We in Britain were by then (the mid-1970s) very much the wrong allies. It had then given a home to the exile government of Eduard Benes, the figurehead of Czech nationalism who was not really thought of as an ally by the Communists who seized power in Prague in 1948 in a ‘spontaneous’ mob-backed coup d’etat (which continued to fool some sympathisers for long afterwards, who described it as a ‘rising’ and argued that it was legitimate).. The days were gone when Czech pilots, returning home to their supposedly liberated land from service in the RAF , were imprisoned as politically unreliable (see ‘Dark Blue World’, an interesting if disappointing film on this subject).
But it wasn’t done to mention it, or draw attention to this awkward period in history.
I remember a British diplomat in Prague describing to me the little ceremony those Czech RAF fliers would try to hold each year at a war memorial in a Prague cemetery. And the whole thing would be very aggressively watched, photographed and filmed by spooks and musclemen from the St B, the Communist Secret Police of the time.
It must be 40 years since I first saw the film ' Operation Daybreak', about the assassination in Prague of the monster Reinhard Heydrich.
I hadn’t been to Prague then (I would put that right two years later).
That unique city, as imagined but never seen, had a powerful, mythical, almost mystical hold over my mind. Recent visits, in which I have come to see it as a modern place rather than a dark and lovely stage set on which good and evil do battle, have rather spoiled it for me.
I do understand that its inhabitants much prefer it the way it is.
The Kafka associations and two films , ‘Operation Daybreak’ and Costa-Gavras’s now almost unobtainable ‘L’Aveu’ (‘The Confession’) about the Slansky show trials of 1953, helped fix it in my mind as a frightening place of violence, melancholy, gloom, betrayal, dungeons and defeat, but also a very beautiful one.