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Update from the Probus Club

Prague, capital of today’s Czech Republic, is a popular tourist destination. Few western tourists were seen forty years ago when Probus Club member, Paul Flint, became a regular visitor over the following twelve years. Czechoslovakia was part of the Eastern Bloc controlled by the Soviet Union. The 1968 Prague Spring, led by Alexander Dubcek, was overwhelmed by Warsaw Pact troops as protection against imagined invasions by NATO. At Prague airport if it proved that money had been exchanged on the black-market any goods were seized and any Czech Crowns confiscated. Special shops had western goods that could only be bought with hard currency – no questions asked. Meetings in Prague were with a trading house, my company being their UK venture partner for selling and servicing Czechoslovak made printing presses. European dealer meetings were held at the factory near to Brno, in the south of the country. To entertain their guests, trips were made to glass engravers and vineyards which produced some excellent wines and champagne style products. Once we collected a rental car from Vienna airport and drove to Brno. One day we were stopped by a Russian soldier aiming a machine gun. Fortunately, we had with us a lady from the trading company who spoke Russian, but I wondered what might have happened to us if we had been on our own. Representatives from the manufacturers and trading company visited the UK annually. Despite being forbidden for them to be entertained we saw many West End musicals and dined well. Democracy started in late 1989 with the Velvet Revolution, led by playwright Vaclav Havel. 73,000 Russian troops departed. There was substantial investment by western companies in Czechoslovak businesses with the most well-known being the takeover of Skoda by Volkswagen. As the owner of two Skoda cars over the last six years I can certify their reliability and quality. The Velvet Revolution worked. See www.probusbasingstoke.club Paul Flint