‘fiddler’ in Pilsen Reminds Czechs of Russian Occupation

“Fiddler on the Roof.” a musical drama based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem which has evoked nostalgia from New York’s Broadway audiences, drew political reactions from a mixed audience of Czechs in Pilsen, according to Michael Ivens, the London Evening Standard’s drama critic who saw a production of “Fiddler” in the Czech town.

That the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia is the all-pervading fact of life for Czechs became evident in the theater when the audience identified the hero, Tevye, with the Czech people and his Russian oppressors of Czarist days with the present-day Soviet occupiers, Mr. Ivens wrote.

“The old theater suddenly burst into flames when two Russian soldiers (stage, not real) interrupted the Jewish wedding. A chorus of whistles from the audience answered by a few desultory hand claps from some Russophiles showed that these days anything reminds the Czechs of the Russian occupation,” the critic said. “Tevye’s plea that Jews and Christians should be allowed to live amicably together brought loud and continuous applause from an audience only too aware that (Gustav) Husak (Communist Party leader) is not free from anti-Semitism.” he said. “The biggest demonstration of the night however was touched off by Tevye’s cry to be left alone. Tevye and his family were interpreted as Czechoslovakians and the oppressing Russians on the stage as the oppressing Russians now lurking out of the way in Czech villages.”

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