Watch what happened after the bombs
Madeleine Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelová) was born on May 15, 1937 in Prague. At that time, the family lived in Belgrade, the capital of the former Yugoslav kingdom, where Father Josef Korbel (b. 1909) held the diplomatic post of press attaché. “My mother [Anna, nar. 1910] she wanted me to be born in Prague, so I was born there, then we came back. I was a few months old and we were in Belgrade. Madeleine spent the first two years of her life in Yugoslavia.
In 1939 she returned with her parents to Prague, where her father continued to work in the diplomatic service. Another move followed the same year. “When the Czechoslovak government moved to London, we went there too. […] It must have been very difficult for the parents. They fled via Greece to England, leaving the whole family in Czechoslovakia. At first they lived in London. “[Otec] worked for the BBC, did radio in Czechoslovakia during the war. He worked for Masaryk and President Beneš. […] The radio started each evening with notes from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This is the code for ‘victory’, we will win. Josef Korbel and Jan Masaryk would have been very close. “His father knew him well and Masaryk knew him very well.”
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What was life in London like in the context of World War II? “We lived in several places, possibly in a building in Notting Hill Gate. Now everyone thinks it’s very elegant, but it wasn’t so elegant during the war. There were other foreigners, we slept every night in the basement. There was a terrible green color. And my father – I remember – said: ‘It’s weird. There is hot water and gas in this cellar. If all of a sudden a bomb falls, we are all dead. ” The bombardment was not memorable.
“Once, when we were going out, not far from us, in the same street, a bomb fell on a barracks. But the truth is that I’m used to watching what happened after the bombs. Around London, even though I was little, I remember the bombs were really falling on a lot of things.”
For security reasons, the family later moved to a family home in Walton-on-Thames, south-west London. “In England, they invented iron tables so huge that you could have in the house, and they said that if a bomb fell on the house and you were under the table, nothing would happen. So we had such a table at home, we slept there and I played around this table.
Flowers for Masaryk, half a sausage for Tito
Throughout the war, her father worked closely with the Czechoslovak government in exile. Madeleine therefore saw Edvard Beneš from an early age. “He smiled and was very nice to me. […] My parents really appreciated what the government, Beneš, Masaryk and all the people around were doing. I didn’t hear about things like Lidice and so on because I was a little girl, but I lived in a nice house and there were always Czechs there. in a fabricated trial in the 1950s, they sentenced them to fifteen years in prison. prison.
In the English countryside, the family lived until the end of the war. “I remember when the Americans came. It was great and Beneš was there. I also remember what those people looked like.” He returned to Prague. “When we came back, forty-five this year- there, I was eight years old. […] My father returned with President Beneš in May, and me and my mother and my little sister a few weeks later. In Prague, the family lived in Hradčanské náměstí. Her father continued to work for the State Department and accompanied Madeleine to school every morning on the way to work.
Madeleine Albright, a Czech-born American politician, has died. She was 84
From post-war Prague, the Korbels moved again to Belgrade, where Madeleine spent the next two years. “My parents didn’t want me to go to school with the Communists, so I had a governess and studied at home.” with the political elites of the time. “When we lived in Yugoslavia, I was the little girl who went to the airport to give someone flowers. I wore a Slovak costume and gave flowers.”
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In 1947, ten-year-old Madeleine left Yugoslavia to study in Switzerland. “It just came to our knowledge at that time. I don’t quite understand. […] I hated school at first, but then I really liked it and I speak – I must say – perfectly French. But it was weird.”
Soon after, socio-political changes forced the family to emigrate further. “In May, in the 48th, my parents came to Switzerland to say that we would not go back to Czechoslovakia. That my father found a new job, that he was going to India. “I had a little brother in the time, we went to England and stayed there until we came to America.” It happened in November 1948. At the time, she was eleven years old, Madeleine – forced by circumstances – spoke four languages, and after Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, England and Switzerland, the United States became his next home, this time truly permanent.
Even that experience continued to shape his successes. How does he view the February coup in time? “I think the communists have been thinking about this for some time. You could say that Beneš shouldn’t have accepted the resignations, but it’s easy to sit down in America and say what should or shouldn’t be done. But the truth is that what happened in Czechoslovakia the forty-eighth time is very sad and there were those who really betrayed Czechoslovakia and you never understand why and how.”
Who is Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelová) was born on May 15, 1937 in Prague. She grew up in Belgrade, where her father Josef Korbel held the diplomatic post of press officer. The family spent the war years in England. Her father worked for the government-in-exile in London and broadcast regularly on the BBC. After the war, the Korbels lived in Prague, then again in Yugoslavia. In 1948, the family emigrated to the United States and settled in Denver, Colorado.
After Kent Denver High School, Madeleine received a scholarship to Wellesley College in Massachusetts and then a scholarship to Columbia University in New York. In her thesis, she focused on the role of the Czechoslovak press during the Prague Spring and traveled to Czechoslovakia several times during her studies. Since 1976, she has worked in the US Congress, including with then-President Jimmy Carter.
Shortly after the Velvet Revolution, in January 1990, she arrived in Prague, where she established cooperation and friendship with Václav Havel. In 1993, she was named United States Ambassador to the United Nations. She served until 1997, when she became US Secretary of State in the Bill Clinton administration. Madeleine Albright was living in Washington at the time of the filming of The Memory of the Nation (2021).
Madeleine Albright died on March 23, 2022.
This article was prepared by the editors of Memory of the Nation magazine, which is run by the nonprofit organization Post Bellum with the support of private donors. We would be grateful if you also support us at podpora.pametnaroda.cz. Thank you!
Authors: Václav Kovář, Post Bellum