Battle of Britain, British Czech & Slovak Association, Czech, Czechoslovakia, Freedom, Liz Kohn, Niche, Rodean, Show trials, Slovakia, Space, Speedway, Tereza Pultarová, The Final Incarnation, Velvet Revolution, Writing competition
Maggie Davies and Sarah Dawson do such sterling work for us each month listing writing competitions for us to enter. Some of them are quite niche – some nicher than others.
You may wonder how these comps actually work out. Well, here’s the inside story of one of them last year. It certainly categorises as niche – perhaps it’s the nichest – and it’s the one I’m most involved with, the annual comp of the British Czech & Slovak Association. The subject matter for entries can be either (1) links between Britain and the Czech and/or Slovak Republics, at any time in their history or (2) society in those Republics since the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Each year there’s a suggested (but not compulsory) theme.
Freedom was the suggested theme in this year’s BCSA writing competition – freedom in any of its forms. The entrants showed their usual ingenuity in interpreting that. We took to the skies with a Czechoslovak pilot fighting for freedom in the Battle of Britain. In another entry we mused on the excitement and the hopes in Czechoslovakia when freedom was restored in 1989, and on the reality and disappointments since that great time (but ending, I’m glad to say, on an optimistic note). In a third entry we saw how the son of a well-off family in pre-war Czechoslovakia found his freedom working in a squalid farmhouse in southern Bohemia and then in a quarry in Derbyshire. In a fourth we joined an alcoholic gambler pondering the meaning of freedom in a Czech bar.
Non-freedom entries included our very first venture into the world of speedway, and a comic playlet showing a Czechoslovak Jewish refugee talking her way into a job at Roedean School in 1939.
Deciding on the winners is always difficult. But the judges managed it. Thank you, judges!
Second prize, winning £150, went to Liz Kohn, with a piece called Two Worlds. Liz has been researching her family history and in particular that of her father and his first wife, Alice Glasnerová. Her current research is into Alice’s trial and its relationship to the Slánský show trials of 1952 in Communist Czechoslovakia. Liz’s entry tells some of this story.
This year’s winner – taking home £400 – was Tereza Pultarová. Tereza is a London-based science and technology journalist, originally from Prague. She has degrees from Charles University and a Master’s in Science from the International Space University in Strasbourg. Her winning entry was The Final Incarnation – Chapter 1. It is the first chapter of a novel Tereza has written, whichdeals with growing up in 1990s post-communist Czechoslovakia, and explores how traumas from the Communist years live on through family dysfunction and alcoholism.
It was so good to be back in a proper setting for the presentation of the prize this year. In 2020 we presented the prize via Zoom, during one of the BCSA’s other events. Last year we had to do it by post. This year I had the privilege of marking Tereza’s success at our resumed Annual Dinner at the May Fair Hotel in London on November 23, as in the first photo above. (Thanks to Erik Weisenpacher for the photos.)
The winning entries (and a selection of the others) are published in the Assocation’s magazine, the British Czech & Slovak Review.
We’ll run the competition again in 2023. Watch our website, social media and the Review for details.