Czechoslovakia in Rotterdam

Hans Citroen 04.10.2015
Max Dereta

Monday, August 31, the aircraft landed at Prague Airport. I was on my way to 'HVH spol. sr.o ', a renowned bronze foundry in the eastern Czech Republic. Center for Visual Arts Rotterdam had given me an interesting assignment. Philosopher and politician TG Masaryk, the later president of Czechoslovakia, during the First World War at Hotel Weimar on the Spanish Quay - anticipating the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy - had unveiled his vision of the newly to be formed Central Europe for a number of representatives of the then allies. Double interesting. Hotel Weimar, the place where future boundaries were discussed, was bombed 1940 in May. So also memorable for Rotterdam. That important building from days gone by can also be depicted, I thought. What a beautiful by-catch! Moreover, Czechoslovakia no longer exists as one country. Fairly civilized, it was decided after the abolition of the USSR to continue as independent countries. Also a nice historical factor. The contours of that dual country must also be in sight. In short: View of the Spanish Quay, historically charged, seen from the bridgehead at the White House. That was the right place.

I immediately felt good in this assignment. My mother is half Slovenian, my grandfather Matije Jama was one of the leading artists in Slovenia. When I first came to Ljubliana in 1965, I immediately felt at home. The smell, that pleasant rumbling, the architecture, the light. I was familiar with it, I knew it from the paintings of my grandfather and the spirit of my mother, who composed music and played the piano very well. Strictly on the tick of the metronome, yet with varying tempi, as only a Slavic can. In my later life I wrote the book with my wife Barbara Starzynska Oswiecim / Auschwitz, about the planning and architectural significance of the concentration camps for the city of Oswiecim and the region. The Slavic spirit, Central Europe is baked in me. I recognize the emotion, the melancholy, the irony of the murmur with an underlying meaning, as well as the temporary solutions with an eternal value.

It was 35 degrees in the shade; I didn't feel like renting a car, so I decided to go by train. Along the way beautiful old stations, the slow time, the absence of haste. After an hour I was surrounded by three men. They circulated a sausage in which the garlic had not been shunned. In the heat, the spicy character fully developed. Whether I also wanted a piece. I am a vegetarian, I lied in my Van-Gaal German. We did drink a good beer though. Towards evening I arrived as a happy man at Hotel Katinka in Hostinné and ate the most delicious baked trout ever.

Early in the morning I was picked up by Pavel Horak, the son of the owner of the bronze foundry, who, accompanied by his father, led me through the company. They wanted to make the statue of TG Masaryk; In addition to bronze founding, Pavel is a historian. I saw that the bronze part of the Masaryk monument was in good hands with them. People work there with devotion, they understand a profession there. Almost no longer of this time. Everything used to be better. (Except the dentist).

Back in the Netherlands, I discussed the steel part of the monument with Dick van Campenhout, the director of the construction company of the same name. Also a nice company with professionals who are used to convert designs into substance. They made the column and the slide viewer that offers a view of a bygone building. The memory is kept alive.

Related artwork

TG Masaryk and Rotterdam (2015) Hans Citroen