There are few more magical sights than the view from the top of Petřín Hill in Prague, looking down over the rooftops of the Czech capital in the shadow of Petřínská rozhledna, the Czech answer to Paris’s Eiffel Tower. But taking the scenic walk down, lost in Bohemian reverie, visitors are suddenly faced with an altogether less picturesque vision.
Six bronze figures descend the steps, faces pained, arms outstretched like zombies, their bodies gradually disintegrating. This is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism by celebrated sculptor, Olbram Zoubek. Unveiled in 2002, it is ‘dedicated to all victims, not only those who were jailed or executed, but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism’. A bronze plaque hits home with the numbers, charting the hundreds of thousands who suffered under the Communist regime between 1948 and 1989.
This disturbing addition to the Czech landscape has its fans and its critics. The controversy reaching a climax when in 2003 one of the original seven figures was destroyed in a bomb attack, an ironic additional destruction of the already decaying group.
Image: Olbram Zoubek, Memorial to the Victims of Communism, 2002. Author’s photo