struck by one of the spokeslady's comments in the film.  As she watched her fellow citizens congregate in Wenceslas Square to protest, she went home.  She said "her work was done and she was no longer needed."  Aren't you grateful for courageous citizens like that?

A recent essay on the Huffington Post celebrates these people who take small steps to yield unforseen fruits.  What steps are you comfortable taking to change your society?  Are you one of the early canaries who sing in the coal mine or are you more comfortable helping later when a movement picks up steam?

Has one person's political risk-taking and actions ever inspired you? Who was it? What did they do? How did they open your mind?

Have you ever felt passionately about an issue yet kept quiet?  How come? What kept you from expressing how you felt?

Two issues that inspired me to activism in my own country were protesting the Iraq War to my elected officials, including my-then United States Senator Barack Obama. What was depressing about my letters is I read them five years after I wrote them early in the war and nothing in the situation had changed.  I could have sent them again and just changed the date.  I'm grateful that my Senator was finally elected to the Presidency to change all that and he has.

The other issue that inspired me to activism was our recent health care debates in America.  It took zero courage on my part to call my elected officials over and over and over again.  It merely took time.  But when the President of the United States said afterwards "thank you" to everyone who ever made a call or worked for change on health care in America, I found it deeply meaningful.

Click on my title to read the essay on Paul Loeb's book "Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in Challenging Times." 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Forgotten Transports of Czech Jews

Deported Czech Jews
working as conscripted laborers
in Estonia
I haven't yet been to Terezin, the concentration camp that is frequently visited by Prague tourists as a day trip out of the city.  If there is one experience that tells the story of Czech Jews, visiting Terezin and seeing it for oneself has been the single event that most people interested in Czech history have experienced.

Now a new and intensively-researched film documents the little-known stories of what happened to Czech Jews during the Holocaust.  Filmmaker Lukas Pribyl, is a project obviously close to his heart due to his family's history, has culled photos from survivors and relatives of both sides of the story to create a photographic narrative of what happened for us to see almost as if we were there.

To read more about his new film, click on my title to access the story in the New York Times. Does anyone know if it's been shown in Prague yet?  Have you seen it?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall Visit St. Clement's Church in Prague

  photo copyright Sybille Yates 2010

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall

Prague is one of those cities that seems to host important figures from around the world.  This week Prince Charles came through Prague on his Central European tour and Charles and Camilla (or C & C as my friend and chaplain Ricky Yates affectionately refers to them in shorthand) chose to attend Sunday service at St. Clement's Anglican Church in Prague. As you can imagine the amount of coordination required is extensive and Ricky should be proud as a British citizen for keeping the Prince's visit a secret when diplomatic sources did not!

I respect Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall for visiting St. Clement's church.  If you were looking to get splashed all over the headlines, you probably wouldn't pick going to church as the activity to do it.  But to the people involved at the church it makes a difference.  Expat churches are incredibly hard to sustain financially as there aren't big endowments and the members are constantly coming and going.  By attending services, Prince Charles brought all kinds of great publicity to St. Clement's (including his own web page), doubled the normal attendance and helped the budget of a fantastic community of Christians.

If you want to read more about the Prince's visit, I invite you to enjoy Part I  of the royal visit on Ricky Yates blog here:

Part II follows! One of the coolest parts about the Prince's visit is I'm sure they don't let just anybody preach to the Prince.  Go Ricky Go!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Original Thinking in Olomouc: A Grain Silo Reborn

The New York Times featured a very interesting home in Olomouc, Czech Republic today. It looks like a beautiful home to live in and look out of; Olomouc is said to be very old and very beautiful so I can just imagine how breathtaking it is to see the entire city from above.

I wonder if the neighbors feel this home is as beautiful to look at as look out of? Regardless, I have to give it to this family for original thinking. Click on my title to read the article and see the slide show of their home.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thanks for reading!

This month brought me the best gift of blogging.  I guess I should say, the second best gift of blogging because the first gift is the wonderful, wonderful friends I have made in real life due to my blog.  This month I have just had amazing conversations with a couple of my blog readers ~ and what a stimulating group they are! Thank you for reading my blog and giving me your feedback.

It's so exciting to hear about the adventures and thoughts of people who read what I write because I get feedback not only on what I've said but I get to see who enjoys it.  Keep reading and writing to me!  I love it.

This month my very best friend from 2nd grade, Nancy, now living in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, hosted a Czech night at her book club.  She served mead and had Central European food and her entire book club read Bohumil Hrabal's "I Served the King of England" based on my recommendation.  If any of Nancy's book club members are reading my blog for the first time, welcome!  Thanks for cherishing my good friend Nancy and sampling the gorgeous literature of the Czech Republic.  I feel like I did my bit to spread Hrabal's name in America where he is virtually unknown.  Nothing could make a librarian happier!

 I will begin writing longer posts again shortly.  Life is so beautiful and I can't write down fast enough all of the things that fascinate me. Until next time, ciao!
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