Christmas in Prague by Joyce Hannam

Christmas in Prague by Joyce Hannam

Jan Vlach was born in Czechoslovakia, but moved to England with his father many years ago. His mother died on Christmas Eve in 1957. Now Jan lives in England and teaches Czech at Oxford University. His wife Carol gets an offer to play in an orchestra in Prague this Christmas. She asks Jan and his father Josef to come with her. Carol flies there earlier as she has rehearsals. After the first rehearsal she goes Christmas shopping. All of a sudden Carol sees her husband in the street. But why has he already come to Prague? What is he doing here? She calls him. But he doesn’t stop. He looks at her and then walks away. Carol is shocked. She runs to him but gets into an accident. The woman is taken to hospital. When Jan and Josef finally arrive in Prague, Josef explains everything. It turns out there’s more to the story of what happened in 1957.

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Christmas in Prague by Joyce Hannam

It is night, and the fields near the village are white with snow. The village is quiet, but not everybody is sleeping. Eyes are watching the roads and the fields near the village, because this is Czechoslovakia and the year is 1957. Across the fields, only half a kilometre away, is the Austrian border, but the people of Czechoslovakia are not free to go to Austria. The border guards watch day and night – and they carry guns.

In a house in the village, a man and a woman are talking. The woman holds a six-month-old baby boy in her arms.

Christmas in Prague by Joyce Hannam

She is excited, but she is afraid, too.

‘Tell me again,’ she says. ‘Did he get to Austria all right last night?’

‘Yes, he did,’ the man says. ‘Nobody saw him, nobody heard him. But last night was easy because the sky was dark. Tonight it’s more difficult – look at that moon!’

‘But it’s Christmas night,’ the woman says, ‘and the guards are drinking in the guardhouse, yes?’

‘That’s true,’ says the man, ‘but sometimes they come out and drive up and down the road for a time. So you must be careful, and you must run fast – very fast.’ He looks at his watch. ‘It’s time to go.’

The woman puts on a white coat and a white hat. The baby wears a white coat too, and the woman carries him on her back.

‘Good,’ the man says. ‘White is best when there’s snow. Nobody can see you. Now, are you ready? Let’s go.’

They leave the house and walk quickly out of the village. After a time they stop and the man says, very quietly:

‘OK. Do you see those trees? Turn right there and go fifty metres. When you come to the road, go across it quickly and run down the hill through the trees. Then you come to the river. Turn left and go 500 metres. The trees finish there and you can walk through the river easily. Across two, more fields and you’re in Austria. Our friends are waiting for you in the second field. Go now. Goodbye – and good luck!’…

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