Meet The Cancelled Czech: A Biography of Dan Havlena

Dan, the son of a diplomat, was born into an affluent Czechoslovak family in 1922. The early years of his life were filled with extraordinary events including meeting Stalin and sitting on his knee, and watching the Germans test jet engine prototypes prior to World War II. However, both of these incidents are eclipsed by his remarkable and desperate escape from Communism.

Having obtained an engineering degree and wishing to embark on a career in the international oil industry, Dan earnestly sought a means of escape from Communism. He considered trekking over mountains and swimming across rivers in order to avoid frontier controls. However, ultimately, he decided on hijacking an aeroplane. On the 6th of April, 1948, Dan, the leader of seventeen determined Czechs (three members of the crew, including the pilot, and fourteen passengers) seized a commercial aeroplane at gunpoint and flew it to the United States-controlled zone of Germany. The Czechoslovak National Airlines aeroplane was flying from Prague to Bratislava when the hijackers tried to divert the aeroplane to London but, ultimately, landed in Munich. Despite being given a chance to escape the poor living conditions and oppression within Eastern Europe at that time, only three other passengers grasped the opportunity to flee Czechoslovakia.

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Unfortunately, the plot to hijack the Czechoslovak National Airlines aeroplane had dire consequences for Jan Masaryk, the son of Tomas Masaryk, the founder and first President of Czechoslovakia and founder of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Jan Masaryk held the position of Foreign Minister for Czechoslovakia between 1940 and 1948. He was supposed to join the hijackers but had died, falling out of a window, on the 10th March, 1948 at his Czernin Palace apartment.

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