PRESS AND MEDIA
A Bike Across the Sea, Steve Dyster's second book with North Staffordshire Press, has been published. Recounting a bike ride from the Potteries to the Czech Republic, celebrating and commemorating the historic links between the two. Steve tells the tale of the ride, and the tragic events that lead to the cry "Lidice Shall Live!" echoing around the UK and the world from Stoke-on-Trent.
The worst of humanity and the very best of it inspired Steve Dyster and Mark Dally to indulge a love of travel by bicycle in support of a campaign to restore the Lidice Shall Live movement to the collective memory of Stoke-on-Trent, where it began, the UK, and beyond.
Setting off from the memorial to the men and boys who perished in the Sneyd Pit Disaster (January 1st, 1942) they crossed England, the Netherlands, and Germany, on their way to the modern village of Lidice, a few kilometres north-west of Prague. Many of the men who had lived in the old Lidice - and we're murdered en masse on June 10th, 1942) had been miners in the pits under the nearby Poldi iron and steel works, in Kladno.
Old Lidice was wiped off the face of the earth at the order of Adolf Hitler as part of the savage revenge meted by the German occupying forces following the assassination of Fuhrer's favourite, Reinhard Heydrich. Despite wading in blood all over Bohemia and Moravia, a symbol was needed to show the world what would happen to anyone who challenged the Nazis. Lidice, and a hamlet away to the east name Lezaky, were chosen, despite even the Gestapo finding no credible link to either.
The Fuhrer's orders were to kill the men, put the women in a concentration camp, deal with the children in "other ways" and remove any sign that the village had ever existed. The orders were carried out to the letter; even the dogs were shot. Only one living thing was left in Lidice on June 11th, 1942. That was a pear tree. The Lidice Resident's Association has recently sent grafts from that tree to communities around the World that stood by the villagers of Lidice and the people of Czechoslovakia (as was then) in 1942. Fittingly, a sapling now grows outside the Victoria Hall, Hanley, where the Lidice Shall Live Campaign had its inaugural mass meeting.
The foreword to the book has been written by Alan and Cheryl Gerrard, cultural Champions for Fenton, and owners of The Art Bay. they have lead the way in jogging the collective memory and rebuilding links between North Staffordshire and the Czech Republic. The latest example of their work is acquiring land in Hanley for a Garden of Peace and Friendship. A time when the people of Stoke-on-Trent led the UK and the World in an act of solidarity will be celebrated, along with the movements leader, Sir Barnett Stross. Lidice Shall Live was eagerly;y taken up across the UK. by the end of the war money had been raised for a new village and a range of memorials, including an art gallery and, eventually, the world's biggest raise garden.
Steve and Mark wanted to play a part in the revival - and are happy with any excuse for a good bike ride. Meeting lots of people along the way, coming across numerous links to both Lidice and their own experience of life, they had, it must be said a wonderful, puncture-free trip. From reviving fresh cherries and strawberries in Gelderland, observing "Electric Grannies" cycling in the Netherlands, discovering some of Germany's rich, non-Nazi past, stumbling upon a miserable former concentration camp site, experiencing the impact of westernisation on the former East Germany, trying to speak their first words of a slavic language, this was a voyage of discovery. Visiting Rotterdam, Arnhem, Munster, The Teutoberge Forest, the World Heritage sites at Goslar and Quedlinburg, Halle-an-der-Saale, Dreden, and Prague.
Then they went further. following an interview on Czech National Radio, they were invited to have a couple of days cycling across the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, to Trebic. They'd been invited by a man who had cycled from there to London, for a similar and related cause. Milan Krcmar's ride had been to help raise funds for the restoration of the childhood home of a Czech hero. With him, Steve and Mark visited the museum his ride had helped too create. The Kubis house in Dolni Vilemovice was the home of Jan Kubis, the man whose grenade had caused mortal injury to Reinhard Heydrich. A fitting end to a journey, before travelling by train to Brno and Prague.
A life-changing experience - at least for Steve - but one where people met along the way hold pride of place in the memory. The perfect German Mein Host, a very strict waitress in the old East Germany, friendly multi-lingual conversations over evening beer-drinking, generous people, friendly people, people with divergent experiences and opinions. A colourful, wonderful trio through the past, the present, and, a greta way to have escaped the Brexit debate in the days before the referendum.
That is what A Bike Across the Sea is about.
Notes for Editors
Steve can be contacted on 07964 235614 or 01785 286602 or at
Mark Dally trained as a ceramic designer at Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent in the mid 1970's. He will be making a special ceramic artwork to present to the people of Lidice as a symbol of international friendship and a celebration of the unity between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice. Working as a professional ceramic artist, based in Stone, for the last 26 years, his second love is cycling. He jokes "I can't think of a better way to deliver my piece to ta town nearly a thousand miles away.”
Steve Dyster moved to North Staffordshire nine years ago as a house-husband and geriatric Dad, Steve has been a keen cyclist and walker for many years and soon got know the area a bit by wandering and cycling about. He’d formerly been a history teacher and senior middle-manager in a high school, so when the opportunity to work for sustainable travel charity Sustrans on a project to promote cycling in schools in Stoke-on-Trent presented itself, he grasped it enthusiastically. Over seven years later, he is still at it. His bike has gone to many parts of Europe and much of Great Britain. As well as working for Sustrans, Steve enjoys writing about cycling, travel and history, as well as a bit of fiction. One day he’d like to make some money at it! Son, Edward, won recognition in the “Our Heroes” awards for cycling, so Dad really has no excuse not to try to emulate his cycling feats. or
Steve's first book for The North Staffordshire Press, The Navigator, was a collection of historical short stories. He is available for talks on Lidice Shall Live, and other subjects.