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The emigrant who became a world-famous pantomimist

Milan Sládek appreciates the attempts to make Slovakia a “healthier” country.

Pictures from The Gift pantomime show. Sladek wrote it in the Swedish town of Goteborg in 1969 as a metaphor for Czechoslovakia's cohabitation with the Soviet Union. It was first staged in 1971 in Cologne and then in 50 countries around the world. (Source: Courtesy of Milan Sladek)

Not many Slovaks have made Slovak culture and theatre as famous in the world as the pantomime artist Milan Sládek has.

He has performed for more than 50 years and audiences in 55 countries around the world have enjoyed his art. This February, Sládek, one of the tens of thousands of people who left Czechoslovakia in the wake of the 1968 occupation, celebrated his 80th birthday.

Read also:Famous mime celebrates anniversary with Bratislava performances

When the Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia, Sládek was performing at a festival in Bulgaria.

“I had never thought of emigration before,” Sládek told The Slovak Spectator. And it was not for the lack of opportunity: during the 1960s the pantomimist with his artistic group performed in many Western countries. By the time the occupiers arrived in Bratislava, he had a new theatre for his ensemble under construction.

In the end, Sládek’s ensemble and theatre were the first to be shut down in Czechoslovakia. He got a placement in Sweden and left there to work, but Czechoslovakia did not approve his trip and the courts convicted Sládek to a year and a half in prison for illegal departure from the state.

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