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Czech Memory of Nation Prize goes to political prisoners

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Prague, Nov 11 (CTK) – The Memory of the Nation Prize the Post Bellum NGO bestows on survivors of dark moments of the 20th century, will go to political prisoners Frantisek Suchy, Maria Matejcikova and Frantisek Lizna, and to Otto Simko, who was persecuted for his Jewish origin, the NGO’s website shows.

The prizes, annually awarded since 2002, will be presented to the four personalities on November 17, a national holiday marking the anniversaries of the Nazi crackdown on Czech universities in 1939 and the outbreak of the anti-communist revolution in 1989.

The ceremony will be broadcast live by Czech Television (CT) and Czech Radio (CRo).

The awarded personalities, two Czechs and two Slovaks, proved by their lives that honour, freedom and human dignity are not merely empty words, Post Bellum said.

Frantisek Suchy (born 1927), together with his father, who was director of the Prague-Strasnice crematorium, hid the ashes of victims executed by the Nazi and the Communist regimes in order to enable their dignified burial one day. He was arrested for hiding a CIA agent and keeping leaflets challenging the communist regime. His parents helped a family cross the Czechoslovak border and flee abroad. He received a 25-year-prison sentence, of which he served a half before being released in 1964.

Maria Matejcikova (born 1931) helped hide a Catholic priest who fled from a prison hospital, where the communist secret police placed him after a brutal interrogation. She was sentenced to five years in prison for treason. After the fall of the communist regime, she promoted the rehabilitation of political prisoners and unjustly prosecuted people.

Priest Frantisek Lizna (born 1941) was imprisoned five times for his anti-communist activities including his departure from Czechoslovakia, distribution of samizdat press and the printing of leaflets in support of political prisoners. In 2001, President Vaclav Havel bestowed the Tomas Garrigue Masaryk Order on him for his contribution to democracy and human rights. In 2003, the Charter 77 Foundation bestowed the Frantisek Kriegl prize on him for his mission as a priest in the tough-security Mirov prison, north Moravia.

Otto Simko (born 1924), was repeatedly persecuted over his Jewish origin. Thanks to fake Christian documents, his family avoided a concentration camp but were transferred to a labour camp. He joined the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising as a partisan. He underwent brutal police interrogations and he lost his job in the 1950s, the period of communist show-up trials that were motivated both politically and by anti-Semitism. Later, he lost his job – in the Smena daily – again during the political purges following the August 21, 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and the resumption of power by communist hardliners.

The candidates for the Memory of the Nation Prize have been chosen by historians from among people’s recorded memories, which are part of a collection initiated by Post Bellum and accessible on the Internet, containing about 5,500 eyewitnesses’ life stories from a number of European countries.

A total of 33 personalities have received the prize so far, mainly war veterans, political prisoners, freedom fighters, Holocaust survivors, persecuted writers and representatives of the underground, scouts and churches.

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