(Hi)story

My history teacher, in elementary school, was the music teacher. He played the accordion.

I learned little history and hated waving my hands around while singing folk songs. He conducted also the school chorus. His wavy, mustard, short hair, danced along while his body vibrated to the bit. He was deeply into it. Eyes closed.

I was curious about history but could not see the purpose of learning years and facts by heart, repeating the information in front of the class and getting the mark. I don’t remember anything.

History is not the mere description of what happened in each year, more than that, it is the evolution of the mind. I believe that the exterior world is the reflection of the internal world, so by understanding the meaning of the exterior we can understand the state of the world from a deeper point of view.

I did not enjoy the sing song of our little history lessons but I wanted to understand. At home I read. I read about communism, the concentration camps (toward which I was attracted emotionally, wanting to know what happened inside there) read about writers and artists who were not free in expressing their feelings and thoughts, about historical figures and their biographies searching for a similar characteristics between their life and my imprisonment.Cultural and emotional imprisonment.

Now I am in Brno. In Czechia. I feel this land’s history pulsing through the air. Maybe because my curiosity is still alive, trying to understand what happened.

Let’s meet the protagonists of this story and say hi ! to History. It is my pleasure meeting you! 

…………………………………….

It has been strange meeting them all at the same time. As mentioned before, the books are telling the story of the same period in time, but in different styles and from different perspectives. Different voices.

First one, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937–1948 is an autobiographical book written by Madeleine Albright. It describes the events of the Czech occupation, the deportation, the exile from a real, first person perspective.

In my patching game I used this book as the backbone.

prague-winter.jpg

 

The second protagonist is The Glass House, by Simon Mawer. This book mesmerized me because it felt as if I was inside the story, while it happened. Is is set in Brno (called Mesto  in the book) recounting the story of a famous house, Villa Tugendhat. From the window in the office I can get  a glimpse of this house, far away on a hill.

I used excerpts from this book  to add sound and movement.

glass-house.jpg

Also, Simon Mawer was part of the Brno Short Story Contest. While I was picking at this book the jury analyzed the stories.

The third protagonist is The Girl who fell from the sky, also by Simon Mawer. The story of a British girl, trained to become a spy, to jump with the parachute in France. Excerpts from this story were also used to animate the game.

the-girl.jpg

Guess who fell from the sky when learning that my story, entered to the Brno Short Story Contest, did not win anything but my full love and recognition for having visited me and having lead the way to a new era in my existence, the one when I realize I have voice and experiment with it.

Just said something, did you hear me?:) 

The fourth player: Aber wir haben nur Worte, Worte, Worte: Der Nachhall von Mauthausen in der Literatur, by Christian Angerer/Karl Schuber Hg.

worte.jpg

This book gave me hope, now, during the era of freedom and no limits. Deported human beings, to Mauthausen, survived and not only that, they got through the ordeal in a creative way. This extreme, abnormal situation proves that we are immortal beings made out of energy.

There is another player which I took in consideration: Language. It pops up everywhere. Language is the canvas connecting people and also shredding their world apart.

Just try to listen to the words, they are whispering to each other, looking around, a little bit surprised because they woke up all together, strange from each other, out of their natural habitat.

PART 1

Czechs had woken that morning to a startling announcement : Today at 6 o’clock German troops crossed our borders and are proceeding to Prague by all routes. Stay calm.

Will they invade?

They won’t invade because they won’t need to invade. They’ll just walk in when it suits them. They’ll wait for the spring, that’s all.

(Hitler)… thought the Czechs, because of their cleverness, to be the most dangerous of Slavs, he coveted their air bases and munition factories; he knew that he could satisfy his ambitions in the rest of the Europe only when the Czech homeland has been crushed.  

As the symptoms of the crisis began to manifest themselves in open discrimination and localized violence (…) Jews sought refuge elsewhere within Czechoslovakia.

Many fled to Prague (…) For a time the city was the European capital of the humanist discourse.

Viktor has been predicting this for months. If he’d had his way we would already be safe in Switzerland.

…(he) goes around by the streets, along Schwarzfeldgasse, Cernopolni, Black Field Road, to the street of steps that leads down to the park.

Luzanky Park, as it is called now.

park.jpg
…and I passed by these stairs one day before encountering this book!

 

At Chamberlain’s suggestion the meeting  was restricted to the two leaders, plus an interpreter.

(Who was he/she?!What is his name? )  

Is it …

chamberlain_LI

The session was casual, lacking any established agenda, assigned seating or even official note takers;it was also tedious because each of the 4 principals spoke a different language thus every word had to be translated.(Who did it?)

The event had a profound and painful impact in the Czechoslovak people especially of my parent’s generation. Feelings of embarrassment for not fighting were mingled with fury at the allies for their alleged betrayal.

March 1939, Hacha met with the Fuehrer and his aides. Germany decided to incorporate what remained of the Czech lands into the Reich.

Hacha resisted, then fainted.

hacha.jpg
He does look quite frightened…

 Until 1943, a group of German speaking Czech police, employed by the Gestapo as translators used their access to reports on what prisoners had revealed and to warn dissidents when they were being watched.

However much we may sympathize with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighborhood, we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her account. If we have to fight, it must be on larger issues than that…Viktor turn the radio off.

-What if the whole country did what you are doing?

-The whole country isn’t Jewish.

-Oskar’s staying put.

-That’s his choice.

And suddenly the object of all the interest is there, in an open topped six-wheel car, driving out of the station forecourt, standing there in the front seat of the vehicle, a figure of inconsequential  ordinariness who has nevertheless become iconic across the continent.

And then the small parade of vehicles has roared away, across the station road and down Masaryk Street toward the city center.

For the exile community in England, letters from relatives back home provided a narrow window in such events.Correspondence to and from the protectorate was irregular.

Dearest Hana, Liesel wrote, I received your number eighteen, just before we left the house in Zurich. So there’s only number fifteen that seems to have gone missing.

Language, too, was a barrier. Czechoslovak’s sound r is different from the Britons, and like Germans, pronounce w as if it were v. Any Slav, seeing a word in English, would likely emphasize the wrong syllable. As for London slang- Incomprehensible.

(Example:

Your mum’s on the blower.

What!?

Your mum’s on the phone).

 

They mustn’t be labelled, Viktor has always insisted, “not by language nor by culture, nor family or anything. They must be brought up as citizens of the world.”

 

Part 2 coming soon…

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