The Czechmate Diary…


Milos Forman: Amadeus in his own right / Milos Forman: Amadeus sveho stylu June 19, 2007

Filed under: Famous Czech people — Tanja @ 4:32 am

Milos Forman Ingenious Czech-American Jan Tomas Forman (his formal name) was born in Caslavi on Febuary 18th, 1932.Both of his parents (Jewish father and protestant mother) died in Auschwitz concentration camp when he was just a little boy. What was the reason? His father belonged to the Czech Resistance group and his mother was dealing with an illegal grocery trade. The rest of his childhood/adulthood spent Forman living with his distant relatives as well as at the dorms of Podebrady’s public school. There he also met young Vaclav Havel (1st president of the Czech Republic) and Masin brothers ( who later started an armed anti-Communist resistance). After finishing high school he tried to get into the the University of Acting (DAMU) in Prague but without success. His second choice was the University of Film (FAMU), also located in Prague, and this time was Forman accepted. He graduated in 1968. His first major movie became the black-humored comedy “Cerny Petr” (Black Peter; 1963), which was followed by another debut “Loves of a Blond” (Lasky jedne plavovlasky; 1965). In 1967 he finished the “Fireman’s ball” (Hori, ma panenko; 1967), which was quickly forbidden by the government because it was “making fun of the common man”. When the Soviet tanks rumbled into Prague in 1968 Milos was in Paris working on his first American movie “Taking off”. The Czech studio for which he worked fired him, claiming that he had left the country illegally. Those circumstances led him to leave Europe and come to America where people already loved him for his unique film-making skills. Compared to the recently deceased Jan Benes (see my recent post on him), Forman’s first job in the United States was quite a breeze: he accepted a position as a professor of film at the Columbia University.

05m.jpg The first movie that made him famous in the New World was adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel “One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest” (1974) which won him five Oscars. Few years later Forman created “Amadeus”, another piece of art, which won him eight Oscars!



Bolek Polivka is onto something again../ Bolek Polivka zase neco kuti.. June 15, 2007

Filed under: Czech news,Famous Czech people — Tanja @ 1:13 am

uninted-we-stand.jpg Famous Czech actor, screenwriter and comedian Bolek Polivka, which is known from the movies “Divided we fall” (Musime si pomahat;2000), “Something like happiness” (Stesti; 2005), Pelisky (1999), Balada pro banditu (Ballad for a bandit;1983) and others, is getting ready to create the world’s biggest Raznici (grilled meat-and-vegetable skewers). The competition is going to be held at his farm in Olsany and is supposed to be connected also with the race of historical bicycles. Since the raznici recipes vary from a country to a country (Balkans for instance add tomatoes to raznici), each international piece of raznici will be divided by a little flag particular to the specific country. The event is scheduled for the end of July.The goal is to beat the current 10m-long raznici record and to be included into the Guinness Book of world records. Thanks to Polivka’s peculiar competitive events, the farm has become a very known place. In the past it was hosting contests such as “catching the flies”, “catching the shadows” or literally “throwing the gun into the hay” ( “hazeni flinty do zita” is a Czech expression and it means “to give up”. (more…)


Interview with Jan Benes / Rozhovor s Janem Benesem June 12, 2007

Filed under: Famous Czech people — Tanja @ 1:01 am

Thanks to the popularity of my last post on the sudden death of Jan Benes I decided to do some more research on him and found this great interview from 2004. I translated it into English but the Czech version is also attached:

Diky popularite meho postu o nahle smrti Jana Benese jsem se rozhodla, ze se po jeho minulosti trochu vice poohlednu a nasla jsem s nim velmi zajimave interview z roku 2004. Rozhovor jsem prelozila do anglictiny, ale original v cestine je tu take prilozeny:

Interview with Jan Benes

Did you leave straight to the United States?
No, first I went to France. After about year and half I finally started having some good luck. Mr. Voskovec once said that the last luck he had in his life was when he got his American visa – I basically feel the same way. The last good luck I had in my life was when I got the permission to legally move to America.

Did you leave with your whole family?
No, I left only with my wife. Unfortunately, they (the communist government) kept our children because we escaped too late. In 1968 one could leave with the whole family; but I thought that since the free press was still going on, then we would still be all right. That’s why I ended up leaving in the middle of the night on October 9th, 1969. This was the last day when one could use your old traveling documents; everyone received brand new ones the next day. Thanks to my friend at the border patrol (I served in the army with him), I caught the open borders literarily 10 minutes before midnight.

That must have been a very dramatic experience…
Yes, it was very dramatic. My wife and I both believed that once we were both out of the country then they would let the kids go as well. Unfortunately, that was not the case.



New encyclopedia on important Czech Americans / Nova Encyklopedie vyznamnych Cechoamericanu June 11, 2007

Finally! Our time has come! / Nas cas nadesel!

SVU (Society of Arts and Sciences; Spolecnost pro Vedy a Umeni) is planning to create an encyclopedia of famous personalities with a Czech descent. To qualify you:

  • must have done something important in your life
  • had to be born either in Czech or in America but have a Czech descent
  • had to be born after the colonization of America

If you think you qualify send your resume/biography to:

Good Luck! / Hodne stesti!


Spisovatel Jan Benes spachal sebevrazdu / Writer Jan Benes commited suicide June 7, 2007

Filed under: Czech news,Famous Czech people — Tanja @ 12:16 am

1180946118_200706040108_ddd_1.jpg Czech writer Jan Benes commited suicide this weekend. The cause of this action is not known but his unstable behavior was shown in the public about two years ago when after a conflict with a driver he pulled out a stun gun on him, threatening to “shoot his brains out” (

Benes started his writing career in the early 60’s, but because of its anti-communist context the government forbid to publish his writings. In 1966 Benes was sued for treason and was to serve 5 years in prison for it. He was let go after 2 years and that’s because of the amnesty of president Antonin Novotny. After that he did not waste time and emigrated to the USA, where he started off his “new life” as a factory worker. It didn’t take long however (2 years later) and Benes was teaching at the University of Harvard (what a smart guy!). (more…)


Nejvetsi Cech v zahranici…. April 19, 2007

Filed under: Czech news,Famous Czech people — Tanja @ 11:49 pm

     Podle casopisu Xantipa se nejvetsim mrtvim zijicim Cechem zijicim v zahranici stala Martina Navratilova, na druhem miste se umistil kdo jiny nez Milos Forman. Co se tyce nezijicich Cechu, tak na prvnim miste se umistil chudak Jan Amos Komensky (nezil v exilu??), druhe misto si nepamatuji a na tretim miste se umistil nas oblibeny Alfons Mucha. Pro vice podrobnosti se obratte na

According to the czech magazine Xantipa the biggest living Czech personality  living abroad became  famous tennis player  Martina Navratilova; the second place “won” Milos Forman (director, producer). Read more on this topic at