August 14 CZECH FILM NIGHT at The Beltonian Theatre: "Milada" (2017) English with Czech subtitles. True story of Milada Horakova, martyr for democracy.

The Czech Heritage Museum & Genealogy Center and the historic Beltonian Theatre will screen “Milada,” a 2017 film in English which tells the true story of Czech hero and democratic politician Milada Horakova (1901-1950). Milada Horakova was the only woman to be executed by the Communist regime for her political beliefs. Horakova is played by Ayelet Zurer, an Israeli actress of Slovakian descent who also starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.” 

The screening for "Milada" will begin at 7 p.m., Tuesday,  August 14, 2018, at 219 E. Central Ave. Belton, Tx. Free admission.   Rating: Adult for themes, violence and mature situations. For more information on the topic, please see related links below the story.

 If there were such things as secular patron saints, Milada Horakova would surely qualify. The starting point for her canonization could be this information from Wikipedia:

“From 1927 to 1940 she was employed in the social welfare department of the Prague city authority. In addition to focusing on issues of social justice, Horáková also became a prominent campaigner for the equal status of women. She was also active in the Czechoslovak Red Cross.[3] In 1929 she joined the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party[4] which, despite the similarity in names, was a strong opponent of German National Socialism. After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Horáková became active in the underground resistance movement, but, together with her husband, she was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo in 1940. She was sent to the concentration camp at Terezín and then to various prisons in Germany. In the summer of 1944, Horáková appeared before a court in Dresden. Although the prosecution demanded the death penalty, she was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. She was released from detention in Bavaria in April 1945 by advancing United States forces in the closing stages of the Second World War.[5]

Scene from the movie "Milada" 

Scene from the movie "Milada" 

“I have stated to the organs of state security that I remain, on principle, firm in my convictions, and that I remain so, because I have built these convictions on the opinions, points of view, speeches and information of people who I have respected. Among them I include our country’s two greatest figures, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, both of whom were an inspiration to me throughout my life.”
— Milada Horakova

Following the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, Horáková returned to Prague and joined the leadership of the re-constituted Czechoslovak National Socialist Party, becoming a member of the Provisional National Assembly. In 1946, she won a seat in the elected National Assembly representing the region of České Budějovice in southern Bohemia. Her political activities again focussed on the role of women in society and also on the preservation of Czechoslovakia’s democratic institutions. Shortly after the Communist coup in February 1948, she resigned in protest from the parliament. Unlike many of her political associates, Horáková chose not to leave Czechoslovakia for the West, and continued to be politically active in Prague. On 27 September 1949, she was arrested and accused of being the leader of an alleged plot to overthrow the Communist regime.”

 The movie was written, directed and produced by David Mrnka, who has produced filming projects around the world for CNN, BBC, Larry King Live and others. Although the story is in the public domain and documentaries had been previously made, Mrnka sought the perspective of Horakova’s daughter, Jana Kanska, who lives in Washington D.C.

“I wanted personal information from the family and to have the blessing of her daughter,” Mrnka said.   “So I stayed three days and she drilled me. Ultimately she said yes and we worked together on the movie.”

“He had so much information already, which he obtained from the archives and from all the historical documents, that I was absolutely sure he was the right person to make this very difficult film,” Kanska told Radio Prague. “So I faithfully waited until now, when the film became reality.” The film was 10 years in the making, but Mrnka shot it in 35 days in 2016.  

“Milada” was a featured film for the “Czech That Film” festival held across the U.S. and Canada. It screened in April during the festival at Austin’s Violet Crown Cinema.

Click here to read Milada's last letter to her daughter. "I Will Always Be With You"

Interview with Milada's daughter http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/milada-horakovas-daughter-explains-role-in-new-feature-film-about-mother

Click here to read more when Milada's daughter, Jana Kansky, accepted the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom Award from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation for her mother.

https://youtu.be/Pl7zsrXRUP0 Czechoslovakia after WWI - Masaryk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Spii_fjdgXs Milada’s daughter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ut-NJY2EVM Czech Ambassador to the U.S. resigns in protest of the rise of communism in the Czechoslovak government

https://youtu.be/DlB0Tsxf0iw During the same trials, Franiska Zeminova, aged 68, was sentenced to prison for 20 years

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vMZrJhlpXc&t=11s Documentary in Czech, with an interview of Frantisek Preucil, who was sentenced to life imprisonment during the same trial. Visit this page to see more about Preucil, his anti-communist activities, escape to West Germany in the and report to the Voice of America of the cruelties and conditions behind the Iron Curtain.

