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LN: Italian owner opposes memorial on his Prague hotel

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Prague, Nov 23 (CTK) – The Italian owner of a hotel in Prague centre has refused to allow a memorial plaque marking a Czechoslovak general of Russian origin, who died in a Soviet forced-labour camp after WWII, to be placed on his hotel’s facade saying it would put off guests, Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday.
Historian Gabriela Havlujova has proposed that a memorial plaque to Russian-born Czechoslovak General Sergei Wojciechowski (1883-1951) be unveiled on the building of the former military command in Prague, now the Residence Bologna Hotel, where the general was arrested by the Soviet law enforcement agency NKVD in 1945. Though he was a Czechoslovak citizen, he was sent to a gulag in the Soviet Union where he died of the imprisonment conditions in 1951, LN writes.
In 1997, Wojciechowski received the supreme Czech state decoration, the Order of the White Lion, first degree.
However, the hotel owner, Italian Francesco Pinelli, does not agree with the installation of the plaque to Wojciechowski, LN says
“The memorial plaque was to be unveiled on the occasion of the 65th death anniversary of Wojciechowski who was one of the five most significant Czechoslovak generals,” Havlujova told the LN server, adding that a similar plaque was installed in Brno, where the general served.
She wanted to discuss the matter with Pinelli in September 2015, but he sent a Czech representative to the meeting instead. “He explained to me that the owner did not agree with the selected place,” added Havlujova, who was the head of the Association of Freedom Fighters’ local branch until October.
Pinelli eventually agreed that the plaque can be placed on the other side of the building, but this was unacceptable for historians.
“This is not a dignified place for such an important personality. It was next to the entrance to garages,” Havlujova said.
She submitted the proposal again, this time with recommendations from the Military History Institute, the Czechoslovak Legionaries’ Association and the Association of Freedom Fighters. Besides, the Czech-Italian Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Culture Institute supported the idea, but in vain, LN writes.
The hotel owner primarily minds placing the plaque next to the entrance to the hotel since he thinks it would discourage guests, hotel manager Veljko Pavlovic said. The restaurant, which has leased a part of the building, does not want the memorial either, he added.
Havlujova then addressed the Prague City Hall which owns the adjacent building, where a secondary school is seated. Both the City Hall and the school director gave consent to the memorial. Unfortunately, heritage protectors were against it, arguing that the commemorative plaque should be on the building where the historical event took place, Havlujova said.
An intervention of the Apostolic Nunciature in the Czech Republic can serve as a last resort. “This might soften the heart of Mr Pinelli,” Havlujova said, adding that the last alternative is to place a memorial plaque on the pavement outside the hotel.
She points out that it was much easier to unveil a memorial plaque to Wojciechowski at the cemetery of the gulag victims in Siberia, which she successfully negotiated on the spot, than to place it in Prague centre, LN writes.

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