24th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
Foreigner Looking for an Apartment: Austria and Germany
The Right of Asylum in Bavaria
Kids on Their Way Abroad
Two Years Later – Czechoslovaks in Exile
The Eppstein School Shooting
The East and the West – Exodus
Austrian Refugee Camp Traiskirchen
Czechoslovak Refugees Fly to the USA
Everybody Helps the Stranded Holidaymakers
World Mirror – The Situation of Czechoslovak Intellectuals in Vienna
The selection of West German TV reports filmed between 1968 and 1986 reflects the diversity of the Czechoslovak citizens who, under various circumstances, decided to live their free future lives in the German Federal Republic. The perspective of the contemporary media and public brings more information not only about famous people, such as the poet and songwriter Karel Kryl, singer Yvonne Přenosilová or poet and essayist Ivan Diviš, but also about common people who did not want to be subjugated to the Czechoslovak communist regime. One of them was Milada Melanová who left for Germany with her family. After the first few days in the refugee camp at Zirndorf, they found a small apartment in a Frankfurt housing estate for the socially disadvantaged. In addition to confined spaces, however, the family had to deal with the mess and crime around their new home and misunderstandings on the part of the authorities. The TV reports not only explain individual political motivations of the exiles, but also use concrete life stories to reveal the ways of integration. An unfortunate course of events will be shown in the report on one of the most tragic school shootings in Germany – it occurred in Eppstein and the perpetrator was the then 34-year-old Czechoslovak immigrant Karel Charva. The reports on official asylum procedures will show how Czechoslovak immigrants, already burdened by their mixed feelings, were confronted with the very challenging bureaucratic reality. A wide time span of the reports allows the viewers to compare the media images of refugees as soon as they come to the host country and after a few years, and see how Germany managed the wave of refugees from the urgent situation at the beginning to the evaluation of the integration practices.
A selection of Austrian archival recordings on the topic of Czechoslovak emigrants draws attention to, among others, the immediate situation on the Czechoslovak-Austrian border in 1968 – the cramped conditions at the Traiskirchen refugee camp, footage of buses symbolically carrying their hopes and fear of the unknown, and the bleak meetings with an uncertain end of administrative proceedings associated with their application for asylum. At the same time, we are also witnesses to the solidarity of our Austrian neighbors who wanted to help at any cost, providing the “shipwrecked” holidaymakers with food and shelter. We hear interviews with emigrants who speak on camera about the reasons for their emigration and about their plans for the future. Among them are a group of Czechoslovaks who took advantage of regular flights to the USA on Pan American organized by the International Organization for European Migration and Refugees. Another episode focuses on a community of Czechoslovak intellectuals. Journalists, writers, artists, and scientists – who found refuge in nearby Vienna. In anonymous statements, they reflect on the political motivations of the Soviet Union, on the consequences not only in the collective sense of the word, but also with regards to the lives of individuals. One example is the fate of a university teacher and her husband who disagree on their plans for the future. She wants to stay abroad, while he wants to return to communist Czechoslovakia. The refugees’ internal conflicts and ambivalent feelings are symptomatic of their often only recourse to an untenable life situation: emigration.