Today in Mailbox: Listening to Radio Prague on shortwave in Florida, response to Radio Prague’s special programme dedicated to the Czech Radio archives, listeners’ quiz question. Listeners/readers quoted: Sam Creecy, Roger Tidy, Hans Verner Lollike, Debaki Ranjan Biswas, Valery Lugovski, Colin Law, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Hisanobu Ota, Mary Lou Krenek.
“In 1968, I was 19 years old and I listened to Radio Prague on my father's DX150 shortwave receiver until the day when it was taken off the air. I always wondered what became of the people at the station. Today, I am a retired 65 year old man and I am an Amateur Radio operator, KK4VTC. I have Radio Prague and father's radio to thank for that inspiration. I am glad to see you are back on the air. I will listen to your English broadcasts, when I'm not transmitting my own communications. Best Regards and 73s.”
A reminder: Radio Prague ended shortwave broadcasting on January 31, 2011. However, in North America you can tune in to Radio Prague’s English and Spanish broadcasts on 9955 kHz via Radio Miami International. The broadcast schedule is available at www.wrmi.net.
Our regular listener Roger Tidy from England comments on David Vaughan’s special programme last weekend dedicated to Czech Radio archives:
“Many thanks to David Vaughan for once again delving, with his students into your impressive audio archive... For me, David’s latest programme, as well as his earlier ones, was a trip down memory lane, at least as far as the post-war excerpts are concerned, as I started being a regular listener to Radio Prague in the early 1960s. I remember very well all of the voices from that period. Then, as now, the staff of your station were very well trained and good at their job. Of course, there was a pervasive element of propaganda in those days, as I was reminded when I heard snatches of the documentary dating from those times on nuclear testing.”
Thank you for those comments and now let’s proceed onto our listeners’ competition. As every month our inbox was brimming with your answers. This one came from Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark:
“Miroslav Šašek was born in Prague in 1916. His parents pushed him away from artistic activities to be an architect. At the onset of the communist coup in 1948, aged 32, Šašek left Prague for Munich, where from 1951–57 he worked for Radio Free Europe. On a visit to Paris he realized that no books were being written for children to learn to know a city. So he created a children’s guide book to Paris: ‘This is Paris.’ His book was a success and he continued to write and illustrate children’s guide books and other children’s books. Šašek died whilst visiting his sister in Wettingen, Switzerland, in May 1980.”
Debaki Ranjan Biswas from India writes:
“Šašek studied drawing and painting with the Czech landscape artist Otakar Blažíček. During his stay in Prague, he provided graphic works for the newspapers and also illustrations for a good number of books. At this time he was also engaged in puppet designing along with his wife. He came to Paris in 1947 and studied at L'Ecole des Beaux Arts. When the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, he decided not to return to his homeland. But he did not opt for French citizenship either, rather he preferred to remain stateless. From Paris he went to Munich and worked for the Czech Section of Radio Free Europe from 1951 to 1957.
“In 1957 he returned to Paris and started writing a wide array of cityscapes and counrtyscapes of ‘This is.....’ series. These are large format picture books with cartoon like water-colour paintings accompanied by humorous text coupled with equally elegant as well as witty comments aptly designed to introduce the children to the people, customs and places of interest in cities and countries around the world. His style of illustrations has endured the test of time and has earned him quite a number of awards like the New York Times Choice of Best Illustrated Children's Book for ‘This is London’ in 1959, the Boy's Club of American Junior Books Award for ‘This is New York’ in 1961, and ‘This is United Nation’ was listed on the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) in 1979.”
Our regular contributor, Valery Lugovski from Belarus, wrote:
“Now I'm just eager to find in the library the books of Miroslav Šašek with his own enthralling illustrations. And I will certainly buy myself ‘This is London’ as soon as I find it on sale. This children's guide will help me to relive interesting meetings that took place during my travels around the world.”
Colin Law from New Zealand sent us one of his long and thoroughly researched answers:
“In 1938–39 Šašek took study trips to France, Belgium, England, Scotland, Germany and Holland. Then for a time he was employed as a clerk for the Czech branch of Wagon-lits/Cooks travel agency. He also did illustrations for many children’s books in this period and drew cartoons for newspapers and magazines.
“After World War II Miroslav and his first wife Jindřiška lived in Jabonec in north Bohemia where they produced puppets. 1947 saw Miroslav studying at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and in 1948 he made the decision to emigrate from the Czech Republic after the Communists took power. In the years that followed he was employed by Radio Free Europe. Following his divorce from his first wife, Miroslav lived for a time in Bruges. In the autumn of 1957 he left Free Europe, returned to Paris and resumed work on his planned guidebook for children ‘This is Paris”. The following years brought more of the ‘This is’ books including London, Rome, New York, Edinburgh and many more.”
Jayanta Chakrabarty from India writes:
“This gifted Czech has left behind an array of works including children's books, cartoons for magazines and newspapers and short stories from his extensive travels. Miroslav became famous for his series of 20 titles under the banner ‘This is __’ starting with ‘This is Paris’ written in 1959.
“As a true Czech patriot and a liberal freedom-loving citizen, Miroslav voiced his disapproval for Communist rule. He used his artistic skill by illustrating anti-communist fliers which were transported to Czechoslovakia in hot air balloons. He also designed layouts, covers and illustrations for numerous magazines published by Czech exiles.
“Some of the outstanding works of this critically acclaimed author and illustrator, featuring his original illustrations, paintings and books were recently on display at the Gallery Ve Smečkách in Prague, sponsored by the Miroslav Šašek Foundation.”
Our listener Hisanobu Ota from Japan wrote:
“The answer to the question must be Miroslav Šašek. I don't have his books, but I have read ‘This is London’ and ‘This is Texas’ in a bookstore. I remember that they were very impressive and easy to read. I don't know such travel books for children written in Japanese. “
Mary Lou Krenek from the United States wrote:
“Miroslav Šašek was a Czech émigré, author, and illustrator. He is best known for a series of children's books titled ‘This Is...’, which he authored as M. Sasek. One book I would like to read is ‘This Is Texas.’”
Thank you very much for the time and effort you put into answering our question. This time the lucky winner who will receive a Radio Prague prize is Yong Cher Leong from Malaysia. Congratulations and your parcel is in the post. All that remains now is to announce our quiz question for the coming weeks.
This time we are looking for the name of the Czech architect born in 1857 near the town of Jičín in East Bohemia and died in 1942 in the now Bosnian city of Sarajevo where he had spent most of his life designing institutional buildings.
Your answers need to reach us by August 6th at email@example.com. That is also the address for your questions, comments and reception reports. Mailbox will be back in four weeks’ time, until then happy listening and take care.