On one of our last days in Prague we made a visit to a more somber of Prague sights, the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral. It is a beautiful Orthodox Church in Prague, position on a street leading to the Moldau river. Visiting it made such a strong impression on me that I decided to share it with all of you, despite the graveness of the issue.
I recall passing the cathedral on numerous occasions as a child, in the company of my grandparents. What stuck in my memory was when they pointed out the side of the church facing the street and brought my attention to the numerous holes in its facade (clearly created by gun shots), as they at the same time mentioned the World War II. I was never offered any more information, nor was I looking for any explanation. The memories of WW2, at that time merely 30 years old were always around me. But to me that was a distant past and my mind, although intrigued, only accepted what I saw without further interest.
This was about 35 years ago and that was the last time I passed the church until a couple of weeks ago, on the 19th of June.
The side facade, as seen here, was covered with beautiful wreaths and fresh flowers, to commemorate a somewhat sad anniversary of the previous day.
This was the sight of a terrible tragedy in the year of 1942.
The events unfolded already on the 27th of May the same year in other parts of Prague, with the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. The operation was carried out by young Czech men, trained by the British, who parachuted in secrecy into the capital. Following the successful assassination they hid for weeks in the Cathedral (Heydrich was mortally wounded and died in the hospital a few days later).
Eventually, the brave men were discovered on 18th of June and in a bloody battle that lasted for two hours, one soldier was wounded and died shortly after arrival at the hospital. The other parachutists committed suicide to avoid capture after an additional four hour battle with the SS.
Signs of this battle can still be seen on the church facade, but also foremost eerily sensed upon the visit to the church crypt, where the doomed soldiers were hiding. This was one of the most stirring places I have ever visited in my life. The air was filled with sadness and a feeling of despair, clearly palpable at all times.
The consequences of the assassination were severe and too cruel for words. Entire villages were wiped out, leveled with the ground and innocent people, among them the priest and chaplain of the church (and their families) were executed.
Our visit to this church stirred a plethora of feelings in me. It did not make me despise or blame anyone, nor single out anyone or any place. I think it mostly brought the terror of war closer to home. Places such as these serve as a reminder that peace should never be taken for granted. It also reinforces the fact, that terrible evil will always exist, but so will the incredible good and that true heroes are ordinary people we might rarely hear about.