US Doc in Eastern Block 1958 – 1960. Part 2 Czechoslovakia

US Doc in Eastern Bloc 1958 – 1960

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photos from the petegrafton collection

Part 2:  Czechoslovakia Summer 1959.

The Background

US Doc, an orthopaedic specialist, in Prague, summer 1959. His name is believed to be Dr.A. Seyfried

We have, at the moment, no idea how it was that the American Doc, believed to be Dr A Seyfried, an orthopaedic specialist, was visiting Communist controlled countries in the Eastern Bloc. (My very grateful thanks to Liz Willis, former librarian with the Medical Research Council, London, for searching and locating in Pubmed papers written by a Dr A Seyfried. By their speciality – mostly in arthritic and rheumatoid conditions, and period of publication – 1953 – 1999,  and that these papers were mostly published in Polish specialist publications, and one published in a Czech  publication, we can be reasonably sure this is the one and same person. The full Pubmed list is at the foot of this Post.)

The Cold War was at its height – the Hungarian Uprising had been put down by Soviet tanks and military in October 1956 –  two and a half years before these photos were taken in the then Czechoslovakia.

It may be that Dr.Seyfried, and a colleague were working for, or attached to the World Health Organisation in Geneva.  In transparencies from Czechoslovakia a Mercedes with Swiss plates is shown.

The photos – Kodachrome transparencies – were mostly taken by a colleague – possibly also a visiting US doctor – of the “US Doc”.  They were bought on ebay in 2008.  The seller had additional sets of photos taken  – by the same source –  of visits to Poland and Hungary in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

Kodachrome transparency and mount, processed September 1958.

Only a  very few of the transparency mounts had an identifying name – place, or person. The majority didn’t.  The ebay seller batched the sales under country, and year.  The year can be identified by the Kodak lab  date stamp on the transparency mounts.

The transparencies shown here are selected first by the orthopaedic interest, and then by local photos, outings and so on.  They are a rare colour chronicle of aspects of everyday life, and civic life,  in countries that were to live under Communist/military control  in Eastern Europe for a further 32 years from when they were taken. And, of course, they show orthopaedic practices and care of children and adults at that time.

Please use the Leave a Reply facility to get in touch if you can identify towns, places, people, or anything you spot and can clarify.  It would be very much appreciated.

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Czechoslovakia

Orthopaedic Practice

Entrance to the Universita Karlova Klinika pro Orthoepedickov, Praha/Prague.  Us Doc – Dr A Seyfried centre – with Professor Miroslav Jaros, the Clinic Director, to his right. Summer 1959.  (My very grateful thanks to Vaclav Hajek, Public Relations Officer at the Charles University, Praha/Prague for identifying Professor Miroslav Jaros and for providing a link to information about him. Also to Karel Cerny, Head of the Institute for History of Medicine and Foreign Languages, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, for additional information)  For this information on Professor Jaros see Footnote (1).

A formal photo of Professor Miroslav Jaros.  photo source fnmotol.cz

Professor Miroslav Jaros, the Clinical Director of the Karlova University Orthopaedic Clinic to the left of the man in the white shirt. Prague. Summer 1959.

Same location. Right to left: The Us Doc, Dr. A Seyfried on the left, standing next to Professor Miroslav Jaros.  2nd on the right probably a US colleague of Dr Seyfried.  The gent in the brown jacket is possibly Czechoslovakian.  Prague, summer 1959.

Dr A Seyfried and un-identified gent in front of a wall of Government, government agency and cultural posters. Assumed to be Prague, summer 1959.

Orthopaedic clinic, believed to be in Prague. Lamp off.

Lamp on, for photography.

Orthopaedic clinic, Prague with Czechoslovakian orththopedic doctor, children and nurses.  Summer 1959.

Orthopaedic clinic, Prague, summer 1959.

Orthopaedic clinic Prague with nurse helping young child. Summer 1959.