Jana on late night TV

Poster Series: iDnez - National Committee for a Free Europe

Trailer for movie https://youtu.be/NKbvYs_-Sto

Graffiti on wall in Brno, Moravia, Czech Republic, marking the 65th anniversary of the execution of Milada Horakova. 

Graffiti on wall in Brno, Moravia, Czech Republic, marking the 65th anniversary of the execution of Milada Horakova. 

June 12 CZECH FILM NIGHT at The Beltonian: Kolya, 1996 Academy Award Winner - Best Foreign Language Film

Zdenek Sverak and Andrey Khalimon in Kolya

My mother invited me to see the 1996 Czech film, “Kolya,” in Fort Worth soon after it premiered. She had been going to the Czech Republic since 1988, but I’d never been. I enjoyed it on an artistic level, but I realized then that there were a lot of points, both humorous and serious, that the movie was making which I did not understand. I asked my mother a lot of questions and that helped me comprehend some of them. This film opened in me a new compassion for the Czechs, who have survived so many indignities to the soul.

Every few years, I watch it again and marvel at how many new clues are unlocked for me. There are things I did not understand until I visited my relatives in Moravia the second time, or until I’d refreshed my history education or until I became a focused student of my Czech heritage.

It’s a beautifully-made film. The photography, lighting, compositions and music are poetic and thoughtful. The story is so emotionally universal, I believe it would be understood without any words at all.

Watching it again recently with a new generation, I found myself explaining things to them that I’d missed the first time. For example, why the hero, Louka, a famous cellist with the Czech philharmonic is in severely reduced circumstances was not clear to me the first time, nor to my fellow viewers on this, their first time.

Roger Ebert wrote that “in a moment of unwise wit, he wrote a flippant answer on an official form.”

Wikipedia stated that he had been “half-accidentally blacklisted as ‘politically unreliable’ by the authorities.”

But, this time, due to my own experiences since the last time, I heard what was clearly laid out in the script, which for some reason, I had missed before. Louka’s brother defected to West Germany and Louka was punished for it. I’ve heard this story more than once from people I've met in the last few years, in both personal and eyewitness accounts. The last time I was in Prague, our driver told us he had an uncle in Fort Worth. We thought this was a nice connection. But, then he told us how his uncle’s emigration prior to the 1989 Velvet Revolution had been the reason this young man, who had qualified for a superior education, was denied one – and a good career - by the communist authorities.  

The first time I visited our relatives, we went to the home of the mother of our cousin, Jiri. She was a kind host with a warm home. The second time, Jiri took us to see her at a cemetery. Her black marble monument was freshly painted with gold leaf. I thought of Louka’s side hustle as a monument restorer.

While watching “Kolya” recently, a new question emerged for me. Although I could understand why Louka would so desperately want to buy a car, why would he risk so much for a Trabant? Why not a Tatra or a Skoda? Tatra, based in Ostrava, Moravia, is the third oldest continuously-operating car company in the world. The Skoda’s interesting story seems more likely though. Founded by Emil Skoda, in today’s market, it has a reputation equivalent in quality to Mercedes. Even though the brand fell behind during communism, the car was generally known as reliable. (The typically Czech humor piece to the story though, is that the word “skoda” means “it’s a pity.” It's a useful pun.)

Louka’s automotive dream however, is a Trabant, described as one of the worst cars ever made. Louka was willing to sell his bachelorhood in order to possess the car reviewed in the video below. After watching this, I think I need to go back and watch “Kolya” again to see what I missed. 


What are your thoughts and experiences on these topics? I’d love to hear your comments!

- Susan Chandler