Before heading out on our road trip through Eastern Europe, it was suggested by a friend to watch the movie, "Operation Daybreak." So, we did. May I suggest that if you've not seen this movie, and you are interested in WWII History . . . watch it ! Even if you're not interested in WWII History, watch it.
There is also a series of History Channel Youtube videos about Operation Anthropoid, which was the code name for the assassination that more correctly tell the story. This is the First Part: CLICK HERE
In 1942, World War II paratroopers Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš assassinated the SS second-in-command Reinhard Heydrich, who controlled the Nazi-occupied Czech lands and was one of the main architects of the Holocaust. He was known as "The Butcher of Prague," The Hangman of Prague," "The god of Death," among other titles. In the weeks following his assassination, the two paratroopers hid, along with other freedom fighters, in the crypt of the Greek Orthodox Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church on Resslova Street.
The following photos show the modest exhibition in the church's crypt that retell their story, along with the history of the Czech resistance movement. Outside, you will see a small memorial, including bullet holes, a plaque, and flowers.
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church on Resslova Street in Prague
If you're not aware of what happened here, it would be quite easy to walk by and never know.
Looking up, there is a small window that opens into the crypt below. There is a memorial plaque, dead flowers and fresh flowers lying on the ledge below the window which is . . .
. . . riddled with bullet holes.
Inside, there are panels with a photo journal of what happened. . .
. . . that day . . . from that corner of the almost failed assassination. . .
. . . to the final days of the heroes.
This is the plaque to the right of the door that leads inside the crypt.
If you don't have time to read it all, at least read the last two paragraphs.
Inside the crypt, looking back at the door
Stairs leading up to the altar of the cathedral
This photo was taken looking up to the opening of the shaft.
Cover of the shaft
Looking out the window shown in the third and fourth photos above . . .
. . . the one with the bullet holes.
The traitor, Karel Čurda was the Czech soldier who also parachuted into the protectorate in 1942, and yelled down into the crypt from this window for those inside to give up.
His rewards were 1,000,000 Reichmarks and a new identity, "Karl Jerhot." He married a German woman and spent the rest of the war as a Gestapo Spy.
After the war, Čurda was tracked down and arrested. When asked in court how he could betray his comrades, Čurda answered, "I think you would have done the same for one million marks."
Karel Čurda was found guilty of high treason and hanged on April 29, 1947.
Same window. Just taken from a few steps farther back.
To the right, you can see where the heroes started trying to dig a tunnel to escape.
This is the window where the SS placed the hose from the fire truck that filled the crypt with water and would have eventually drown those inside.
Bullet holes on the wall to the right of the hole for the tunnel.
The photos below are of the statues memorializing the paratroopers and the freedom fighters.
The vaults behind the statues are for coffins.
The Bishop Gorazd, in an attempt to minimize the reprisals among his flock, took the blame for the actions in the church by harboring these men, and even wrote letters to the Nazi authorities, who arrested him on June 27, 1942 and tortured him. On September 4, 1942 the bishop, the church's priests and senior lay leaders were taken to the Kobylisy Shooting Range in a northern suburb of Prague and were shot by Nazi firing squads. For his actions, Bishop Gorazd was later glorified as a martyr by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Intelligence falsely linked the assassins of Heydrich to the villages of Lidice and Ležáky. A Gestapo report identified Lidice as the assailants' suspected hiding place since several Czech army officers exiled in England at the time were known to have come from there. In addition, the Gestapo had found a resistance radio transmitter in LežákyIn the village of Lidice, destroyed on June 9, 1942, 199 men were executed, 95 children taken prisoner (81 later killed in gas vans at the Chelmo extermination camp; eight others were taken for adoption by German families), and 195 women were immediately deported to Ravensbruck concentration camp. All adults, men and women, in the village of Ležáky were murdered. Both towns were burned, and the ruins of Lidice leveled.
Flowers recently left on the floor of the crypt
And I leave you with the image above . . .
. . . the look on Charlie's face as he entered the crypt, looking up at that window, pretty much says it all.
One of my very special memories of my mom is baking cakes and brownies with her. Especially the chocolate variety. She had one of those Sunbeam electric mixers (I still have it, by the way), that was white with a black handle on top and an black twisty-turny-thingy to change the speeds with. It had two clear bowls that came with it. It was the bowl that I was most interested in. That's because the bowl would contain the remants of the batter of either the cake or the brownies. My mom was very adept at getting out most of the batter with one of those rubber spatulas. But, then there were the beaters. These usually had quite a bit of batter dripping from them, and I was very adept at getting off most of the batter with my tongue. I would always ask her to leave more batter in the bowl, but she carefully explained to me that if she didn't use all the batter, the cake or brownies wouldn't bake correctly.
