Return after 65 Years

April 23, 2014  •  1 Comment

This April I am celebrating my 66th birthday in Ostrava in the Czech Republic. This will be the first time I have been in the Czech Republic for 65 years. On the 28April 1948 I was born in the Vitkovice Iron Works Hospital, as the communists took control of the Czechoslovakian government. In fact according to my father, “When my mother was admitted into hospital it was a private fee paying hospital by the time she left with me the Communist State paid the bill”. 

My Czech Birth Certificate

I spent my 1st year in Bruntal my father’s home town.

 

My father Sigmund Kohn, a member of the Free Czech Army, had met and married my my mother Marion McCombie in England during WW2.  After the War they, and their twin daughters Ida and Julia, returned  to his home town Bruntal where he re-established the family business.The Kohn family had been ‘Grain Merchants’ in Bruntal for five generations. Czechoslovakia was a Democratic Republic from 1945 until the1948 Czechoslovakian coup.

 

My father found it difficult to live and work under the communists regime. In 1949 we left Czechoslovakia and moved as refugees to the U.K.

Press Article on our arrival in U.K.

 

This was the second time my father was a refugee.

 

He left Czechoslovakia for Great Britain in1938 as a refugee after the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. The rest of his family died in concentration camps. My grandmother Ida Kohnova died in the ‘show ghetto’ Theresienstadt  My uncle and aunt, Hugo Kauder and Irene Kauderova, were killed in Auschwitz Berkenau. 

 

American Red Cross Letter Records of Transportation Documents

 

Hugo Kauder Transportation DocumentMy Uncle Irena Kauderova Transportation DocumentMy Aunt Ida Kohnova Transportation DocumentMy Grandmother

 

My family moved to Dublin in 1955. I have often considered a return visit to where I was born. However for various personal and political reasons I have never made that journey. I have no memories of Czechoslovakia. In a world where nationalism seems to be such a force in peoples lives I am intrigued how I will react emotionally a visit to 'the land of my birth'.

 

However I was never really comfortable to return as just a tourist. 

 

I have been professional photographer all my working life. Last year I retired after teaching photography for 15 years and returned to freelance photography. I have been looking for a personal photography project to mark the next stage of my career.

 

I plan to photograph the week, around my birthday, in the Czech Republic. I have arranged to meet with The Mayors of Ostrava and Bruntal and visit the Iron Works Hospital. I will visit the Auschwitz Concentration camp.where my uncle and aunt were killed and Theresienstadt where my Grandmother died. I also plan do a photography essay on the Ostrava-Vitkovice Iron Works.

 

Conor Goodman and Frank Miller, Editors at The Irish Times, have asked me to write and photograph a feature about my trip. Apart from my photographs the they want pictures of me. A Czech photographer Ubald Rutar was a student on my commercial photography course at Killester College. Ubald now lives 2 hours from Ostrava and will take photographs of my visit.

I have also been in contact with Jiri Hrdina a photography teacher at The Secondary School of Visual Arts, Ostrava . I will be meeting him and hope to be involved in a photography workshop with his students at the Vitkovice Iron Works

 

Apart from the Irish Times feature. I plan to Blog about the trip. I also hope to produce an exhibition.

 

 

 


Comments

Theresa Moynes(non-registered)
Hi Andrew - this is so interesting. Am looking forward to seeing the results of your visit. I wish you the best of luck with your trip and project. Very worthwhile!!
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