Bata workers' houses in Zlin
designed and laid out by Gahura by the early 1930s
Bata skyscraper, designed by Vladimír Karfík.
It was built between 1936-38 at the instruction of Jan Baťa.
Eventually the Bata Company employed 16,560 workers, ran 1,645 shops and 25 factories in 39 countries around the world. Brother Jan Baťa (1898–1965), following the plans laid down by Tomáš before his death, expanded the company more than six times its original size across Czechoslovakia and beyond. Jan Bata commissioned a noted piece of Constructivist design for the company headquarters and the highest building in Czechoslovakia at the time. Jan had his own office constructed in a lift which moved outside the building!
Map of Czech Republic
surrounded by Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria.
Note the location of Prague, Brno, Zlin and my husband's home town next to Liberec
Tomas Straussler (1937-) was born in Zlín, dominated by the shoe manufacturing industry. His parents were Martha Becková and Eugen Straussler, educated members of Zlin’s long-established Jewish community.
Tomas' father Dr Eugen Straussler was a company doctor working with Bata, paid by the boss because moral employers always looked after the health of all their employees. Just before the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Jan Baťa helped his Jewish employees (mostly doctors) to branches of his firm outside Europe.
In Mar 1939, when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, the Strausslers fled to safety in Singapore where Bata had a factory. They spent 3 years in Singapore, before the Japanese occupation of Singapore in Feb 1942, forcing Martha to flee with the two boys to British India. Dr Eugen Straussler remained in Singapore as a British army volunteer, knowing that doctors would be needed in its defence. Eugen was to follow, but his ship was apparently sunk by Japanese bombers. Alternatively he may have died in captivity as a Japanese prisoner of war.
The family moved around India then settled in Darjeeling so that Martha could be the manager in the local Bata shoe shop. They weren't Raj because they were Czech refugees, but Tomas loved every aspect of their life there. The boys attended the Christian boarding-school Mount Hermon School, the place where Tomáš became Tom and his brother Petr became Peter.
After the war ended, Tom’s mother Martha married the British army major Kenneth Stoppard, who gave the boys his English surname. And in 1946, he shipped the family to the UK. They drove up to Nottingham and were warmly welcomed by the stepfather's family. Tom was 8 and suddenly an English schoolboy.. who didn’t speak Czech any longer. After being educated at schools in Nottingham and Yorkshire, Tom Stoppard became an English journalist, drama critic and later a playwright.
Visiting Czechoslovakia in 1977, Tom Stoppard became friends with playwright and future president Václav Havel and other dissident writers. And visited Soviet dissidents including the Sakharovs in Moscow. He said he had taken every possible side in political debates. But in eastern Europe in the 70s and 80s, he started taking sides. Looking back, he understood that his focus had been very narrow. From then on, he became interested in the shadow thrown by Soviet communism.
His tv play, Professional Foul (1977), combined moral philosophy and football in communist Prague. Dogg's Hamlet and Cahoot's Macbeth (1979) were inspired by the banned Czech playwright Pavel Kohout, while the TV play Squaring the Circle (1984) poked fun at General Jaruzelski's martial law in Poland.
He has written often and well for TV, radio, film and stage, finding prominence with plays such as Arcadia, Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, The Real Thing, Travesties, The Invention of Love, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil, The Russia House and Shakespeare in Love. His work covers the themes of human rights, censorship and political freedom.
After his parents' deaths, Tom returned with his elder brother to Zlin in 1998, for the first time in almost 60 years. The Czech premiere of his 2006 play Rock 'N' Roll was one of the big literary and social events of the year, attended by Stoppard, and also by many prominent former Czech dissidents. The level of interest was high because of the very Czech subject matter of the play.
In 2008, Tom Stoppard placed #11 in The Daily Telegraph's "100 Most Powerful People in British Culture".
Book for Stoppard's new play Leopoldstadt, Wyndham's Theatre London. In the early C20th, Leopoldstadt was the old, crowded Jewish quarter of Vienna. But Hermann Merz, a manufacturer and baptised Jew married to Catholic Gretl, has moved up in the world. Gathered in the Merz apartment in a fashionable part of the city, Hermann’s extended family are at the heart of Tom Stoppard’s epic yet intimate and heart-breaking drama.