Bristol Hosts a Celebration of Youth – The Four Nations – 1943

Although a dedicated Lidice Shall Live committee had not been created in Bristol, such was the furore surrounding the fate of the village in the spring of 1943 that a significant donation from the city’s Four Nations Appeal would be directed to the National Lidice Shall Live Fund.

The Four Nations was an international celebration of youth that was to bring many thousands of people to the City of Bristol during the week of October 16th to 23rd, 1943. The aim of the programme of cultural events was to give a platform to the young people of the occupied states of Yugoslavia, Czecho-Slovakia, Greece, and Poland, allowing them to explore, debate, fashion, and creatively present the culture and heritage of their respective homelands to British audiences.

The idea for the Appeal came about at a meeting at Bristol’s Council House on the 26th of May 1943. The Lord Mayor, Harry Wall, said that the four countries deserved support in every feasible way:

“We all know how they have suffered” he said, “and if we can launch this fund and get it well supported, we are doing a sound job.”

Other key supporters of the project included the city’s great and good, including the Sheriff, Mr H. M.C. Hosegood; the Duke of Beaufort; the Dean, the Very Rev H.W. Blackbourne; and many others.

The following resolution was moved by the Lord Mayor and carried:

“Recognising the enormous task of sustenance and rehabilitation which lies before the countries of Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Greece and Yugoslavia, and moved by the knowledge of the present sufferings of the peoples of the countries and their heroic struggles against the common enemy, this gathering of representative Bristol citizens pledges itself to do all in its power to promote an appeal for funds and to assist in any other way, and to the utmost of its ability, this endeavour to relieve the cruel burden which has fallen on these four European peoples.”

The following officers were elected: Hon. Treasurer, Mr E. J. Taylor; Hon Secretary, Mr H. V. Hindle; Exhibition Committee chairman, Mr A. H. Addison; Meetings’ Committee Chairman, Mr C. M. MacInnes; Flag Day Committee organiser, Mr W. L. Derrick; Music Committee chairman, Miss Madge Thomas; Events Committee chairman, Miss Helen Strimer; Publicity Committee, Mrs Britton, Mr Bryan Pearce and Mr Hindle.

A civic build-up to the festival of several months saw most of the city well invested in the project and excited about October’s programme of events. A week before commencement, Harry Wall wrote in the local press:

“During next week, many distinguished visitors will be visiting Bristol in connection with the Four Nations Appeal, October 16-23, 1943, and I sincerely hope that as many as possible of the citizens will display flags and bunting, especially Union Jacks and flags of the four nations concerned – Czecho-Slovakia, Greece, Poland, and Yugo-Slavia – should they be available. I am sure that this will serve to draw attention to the effort which we are making for these gallant nations and shall be grateful to those who will help to mark the Week in this way.”

Bristol Victoria Rooms Photo Circa 1940. Venue For The Four Nations Art Exhibitions During October 1943, A Celebration Of Youth In Aid Of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece And Poland
Bristol Victoria Rooms, c 1940

A special Four Nations art exhibition was opened by the Duchess of Kent at the Victoria Rooms on Monday the 18th of October, in the afternoon. According to the Bristol Mirror,

“The ceremony was performed in the presence of the Ambassadors of Czecho-Slovakia and Poland, as well as the Lord and Lady Mayoress and many notable Bristolians.” The display was free to enter each day from 10.30am to 5pm. Notable personalities who visited included “the Greek Ambassador on Tuesday, Count Balinski Jundzill of Poland on Wednesday, and Princess Romanovsky-Pavlosky of Yugoslavia on Thursday!”

Through art, the organisers of the exhibition had assembled 4,000 years’ worth of culture in the hall, presenting representative samples ranging from ancient Greek sculptures of 2000 BC to contemporary paintings by Czech artists of 1943 AD. Many of the artisans were refugees, and their work had a grim, stark, powerful reality about it that sprang from a creative sensibility sharpened yet tempered by war:

“Notice the frightening indictment of Karel Molnar’s “Lidice,” and the same artist’s “Wounded Earth” and “Mourning Women;” the bitter commentary on Munich, “A Fateful Dinner Party” by Oskar Kokoschka; the forceful economy of line of Matousek’s “Bren Gun Carrier” and “Reconnaissance Party.”… reported The Bristol Mirror.

On Thursday the 21st, the art exhibition received a second opening ceremony when Dr Ladislav Karel Feierabend, economist and Minister of Finance to the Czechoslovak Government-in-exile visited the Victoria Rooms.

Dr Ladislav Karel Feierabend, Economist And Minister Of Finance To The Czechoslovak Government-In-Exile
Dr Ladislav Karel Feierabend

In his speech, Dr Feierabend declared:

“I firmly believe that the war in Europe will end next year. Then Czechoslovakia will live again.” With reference to Lidice, the doctor explained, “As far as possible, the women of the village, now in concentration camps, will be returned there, but many of them must have died in Germany already. We intend to make Lidice a symbol of the resistance in our country, and we want to honour those who died there for Czechoslovakia.”

Presiding was the Lord Mayor, who gave thanks to Dr Feierabend for his support and attendance. It was then that it was announced that all the money collected for Czecho-Slovakia as a result of the Four Nations Appeal would be used for the restoration of the village of Lidice.

Colston Hall C1940
Colston Hall c 1940

Events took place daily. The programme included broadcast concerts by famous continental stars and film shows provided by the Ministry of Information. On Monday the 18th, celebrated conductor Dr Malcolm Sargent led a memorable concert by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Ilona Kabos, the Hungarian pianist, at the Colston Hall; a Four Nations Ball organised by Miss Helen Strimer and held at the Victoria Rooms, Clifton, on the evening of Friday, the 22nd raised a sum of £163 8s 6d; and at the Museum Lecture Theatre, a special talk with piano illustrations was given by Geoffrey Higgins.

Concerts were performed on Wednesday the 20th by the Czech Trio of Lisa Marketta (piano), Jan Sedivika (violin), and Ranel Horitza (cello). According to reports,

“…the trio of capable artists played with native Czechoslovakian charm, works by Dvořák and Smetana.”

On Friday, the well-known pianist, Maria Donska, gave piano recitals at one o’clock in the Museum / Lecture Theatre, and then later at 5.30pm in the Victoria Rooms. Admission at all the events was free, though there were collections for the Four Nations.

For more information about Bristol’s Four Nations Appeal and the movement to build a new Lidice following its destruction at the hands of the Nazis, read The Path to Lidice – the definitive account of the Lidice Shall Live campaign.
Available now, online from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and in ebook formats – free with Amazon Unlimited.

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