Fast forward to when my daughters would stand on a kitchen chair at her counter waiting for my mom to hand them the bowl and the beaters. It was always a mystery to me as to how those cakes and brownies turned out just fine when my mom would leave about a cup of batter in the bowl for them to 'lick.'
Really ? They could drink the batter from the bowl. When I questioned her about the amount of batter she left in the bowl and the fact that the cake probably wouldn't bake correctly, her reply was, "WWWWEEEEELLLL . . . and then pat the granddaughter on the head and hug and kiss her.
My girls have special memories of my mother, and one of them is baking brownies with her.
That's why when I'm with Little Miss P and Baby Dub-Ya, we always bake brownies.
Then we lick the bowls and the beaters and the whisks and the spatulas . . .
Here is a series of photographs taken while the brownies were baking . . .notice that each lick has a special technique . . .
The "I Really Need to Concentrate on This - Lick. "
The "I Think My Tongue Can Reach That Little Drip Right There - Lick."
The "Make Sure You're Looking Where You're Licking - Lick."
The "I Think I Can Get This Whole Whisk in My Mouth - Lick."
The "Lackadaisical-Daydreaming - Lick."
The "This Is Really Decadent - Lick."
The "Where Do I Lick Next - Lick ?"
The "How Far Can I Stick Out My Tongue - Lick ?"
The "I Can Do This With My Eyes Shut - Lick."
The "I Think I'm Getting Sleepy - Lick."
The "I'm Finished and Can Wash My Face with My Tongue - Lick."
Now, you may be wondering where Little Miss P was while her little brother was licking away.
She received her degree from what was then known as Southeastern Teacher's College. (I think that was the name.) Later, when I graduated from there, it was Southeastern State College. And now, it's Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Ironically enough, one of my very bestest friend's son is now president of SOSU. (Aletha Booker Burrage ~ Sean Burrage.)
But, I meander with my typing. Try to stay with me here. Oh look, a squirrel.
See. My ADHD is working well this morning.
Back to the funny story.
Mom taught at several different schools in the Antlers, Oklahoma area . . . South Nelson, Sugarloaf, and Kellond.
Kellond ! Yes ! My first real memories from childhood are of Kellond. A rock building north of Antlers that at one time, eventually was turned into a honky-tonk of sorts. (Mom, cover your ears.)
Miss Bertha, as she was fondly called by her students, became pregnant in 1951. It was not viewed upon favorably in those days for the school teacher to be 'with child' and in the classroom full of young students.
Becoming pregnant in October, three months into the school year, was kind of a miracle but needed to be kept secret. You see, she had been told she would probably never be able to have children.
My parents, being the honest kind of 'foke' they were, decided they should tell one of the school board members of their predicament. They needed her salary and certainly would be put in a financial strain if she was asked to step down.
Eanon and Miss Bertha went to one of the school board member's houses one night to share their story. Their meeting with Mr. Davis was held in the family's tiny living room while the Davis son played in the kitchen nearby. Larry Davis was a student of Miss Bertha's.
Mr. Davis assured my parents he would keep their secret and to not worry about losing her job. He would later bring this up at the school board meeting, but until then, no one would know but the three of them.
Of course, Mom and Dad were both relieved.
The next day in that classroom filled with first, second, third, and fourth graders, Miss Bertha was at the back of the room sitting at a table with first graders in a reading group.
Above the din from all the other students sitting at their desks, she heard Larry tell another third grader, "Hey ! Did you know Miss Bertha is going to have a baby ? Don't tell her though because she doesn't know yet."
Trying to remember my FIRST memory of my mom brought back MANY memories of her. It's difficult to know if I actually remember this, or if I just remember the story being told over and over and over again.
Regardless, being a mother myself, I can imagine how she must have felt the day that this happened. I can almost feel her arms around me, trembling as she held me close.
The first house we lived in was west of Antlers, Oklahoma, on the highway to Darwin . . . which also leads to Atoka.
That house was just up the hill on the opposite side of that highway where my paternal grandparents lived . . . Mam-ma and Papa Smith.
I'm not sure how old I was, but I was still riding a tricycle.
Evidently, Mom let me out of her sight for a few minutes, so I headed out on my tricycle . . . down the middle of the highway. This was a well traveled road, and even though it was in the country, the speed liimit was probably 55 mph.
Once she realized I wasn't at the house, panic set in.
Of course, I don't remember any of these details.
The first car that came along was being driven by a lady who knew our family, and she was probably pretty surprised to see a toddler booking it down the hill in the middle of the highway on a red tricycle. Thank goodness she saw me in time and was able to stop.
By that time, Mom had spotted me and was running as fast as she could down the highway. I would imagine she was doing the 55 mph speed limit, on foot. Probably, barefoot.
This is the part I think I remember:
She lifted me off that tricycle, held me so close to her chest, and asked, "Sweetheart, what are you doing ?"
"Me just going to Mam-ma and Papa's house."