Exercises for young children, orthopaedic clinic Prague, with male and female staff.  Summer 1959.

Young man using sticks, overseen by Czechoslovakian Orthopaedic specialist. Prague, summer 1959.

Believed to be a Czechoslovakian orthopaedic specialist, on roof of clinic building. Probably Prague skyline. Summer 1959.   Doubtful that it is evening – more likely wrongly exposed photo. (Transparency film has a low tolerance to incorrect exposure for lighting.  In the 1950s there were no auto exposure, auto focus cameras.  All settings had to be done manually.  Getting the correct light setting required a handheld light meter, or guess work.)

Their right to left: US Doc – Dr A Seyfried, with Czechoslovakian colleagues. The gent on the left is possibly a host from a Czechoslovakian Government tourist agency or a “Committee for Friendship & Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries”. The gentleman to his right is possible the same person on the roof in the photo above.

The Czech gent is now taking the photo and Dr A Seyfriend’s US colleague – who took the above photo –  is  now in the picture.

Dr A Seyfried playing skittles with Czechoslovakian colleagues. Believed to be Prague, summer 1959. As noted earlier, getting the wrong camera exposure for lighting – in this case only slightly – can cause a colour/darkness shift when using transparency film.

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Prague/Praha

View of Prague, the River Vltava and on the horizon the Stalin Monument.  Summer 1959.

Dr Seyfried having his photo taken on the Charles Bridge, Prague with the Stalin Monument on the hill behind him.  Summer 1959.

Photo Crop of Dr Seyfried with the Stalin Monument on the hill behind him.  Prague, Summer 1959.

The Stalin Monument Prague, circa 1955.   photo Miroslav Vopata.

The Stalin Monument in Prague was the world’s largest Stalin Monument, completed in 1955.   Made of granite it took five years to build.  The day before it was unveiled the statue’s sculptor Otaker Švec took his life. The Stalin Monument survived another seven years. It was demolished – literally blown up – in 1962 on the orders of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, with permission from Moscow. (2.)  Residents of Budapest took matters into their own hand and decapitated the head of their Stalin statue in October 1956, during the short-lived Hungarian Uprising – crushed by the invading tanks of the Soviet Union.

Budapest October 1956 and the head of Stalin, and Russian tank. Photographer Unknown.

The US doctor was visiting Czechoslovakia and the Eastern Bloc two and a half years after the crushing of the Hungarian Uprising.

The Swiss registered Mercedes car that Dr Seyfried and his US colleague used during their visit to Czechoslovakia. Near the centre of Prague.  Summer 1959.

The Powder Tower Prague,  seen from Celetna, Summer 1959.  It got its name as it was originally used to store gunpowder.

Unidentified tower, assumed to be Prague. Summer 1959.  The sign literally reads “Rapid shoe handling” – roughly Quick shoe repairs. U Prihodu does not appear on any Prague or Czech online maps, though there are one or two pensions with the name Prihodu in the Czech Republic.

Charles Bridge and Bridge Tower. It looks like Dr.Seyfried taking a photo. Prague, Summer 1959.  The gent in the snazzy grey suit is with him, possibly a Czechoslovakian colleague or host.

Dr Seyfried, with Czechoslovakian host (?) having their photo taken on Charles Bridge. The two gents passing them are from the Indian sub-continent. At this time the Soviet Union and their Eastern Bloc “colonies” encouraged visitors, students and exchange specialists from the non-aligned world. Later, from the 1960s onwards, this would also include countries that received military and economic help from the Soviet Union, such as Cuba and Angola.  Prague, summer 1959.

Dr Seyfried standing by the Edvard Capek Bazar in the Old Town Prague, summer 1959.  The Bazar was founded in 1911, selling hardware and bric-a-brac. Despite different regimes and governments: Hapsburg, inter-war democracy, Nazi, Communist, post-communist, it is still in business.  (The shop front has changed though.)  It was such a Prague feature that a Government Czechoslovakian film unit did a short piece on it in 1966. (2)

Short film from 1966 on the Eduard Capek bazar in the Old Town, Prague.  See footnote (2). Source SFU, on You Tube.

