On Saturday 13th November 2021, the community of Lidice and all those who knew him, raised a final glass to Václav Zelenka.
UNRRA was a United States led initiative under the auspices of the United Nations. Set up in Washington D.C. on the 9th of November 1943 at the White House, it was signed off by Franklin D Roosevelt along with 44 signatories representing nations throughout the world (this was later extended to 48).
The Society for the Restoration of Lidice was set up to ensure the plans for Lidice became reality, and it had strong British connections through some of its members’ historical wartime links within the Czechoslovak Government-in-exile and the Lidice Shall Live campaign.
The campaign was realised when The Exhibition of Czecho-Slovakian Friendship opened at the Prudential Buildings on Monday the 9th of October 1944 by a Czechoslovak Army Captain, in the presence of Dr Victor Fischl, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, an associate of Jan Masaryk, and a company of Czech infantry from nearby Cholmondeley Castle.
When the formation of the committee was formally announced on September the 21st, 1942 in Washington D.C., the Lidice Lives Committee declared its ambition to create
“a village named Lidice in each Allied country, reaching a number of 30 to 36 Lidices all over the world by the end of the war.”
“We are here to swear that the name of Lidice shall live forever and be famous in every continent as the happiest village in the freest republic in the world. The aim of this meeting is to fulfil the splendid conception of Dr Stross and raise a fund by which Lidice shall be rebuilt to become one of the finest mining villages in the world…”
Reporting about the launch of the Lidice Shall Live movement the day before, the Stoke-on-Trent Evening Sentinel wrote:
The Victoria Hall has been the scene of many noteworthy gatherings and many famous people have spoken from its platform. But never has the hall held an assembly so remarkable in its significance…
News of Lidice severely impacted the American Czechoslovak communities. Many locals could remember the village of Lidice from the days of their youth or as the home of some friend or relative. Residents decided they needed to take action to commemorate fellow citizens sacrificed “on the altar of freedom.”
At a meeting of the North Staffordshire Miners’ Federation, at the Miners’ Hall, on the 10th of August 1942, Dr Stross presented fresh news to the union executive – with a view to securing a greater depth of commitment from Britain’s coal-mining communities:
Formal negotiations on the renouncement of the Munich Agreement began at the end of January 1942. At a luncheon given by Anthony Eden on January 21st and attended by Dr Beneš; Ambassador to Czecho-Slovakia, Philip Nichols; and Hubert Ripka, Czechoslovak Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.