I have sooooooo many wonderful memories of my mom and think of her every day.
She was a Master Teacher and loved being in the classroom. She was my first teacher at a two-room country school north of Antlers, Oklahoma, called Kellond. We lived on the "teacherage." (If you don't know what a teacherage is, think parsonage.) She was a talented seamtress and made all my clothes. At the time, I wanted "bought" clothes, but now realize I had my very own "haute coutre" closet. She even designed and made my wedding dress. She was also a great cook. She made a mean peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Mom was probably the best Grandmother ever. Her two granddaughters were treated to about anything they ever wanted...like warm brownies twenty-four hours a day. But mainly they were treated to warm, unconditional love twenty-four hours a day.
When I lost her, there were no words left unsaid. She knew she was loved. I knew I was loved.
When I see the sun's rays or the stars twinkle at night, it reminds me of her beautiful smile.
If you are lucky enough to still have your mom, make sure you tell her you love her today, because E.V.E.R.Y. day is Mother's Day.
This was our first house and a photo of Mom in the spring before she had me in June.
If you're planning a trip to Europe, may I suggest going by way of Iceland ?
I have several reasons . . . here are a few:
Icelandair is cheaper than the other airlines. You can fly their 'business class' for about the same price as the other airlines 'economy class.'
It breaks up the trip into a reasonable amount of time in the air.
Icelandair allows you to stay several days before you have to book your flight home at no additional cost.
Reykjavik is a wonderful place to visit.
When we left Denver, the forecast was for the temperature to be in the upper 70's. When we arrived Reykjavik . . . see above. Who planned this trip, anyway?
The Hotel Borg is a wonderful place to stay and within walking distance of great shopping, restaurants, thermal pools, and most importantly the Gray Lines Bus Station which books tours to anywhere you want to go on the island.
Why is he so happy ? He thinks he's found a restaurant open for breakfast. Not a big deal unless you arrive at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Our hotel had a very nice restaurant which was open, but since he had eaten there before, he wanted to go look for one.
Note to self: Next time, tell him no.
Tip: You will probably fly out of your airport on a late afternoon flight and arrive early the next morning. It's an hour bus ride into Reykjavik, and by the time you arrive at your hotel, be prepared to wait until about 3:00 p.m. to get into your room. When booking your hotel room, ask if it will be ready when you arrive. (probably not) It's worth the extra expense to book the room the night before you arrive so it will be ready. Can you spell j-e-t-l-a-g ?
We finally found a restaurant open, and the waiter asked if I would like to have a latte or cappucino. I said yes.
When the waiter set all this down in front of HansMan, he looked at it and said, "I think he forgot my potatoes."
Many of the sidewalks are heated in Reykjavik.
I found a Viking and HansMan found our favorite restaurant. It's on the same street as the Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran church.
Tours are offered in the church and you can see for miles and miles and miles and miles if you go up.
Tip: Be sure to use a 'heavy duty' adapter or this will happen.
There's really no need to take a hair dryer because most hotels provide them.
When this happened, it made a really stupid loud noise.
No trip to Reykjavik is complete without one of these hotdogs. This is where Bill Clinton ate the night before he had the heart attack.
The hotdog stand is about two blocks from Harpa, Reykjavik's Concert Hall and Conference Center. It's located by the old harbor between the city center and the North Atlantic
The place is very pretty at night. Did you see the bird ?
This is one of the many thermal pools. It was within walking distance of Hotel Borg.
The name is on the building. Good luck.
This is another one of the pools in the city. It's a bus ride but well-worth the 'trouble' getting there.
Actually, it's fairly easy getting there, just make sure you know how to get a bus ticket home. The round trip ticket we bought expired before we left the pool.
At least we weren't going to starve to death. There's another hot dog stand across the street.
We liked both of these places better than The Blue Lagoon which is located close to the airport about an hour away. Plus, Blue Lagoon is much more expensive.
Just another pretty church in Reykjavik.
Hike to the Volcano
We hiked through lava tubes on the way . . .
Standing on two different plates: the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet in Thingvellir, where they're visible to visitors walking through the Thingvellir National Park.
You might recognize it from Season 4 of "Game of Thrones".
Our guide who will lead us down into the volcano.
Thrihnukagigur is the only place on earth where you can enter a magma chamber.
"I'm liking the helmet and harness." (Said me never.)
Notice the rope to the right. Just sayin'.
The colors are spectacular. This is looking up to the entrance. (White dot at bottom)
Tip: Read "Journey to the Center of the Earth," (again) Or watch the movie.
Take the Golden Circle tour. . .
. . . and you will see these everywhere.
Gullfoss means translated "Golden Falls" and is one of Iceland's most beautiful and without a doubt Iceland's most popular waterfall.
Tip: Wear a raincoat !
Just a couple of the vehicles we saw along the way.
When you decide to finally leave this great country,