Dr Seyfried standing near an enclosed park with a modern Bird effigy and old church in background. Believed to be Prague, summer 1959.

Rooftops and spires, Old Town, Prague, summer 1959.

Looking over roof tops towards the Castle on the horizon, Prague, summer 1959.

High view looking over roof tops with the River Vltava, Prague, summer 1959.

The River Vltava and the Castle, Prague, summer 1959.

All Quiet on the Vltava.

The River Vltava.  Unknown location, possibly near Prague.

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Days in the Countryside

The countryside is never far from Prague.

Dr.Seyfried near a camping area, assumed to be countryside near Prague. He seems to have acquired a flap cap, and a Czechoslovakian one, at that. Summer 1959.

Camping area with lake in the foreground. Assumed to be near Prague. Summer 1959.

Dr Seyfried by a village duckweed covered pond.  He is holding his cap and his shoes are highly polished, as usual.  Czechoslovakia, summer 1959.

Dr Seyfried with Czechoslovakian colleague or host. Village pond in background, and village bell.   Fairly new looking electricity poles.  Czechoslovakia, summer 1959. 

Main road to unidentified country town with an old towered building.  Czechoslovakia, summer 1959.

Dr Seyfried and week-end bags visiting, it is presumed, medical specialist Czechoslovakian colleagues in the countryside.

Many Prague residents long to have a weekend house/summer house in the surrounding countryside, and this is a tradition that goes back a long time.  It was the central story-line in Jiri Menzel’s Seclusion Near a Forest /Na samote u lesa (1976).

It looks like the gate is getting a coat of paint. The Mercedes that Dr. Seyfried and his US colleague are using is parked in the background.

Dr Seyfried in a meadow with a man with a hay rake. Both men wearing caps. A lovely summer’s scene in the Czechoslovakian countryside. Summer 1959.

Summer house in the countryside, duvets airing on the upstairs balcony, Dad doing a repair to the summer house, Mum podding peas or beans, two beach balls and three children and a pre-war cabriolet car parked in the shade of the pine trees. And a stack of hay on the right hand side. Idyllic scene, Czechoslovakia, summer 1959.

Seclusion Near a Forest (1976): Mum and Dad, and their two children in the back of the Skoda, setting off from their flat in Prague for the  nearby countryside.

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Pilsner Urquell/Plzenský Prazdroj

Dr Seyfried standing by Rokycany town sign.  Czechoslovakia summer 1959.

Rokycany is south west of Prague, on the main road to Pilsen (Plzen).  There would seem no reason for Dr Seyfried to have his photo taken at the town’s roadside sign.  It has no connection with brewing.  However, a wild speculation could be that as a younger man – 14 years before, – he was in the US Army in May, 1945 when it liberated Rokycany from German forces.  Rokycany had a significance as it was on an agreed demarcation line  between the US forces and the Soviet forces to the east of the town.  An alternative  speculation is that a friend of his back in the US, knowing he was going to visit Pilzen asked him for a photo of post-war Rokycany.  The photo has been wrongly exposed – it is unlikely it is night-time.  Rokycany is only 42 miles from Prague and 14 miles from Pilsen.

Civilians & GIs and GIs dancing with Czech Women, main square Pilsen.  The US 2nd Infantry Division entered Pilsen on 7 May, 1945, relieving the 16th Armoured Division.   photo source militarycarclub.cz

US forces entered this part of Czechoslovakia from the west, crossing from the German border.  It may be that they, or another Division entered and liberated Rokycany on the same day.

Dr Seyfried standing outside the Pilsner Urquell brewery, summer 1959. We have seen the gent on his left in some of the Prague based photos. 

The Pilsner Urquell brewery, circa 2013.  Image acknowledgement Google Street View.

