Czech town recalls pillaging of 1635 Centuries later, aid from Swedes sought

October 23, 1992|By David Rocks | David Rocks,Contributing Writer

ANDELSKA HORA, Czechoslovakia -- Surveying the ruins of the local castle, Mayor Stepan Dragusinec says he knows exactly who's to blame for the damage: a bunch of Swedish thugs.

And now he's only doing what he thinks is right, trying to get some help from Sweden to fix the place up again.

The problem is, the thugs passed through Andelska Hora 357 years ago, about 3 1/2 centuries beyond the most generous statutes of limitations.

"Even if it happened centuries ago, somebody in Sweden should discuss this with us," Mr. Dragusinec says. "Our castle was burned, and the village was burned, too."

Given that Andelska Hora had the good fortune of being looted and pillaged by hooligans whose descendants are among Europe's most generous in foreign aid, Mayor Dragusinec has launched a somewhat belated effort to correct this great injustice of history.

He has written to Sweden's King Karl Gustav for help in rebuilding the castle.

And while he's at it, the mayor says, the king might want to consider helping out with some more current problems, such as improving the local sewer system, which needs about $1 million in repairs. And he might want to invest in the town's privatization plan to promote tourism, as well.

"Since we're not going to get any help from our government, we have to ask the Swedish king for help," the mayor says. "It was a joke at first, but the joke caught on . . ."

Indeed they can. Per Beckmann, second secretary at the Swedish Embassy in Prague, said he had not yet heard from Mayor Dragusinec, but he did not rule out the possibility that Sweden would help the town.

"We try to assist the process of democratization and market economy transformation in various ways, and we are supporting this through various programs in all countries in Eastern Europe," Mr. Beckmann said. "Maybe in that context we could do something for this town."

In the rush to rebuild Eastern Europe after decades of communism, everybody, it seems, has a plan. But Mr. Dragusinec has a bigger plan than most, especially considering that he's mayor of a village of just 165 people.

As he looks out from the castle ruins -- really just a few ramparts and the remains of one tower -- Mayor Dragusinec envisions the humble farm fields becoming a golf course, a luxury hotel, and a German-built supermarket that would serve shoppers from the spa city of Karlovy Vary, five miles down the highway.

"Over there on that hill, that's where the golf hotel will be built," the mayor says with a sweep of his hand. "And that's where the Swedes made cannonballs from the volcanic rock."

During the Thirty-Years War, the Swedes apparently burned the castle, which sits 70 miles west of Prague overlooking an important trade route to Germany and the Baltic Sea.

Although they didn't stay around very long, the Swedes made off with some of the local treasure and left the graves of some of their own soldiers. The graves, Mr. Dragusinec is quick to add, would be well cared for if any help were forthcoming.

The village, whose name means Angel Mountain in English, is pleasant enough.

The castle sits atop a cluster of houses surrounding a church that Mr. Dragusinec says was pillaged by a more recent group of hooligans -- Communists -- who are less likely to pay any reparations.

But whether this, along with the new golf course and hotel, will attract enough visitors to make Andelska Hora a profitable enterprise is questionable.

And despite the mayor's optimism, local residents question whether the Swedish king will actually be the angel that bails the town out.

"The Swedish king himself, of course, won't give us any money," Jozef Chrust says, sunning himself on the town plaza, sipping an 11:00 a.m. beer. "But there are a lot of Swedish companies that could give us money for our investment plans."

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