Marriage and Divorce – prompted by the 30th anniversary of the split between Czechia and Slovakia, that was the suggested (but not compulsory) theme of this year’s BCSA writing competition.

This theme was interpreted in very different ways. One moving entry gave us the separate thoughts of a couple in Prague reflecting on the fault lines in their 30-year-old marriage. Another described the union in 1654 of the Karolinum and the Klementinum to form the Charles Ferdinand University, and then its split in 1882 into separate German and Czech entities.

Our themes are suggestions, they’re not compulsory. You don’t have to follow them, you can go off on a tack of your own if you wish. Interestingly, both of this year’s winners did just that.

This year’s winner is Eva Ferguson, a Slovak American, currently finishing a postgraduate degree in Arts and Lifestyle Journalism from the University of the Arts London. She also has a degree in Art History and Social Anthropology from the University of St Andrews.

Her winning entry is called Slovakia and the Archives of Belonging. It is a series of reflections on the history of Slovakia past and present, and the different ways in which this is remembered and thought of by old and young generations. Especially, by those who remember World War Two and the Communist times, and the younger generation who don’t – and the gaps between them, and the steps some people are taking to bridge those gaps. It can be read here.

Second prize was awarded to BCSA member Julian Wilde, a retired headmaster from Lytham St Annes in Lancashire. He is a frequent contributor to the BCS Review and maintains a link he set up almost 30 years ago between his school and the Gymnázium Božena Němcové in Hradec Králové.

In his piece called Bartholomew Speaking, we hear the thoughts of St Bartholomew’s church in Prague, remembering its Jesuit heyday in the baroque period, its low point as the StB headquarters in communist times, and its reinvention as a tourist attraction today.