Dr. Seyfried watching workmen roll barrels in the Pilsner Urquell brewery, summer 1959.

Dr Seyfried points to the sign of the HQ of Plzenske Pivorary (Pilsner Urquell/Plzensky Prazdroj).  The smaller letters indicate it is a “National Company”   The brewery was State owned in 1959.  Part of the brewery can be seen on the left.

Dr Seyfried leans on the street board of the Prazdroj  Restaurant.

Dr Seyfried by the street board of the Prazdroj Restaurant, with Czechoslovakian colleague or host.

Inside the Prazdroj Restaurant, Pilsen/Plzen.   Summer 1959.

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Although there was a demarcation line between US and Soviet Forces at Rokcany, the Yalta Agrrement gave the Soviet Union the right to oversee elections in Czechoslovakia, as well as Poland, Hungary, eastern Germany, Romania, and Bulgaria.  Systematically from 1945 the Russian Soviet Union destroyed the fledgling democracies using what the Hungarian Communist Leader Rákosi in a 1952 secret session called “Salami Tactics” – piece by piece, bit by bit.  The occupying Soviet military/ administration insisted on Coalitions/Popular Fronts whilst elections were arranged, whilst at the same time insisting that local communists (most of whom had spent their war in Moscow) be given the powerful Ministry of Interior posts.

Elections were fixed, or where there was a strong pre-war democracy, such as in Czechoslovakia, the democratic politicians were undermined, or accused of working for the U.S..  There were threats, show trials, imprisonment and in some cases executions. By 1950 all of these liberated countries had become colonies of the Soviet Union, run by the local Communists.  There had been a restlessness and demonstrations by the subject populations as early as 1953 in East Germany, 1955 in Poland and the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.

In 1968 – 9 years after these photos were taken in the summer of 1959 –  Czech Communist leader Alexander Dubcek tried to contain the demands from within the country for greater freedom by introducing some liberalisation. He resisted pressure from Moscow. The Russians were not having it.  In the largest military attack on a European country since the end of the Second World War, the Russian Soviet Union and their Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia in August. It was another 21 years before Czechs and Slovaks would regain the freedom they had had before 1939.

“Protester confronts Soviet tank, morning of 21 August 1968, Main Square, Bratislava, Slovakia.” photo Ladislav Bielik.

“Protesters throw stones at the Soviet tanks entering Prague.”    Photo source Czech Press Agency archive.

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Footnotes

1. Professor Miroslav Jaros, (1897 – 1970).  “Completed his medical studies in 1922 and worked as an operative at the Surgical and First Obstetrics clinic in Prague…  In 1927 he took a study trip to France, and in the same year he was assistant at the Prague Orthopedic Clinic…. In 1958 he was appointed head of the Orthopedic Clinic and in 1967 the chair of the Orthopedic Department of the 1st Medical Faculty of the Charles University…” – source http://www.zdrav.cz

In addition, Karel Cerny, Head of the Institute for History of Medicine and Foreign Languages, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Praha/Prague has kindly added further information in an email to the author: “He was head of the Orthopedic Clinic between 1958-1970.  Jaros was a member of several Czech and foreign scientific societies and between 1968-1970 also a member of the scientific board of the faculty.  He is one of the founding personalities of modern Czech orthopedics“.

2. See Stalin Monument (Prague) from Wikipedia, and Radio Prague item, May 2016, both online.  In addition, there is a 2016 report that a feature length film is being made about the Monument sculptor Otaker Svec.

3. See the  short film  on You Tube: Vetesnictvi Eduard Capek (1966).

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The articles written, or co-written by Dr A Seyfried listed in Pubmed are reproduced below the “Coming Soon” section.
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Coming next, early April, 2018

US Doc in Eastern Bloc 1958 – 1960

Part 3:  Hungary, Summer 1959 & Spring 1960

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Listing for Dr A Seyfried 1999 – 1953, sourced from Pubmed

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