I finally made it to the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library last weekend. We took the kids and my wife’s parents to see the museum and to a Czech lunch at Zindrick’s.
I’ll spare you from a long narrative, which begins with the smell of fresh baked kolaches and ends with an tall glass of Pilsner Urquell. But I will say the museum’s newest exhibit, “Remember 1968 — Twelve Volatile Months that Changed the World” is well worth seeing.
The exhibit chronicles how the promising communist reform efforts of the Prague Spring led to the brutal invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops in August 1968. The story is told in writings, art, artifacts, pictures and video. One video display allows you to watch segments from U.S. television news coverage of period.
It’s easy to forget, even for this child of the Cold War, the repressive power of the Soviet Union and the bravery of those who risked everything to oppose it. The exhibit is a good reminder.
One display with particular relevance to current events tells the story of Vera Caslavska, a Czech gymnast who won four gold medals and two silvers at the Mexico City Olympic games in September 1968. While standing on the medal stand, she twice bowed her head and looked down during the playing of the Soviet national anthem in a silent protest against the invasion. It cost Caslavska her gymnastics career.
Here’s a brief YouTube video describing her protest.