The topic of Czech and Slovak exile forms an inseparable part of modern history of Czech and Slovak republics. Even though it is a strong issue and penetrates throughout the 20th century, some of its aspects are still considered a "blank space" in the histories of both nations. For older generation, exile is somehow linked together with the communist regime, young generation perceives exile as something distant, obscure and alien. In addition, the issue is complicated with the problematic relationship of the Czech and Slovak republics towards their exiles, who often do not understand their native countries' distance and seldom come back.
The subject of Czech and Slovak exile offers several important questions to be asked: Who were and are the Czechs and Slovaks in exile? What political circumstances provoked their exodus from the country? What were the differences between particular groups of exile during the 20th century? Where did the exiles go and what were the beginnings of their new lives in new countries like? What activities did they pursue and how did they manage to win recognition there?
The Association for culture and dialogue K2001, a registered charity, attempts to answer at least partially some of these questions. The project's goal is above all to open given topic for discussion, not at all to cover it thoroughly. It is obvious that such a wide subject can be treated only incompletely and its problems and topics can be only outlined. Therefore association K2001 needs to stress that the project Czech and Slovak exile of the 20th century only opens some of the doors to leave room for future analysis, studies and Art forms dealing with the subject. The project is focusing on political exile only, i.e. involuntary leaving of the country on the basis of political beliefs and persecution, not on defection from economic or other reasons.
The project is addressed to wide public, above all to younger generation which has few possibilities to obtain complex and objective information about the issue. With the help of communicative and educational programmes, the project wants to draw attention to some of the taboo themes from Czech and Slovak histories. The main contents of the project include extensive exhibitions, lectures and seminars at Masaryk University in Brno, documentaries on TV, radio programmes, discussion panels, etc. Association K2001 puts stress above all on the artistic arrangement of the subject and on purpose puts down the museum, institutional and historically complex character of the issue.
Association K2001 assumed an uneasy task of carrying out the first phase of the project at the beginning of 2003. This very close deadline which leaves us with only a year and half of intensive preparations has several reasons. The first one is the urgency and need of many Czech and Slovak exiles to tell their life stories before they will pass away. This applies, above all, to legionnaires, political prisoners and exiles of the first half of the 20th century, who are generally senior persons. The second reason is the election period of the President Václav Havel, under whose auspices the project will be held. As Mr. President's election period ends in January 2003, Association K2001 wants to open the project before this date.
Association K2001 wants to use this opportunity to address exiles, institutions, archives, museums, historians as well as other persons who become interested in the project to join K2001 and help with the project's organisation and/or contribute with information, materials, and experiences to this project.
The city where the project will be opened and held is Brno. It was chosen on purpose as a place situated in the middle between Prague and Bratislava, which symbolises the contents of the project best. After opening the project in Brno, it will move to Bratislava and Prague.
When the first phase of the project is ended, the main exhibitions and programmes, in a limited form, will travel to other cultural centres around the world, especially to the Czech Centres and Associations of compatriots.
The culmination of the project, which will last several years, will be a permanent exposition in a Brno museum dedicated to Czech and Slovak exile of the 20th century.
The first stage of the project at the Dům umění (House of Art) in Brno will take place under the patronage of the president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. Rudolf Schuster, President of the Slovak Republic, will be the patron of the Slovak section. The Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Tvrdík, and the Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross, will also be patrons of the Czech party. In addition, the K2001 Society has requested Lt-Gen Mojmír Hergovič, Chief of Staff of the Slovak Republic, to help in addressing and contacting representatives of the Slovak legislature. Ján Čarnogurský, Slovak Minister of Justice, is also working together with us on the project.
Association K2001 has addressed, except the President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel and the President of the Slovak Republic Rudolf Schuster, the representatives of the states where Czech and Slovak exile communities are significant to support the project. These states include France, Switzerland, Great Britain, USA and Russia.