From a boy in a tent, a peace bell

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The proposed pavilion for the Canberra World Peace Bell at the Canberra Nara Peace Park.
The proposed pavilion for the Canberra World Peace Bell at the Canberra Nara Peace Park.

WHEN Fred Kasparek and his family, from the former Czechoslovakia, went on a family holiday to Italy in 1968 they could never have imagined that, in that same year, they would be calling Australia home.

Fred Kasparek, 6, with sister Zora, brother George, father Vratislav Kasparek, mother Zora with sister Dobra arrive at Sydney airport in 1968.
Fred Kasparek, 6, with sister Zora, brother George, father Vratislav Kasparek, mother Zora with sister Dobra arrive at Sydney airport in 1968.
Huddled in a tent at an Italian camping ground, they heard the news over a transistor radio their home country had been invaded by the Warsaw Pact countries, led by the then-Soviet Union. Fred’s father made the decision they wouldn’t be returning.

Fred and his family spent three months in Sydney when they first arrived in Australia before coming to Canberra, which has been their home ever since.

Now a successful architect Fred, alongside his daughter Lauren, have lent their skills to the Rotary Club of Canberra Burley Griffin’s project to get the Canberra World Peace Bell to Canberra Nara Peace Park.

The Canberra World Peace Bell, which arrived in January and is stored at the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Centre, Mitchell, is one of 23 Peace Bells that can be found all over the world. It’s a UN Peace Symbol – the first World Peace Bell was a gift from Japan to the UN in 1954.

For Fred, it was only natural to jump on board and help facilitate the design of the pavilion that will shelter the bell – the design work of Lauren, a final-year architecture student at the University of Canberra.

“I was only six years old [in 1968] and I didn’t know the gravity of the situation at the time,” he says.

“People couldn’t just rise above their situation through hard work [back in Czechoslovakia at the time]. In Australia, if you work hard you pretty much can achieve anything you like.
“We need to remember how important peace is and be grateful for the peace we have in Australia.

“Basically, we can walk around Australia and in Canberra in total peace and share different views without retribution.

Architect Fred Kasparek and daughter Lauren.
Architect Fred Kasparek and daughter Lauren.
“We have to be grateful and hold on to what we’ve got and realise that other countries don’t have that.”
World Peace Bell project co-ordinator Michael Rabey says while the project has received approval from the World Peace Bell Association, the National Capital Authority and the ACT government, they now have to raise enough funds to get the project finished, an estimated $100,000.

Michael came up with the plan to get a Peace Bell to Canberra after visiting the Peace Bells in Hiroshima and Christchurch.

“After a big, tragic event people often want to lay flowers somewhere, this peace bell will offer a central place for Canberrans to grieve or show their shock and horror to what has happened,” Michael says.
“Hopefully, we’ll see people come to the park and ring the bell.

“We are going to arrange special ringing days and will be putting a call out to community groups, like cultural groups, as many groups as we can to encourage them to organise their own ringing days around certain events or milestones.

“It’s a place to reflect, it’s not a celebration of a moment; we want it to be a sacred place.”

Michael says they have been using a quote by Chinese philosopher Lao Tse Tse to help promote the project:

If there is to be peace in the world, There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations, There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities, There must be peace between neighbours.

If there is to be peace between neighbours, There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home, There must be peace in the heart.

Michael says they aim to have the project completed by the first half of next year.

“What’s been difficult is getting people to put their hand in their pockets and to make a donation,” he says.

“More people are saying ‘that’s a good idea’ and we’re approaching a quarter of the way there…
“We would love to raise the money before Christmas.”

To make a donation, visit canberrapeacebell.org. All cash donations are tax deductible.

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