View all news

SML PhD student joins Czech Foreign Minister to remember Jan Masaryk

15 March 2013

On Thursday March 7th, Bristol doctoral student Erica Harrison joined the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, and speakers from London and Prague to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the death of Jan Masaryk, the hugely popular Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak government in exile in London during World War Two.

On Thursday 7 March 2013, Bristol doctoral student Erica Harrison joined the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, and speakers from London and Prague to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the death of Jan Masaryk, the hugely popular Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak government in exile in London during World War Two. The prestigious event, hosted by the Czech Embassy, was attended by over a hundred people, including current and former diplomats, ‘Winton’s children’ rescued from German-occupied Czechoslovakia and former employees of the BBC Czechoslovak Service and their descendants.

Erica, who holds an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award, is working with Czech Radio to catalogue and study an archive of recently rediscovered BBC Czech-language recordings broadcast to occupied Czechoslovakia. In her presentation, she described how, in his regular broadcasts, Jan Masaryk used his popularity and perceived distance from the exile government to promote its positions and policies. She played rarely heard recordings of Masaryk in both Czech and Slovak, including a dramatic speech to Czechoslovak pilots fighting in the Battle of Britain. Her talk prompted great interest from the audience, some of whom had heard the broadcasts as children or had relatives who helped make them.

While Erica’s paper, and others, reflected the current historiographical re-evaluation of Jan Masaryk’s achievements, the audience was given a vivid reminder of what he represented to several generations of Czechs during an emotional speech by Karel Schwarzenberg, who recalled the moment when, as a child listening to the radio, he heard of Jan Masaryk’s sudden and as yet unexplained death. Jan Masaryk’s body was found below his apartment window on 10 March 1948, just two weeks after the Moscow-backed Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia that would last for over forty years.

More details and pictures from the event are available.

Further information

Please contact Rajendra Chitnis for further information.
Edit this page