Two hundred and sixty-two

Czech Republic: Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day

With the Occupy Movement as the hot topic of the news here in Canada, this holiday is very appropriate.  Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day commemorates uprisings by Czech students against totalitarian regimes.  (Note: by no means am I saying that the situation in North America is anywhere close to as bad as what happened in the Czech Republic  – just making a broad connection)

A timeline of the history of this important day:

  • Novemember 17 1939 – ten student leaders were executed by the Nazis and 1,100 student demonstrators were sent to concentration camps after anti-occupation student demonstrations.  The Nazis also declared all universities to be closed for three years.
  • 1941 – exiled Czechoslovak government proclaims November 17th to be International Students’ Day.
  • November 17 1989 – fiftieth anniversary of the Nazi horrors.  Students organize a peaceful protest.  The crowd grows increasingly bold and critical of the regime.  Police brutally suppress the protest at National Avenue.  This was the spark to ignite the Velvet Revolution, which led to the end of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
  • 2000 – November 17 declared a state holiday.
  • see and for more details
There are rituals held every year to commemorate this day, including the president laying flowers at the commemorative plaque on National Avenue in Prague.  Anti-government demonstrations are happening this year alongside the more traditional commemorative events.(See the Prague Daily Monitor for some of the events happening this year).  As award-winning Czech journalist Petr Nováček puts it in an article on the Velvet Revolution and Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day on “Back in 1989, most people in the country were filled with a sense of pride and hope for a better future. Today the opposite is largely true. This government has not won the minds, let alone the hearts or confidence, of the populace.” 

Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day strikes a chord with me.  As a former student, I am proud that a student protest could incite political change.  I also can’t imagine living in a country where standing up for what you believe in will get you executed.  This still happens many places around the world.  I am forever grateful to have the fortune of being born in a country with freedom of speech.

I also worry about the Occupy Movement.  The Occupiers should continue to voice their opinion, but why not try peaceful protests or rallies – if the tent city isn’t safe, up to fire code, or healthy?  You might find there are a lot of people out there who would support your cause if you were just clear on your message and were physically more in the public eye.  Maybe then the revolution you are looking for could happen.  It has been done before, in way more severe regimes, past and present.

Recap recap

I’m going to pause this section until I’m feeling better and am actually able to celebrate anything that doesn’t involve me in my sweats at home.  I know I was supposed to physically celebrate all these holidays.  And I do emotionally when I write about them.  But, sometimes health comes first.

One hundred and seventeen

Czech Republic

This is the week of verbal recipes, it seems.  My brother’s girlfriend is from the Czech Republic and her mom makes a special Chicken Schnitzel called řízek.  I was told the recipe while my brother and his girlfriend were leaving the house.  I wrote down what she told me, but as usual with oral traditions, there are no clear measurements.  I crossed my fingers and hoped it would work out.

This is the recipe she told me:

Flatten out chicken as much as possible and season with salt and pepper.  Dip in flour (lightly), then egg, then bread crumbs.  Fry in enough oil that the chicken is swimming (too little oil will burn the breadcrumbs).  Serve.

Pretty simple, I hoped. (There’s another recipe here on if you prefer more specific directions).  It is traditionally served with mashed or boiled potatoes or potato salad.

The řízek was delicious, although so unhealthy (I’ve had my fill of rich food this week!).  So simple to make and didn’t take very much time at all.  Although I did have to pound the chicken flat with my hand (the chicken between two sheets of wax paper), as I don’t have a mallet.  I’ve discovered so many kitchen supplies that I don’t have this month that would make cooking so much easier.

I spent my 25th birthday in Prague and enjoyed the řízek there, so this meal brought back fond memories.

Schnitzel is available throughout the world in many different forms, although was thought to either come from the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, or the Italian cotoletta alla milanese.  A few other versions include chicken parmigiana, cordon bleu, Tonkatsu (Japanese), Escalopa (Chile), filete empanado (Spain) – click here for a longer list of international versions of schnitzel.  Any form of meat can be used, although veal, chicken and pork are popular.

On a side note, there is an American fast-food hot dog chain called Wienerschnitzel that does not serve schnitzel.


One of my favourite Portuguese treats – Pasteis de Nata