Czech President and others commemorate Victory in Europe Day at Vítkov Memorial

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib and other politicians also participated in a ceremony commemorating the end of World War II in Europe earlier today.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 08.05.2021 16:24 (updated on 08.05.2021)

Top Czech politicians commemorated the 76th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day at the Vítkov National Memorial in Prague today, and laid wreaths at the grave of the unknown soldier.

Due to current regulations surrounding the coronavirus epidemic, the public was not allowed to take part in the ceremony this year, and all the participants wore respirators

President Miloš Zeman arrived to the ceremony on a wheelchair, which he has recently started using.

Wreaths were also laid by heads of both houses of Czech parliament, Miloš Vystrčil and Radek Vondráček, Deputy Prime Minister Alena Schillerová, Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar, Chief-of-Staff Aleš Opata, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, and Cardinal Dominik Duka.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš did not take part in the ceremony this year as he is at an informal EU summit in Portugal. After he returns to Prague, he will pay tribute to the war victims at Olšany cemetery in Prague.

Vystrčil said the liberation left two traces in the country, the Soviet one and the American one.

"We are lucky now that we can choose which way to go," Vystrčil told journalists.

"I believe we will manage the decision making so that there continues to be freedom and democracy in the Czech Republic."

Vondráček said it cannot be taken for granted that the Czech Republic was on the side of the winning countries after World War Two.

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"We have to thank for this to our paratroopers, our pilots, our soldiers abroad, partisans, resistance fighters," Vondráček said.

"Many of them were 18 or 20 years old and they were ready to lay down their lives."

Schillerová said the Czech Republic is a proud nation that fought both Nazism and also Communism, and is now coping with the current pandemic situation.

Metnar pointed out that a war like WWII must not be repeated. He said the courage of Czech soldiers and representatives of the domestic resistance movement should not be forgotten. He said he was glad that the commemorative ceremony could be more dignified this year as the epidemic situation in the country has recently improved.

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Last year, politicians arrived at the Vítkov National Memorial individually so that they would not congregate due to previous epidemic regulations.

Hřib pointed out that the Prague Uprising started on May 5, 1945. On May 8, Old Town Hall was on fire and General Karel Kutlvašr negotiated the surrender of German troops. The Soviet Army arrived in a practically liberated city on May 9, Hřib stated.

"It brought us the end of war, it brought us peace, but it actually did not bring us freedom because the Soviet Union soon began to act like a conqueror, not a liberator," said Hřib.

Cardinal Duka said he laid a wreath to the memorial to RAF pilots at Prague-Klarov earlier today. He said people must be aware that the fight for Czech freedom took place on many fronts, and that it is still needed to fight for freedom today, too.

Like most European countries, the Czech Republic celebrates the end of WWII in Europe on May 8 as a national holiday.

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