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Program

21 Aug 2020 18:00 - 30 Sep 2020

Photos of Dušan Neumann: I Saw It Happen - Prague, August 1968

To commemorate the 52nd anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact, Czech Center New York presents the lesser known photographs of this historic event taken by reporter Dušan Neumann. The Czech-American journalist managed to capture unique shots of the first hours of the occupation in August ’68 that took place in Prague, the repercussions of which put a stop to the efforts to liberalize the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia.

 


 

Presentation of photos by Dušan Neumann, Courtesy of Dušan Neumann


Presentation & discussion

with Dušan Neumann hosted by Miroslav Konvalina

Recording of Online ZOOM event at the Czech Center New York on August 21st, 2020 


On the night of August 20–21, 1968, the armies of the Warsaw Pact (five Soviet bloc countries – the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and East Germany) invaded Czechoslovakia, bringing with them heavy military equipment including tanks. Civilians and residents were horrified and took to the streets to protest against the occupying forces.

A symbolic 21 photos taken by Dušan Neumann during this historic event commemorates the date of the invasion of August 21, 1968. Apart from the online presentation of photos, which will be premiered and available to view on this website from August 21, 2020, the Czech Center New York is hosting a live online discussion with Dušan Neumann, who will offer his personal commentary on the origins of the photos and his experience of the August ’68 events.

 

The early months of 1968, the so-called Prague Spring, heralded a series of measures and liberalization reform efforts in Czechoslovakia, an era of political liberalization kicked off by reformist Alexander Dubček being elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. These reforms were shut down by the invading Warsaw Pact army counting 500,000 soldiers, led by the army of the Soviet Union, which intervened to put a stop to the hopeful democratization of society and ensured the continuing power of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia for another 21 years.

On the day of the invasion, civilians took to the streets to protest against the occupants. The strongest protests took place in front of the building of the Czechoslovak Radio in Prague. Unarmed citizens attempted to protect free broadcasting literally with their own bodies. However, clashes with the occupiers also occurred in many other places throughout the country. The aggressive and ruthless behavior of the invaders resulted in the death of 135 Czechoslovak citizens. Another five hundred of them were seriously injured.

The military occupation of Czechoslovakia enabled conservative forces in the Czechoslovak Communist Party to get the situation under their control and conclude a contract which allowed Soviet troops to remain temporarily situated in the country. This temporary period was to last for another two decades. On the basis of a forced agreement, the so-called Central Group of Soviet troops settled in the territory of Czechoslovakia. It consisted of about 75,000 soldiers which had at their disposal heavy machinery and aircraft.

 


 

Dušan Neumann (born in 1945) is a Czech-American journalist and reporter living in the USA. His life story, in his own words: “I studied sociology in the second half of the sixties without ever having made use of the field since. In 1968, I managed to become a trainee at the Czechoslovak Radio – Mikroforum Agency, and later the foreign editorial staff of Televizní noviny (Television News). This idyll ended with me getting fired in 1970. Mandatory military service saved me, since it allowed me to receive a new background check and assessment [by the Communist Party] and my friends were able to help me get into the motorist editorial staff of Czechoslovak Television, where I became one of the dramaturges of the Automotorevue show and several motorist broadcasts. In 1978 I undertook a long expedition of Tatra vintage cars to Alaska. This got me back on the radar of the [Czechoslovak] secret police, and I decided to emigrate, which I was able to do in 1980 to the USA. In the states, another series of coincidences led me to become a car mechanic, and after some time, I was able to open a small auto service and car repair shop. Some time later, my friends offered me a chance to work with BBC World Service (the Czech section), which I contributed to as a reporter until it was dissolved. After 1989, I worked for the Czech media Lidové noviny (People’s News), Zemědělské Noviny, Týden Magazine, ČT (Czech Television), and ČRo (Czech Radio), among others.“

 

 

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This program is sponsored by Trebitsch Whisky, first Czech single malt whisky in the US.

 

 

 

Venue:

Online

Date

From: 21 Aug 2020 18:00
To: 30 Sep 2020

Organizer:

Czech Centre


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