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October 23, 2021



Czech Republic marks five years since the death of President Václav Havel

19.12.2016 0:53
Václav Havel with Romani representatives in 1989. (PHOTO:  Personal archive of Emil Ščuka)
Václav Havel with Romani representatives in 1989. (PHOTO: Personal archive of Emil Ščuka)

Several events taking place around the Czech Republic today commemorated the death of Czech President Václav Havel five years ago. In Prague there will be readings from his plays, a requiem mass at St. Vitus Cathedral, and an evening march to Prague Castle.

People will also commemorate the passing of the dramatist and politician by turning up the cuffs of their trousers in tribute to the fact that during his first presidential inauguration his trouser legs were noticeably short. The first President of a democratic Czech Republic passed away on Sunday, 18 December 2011 at the age of 75 in his beloved country home in the village of Hrádeček in the Trutnov district.

Commemorative events were also held in other towns. In some places they were held last week.

On Jungmannovo Square in the center of Prague at 10 AM an event called "Candles for Václav Havel" began during which Havel's plays were read. Excerpts were read from the plays and reminiscences of the President were shared by his former secretary Vladimír Hanzel, the actress Jitka Smutná, the actor Tomáš Hanák and musician Václav Koubek.

That gathering lasted all day until 18:00. It was followed by the "Heart to the Castle" march, which headed to Hradčanské Square.

At 10 AM a requiem mass began at St. Vitus Cathedral, served by Cardinal Dominik Duka. The "Readings from Havel" event was also held for a third time.

Prague's "Alfred ve dvoře" Theater featured readings from Havel's works between 16:00 and 21:00. Anybody who wanted to participate was able to read their favorite excerpts aloud.

Books of Havel's works were available at the theater. The organizers of the "short trousers" tribute, meanwhile, have used social networks to call on people to remember the former head of state with humor.

Romani people, too, expressed their respect for the President five years ago. "I got to know of Václav Havel long ago thanks to certain circumstances. I didn't know him personally or meet him, but when Charter 77 came about, which was due to his work, I knew many friends who had been afflicted by the same fate that I had, which was that they had lost the work for which they were qualified and ended up on the outskirts of society, if they weren't directly imprisoned. Suddenly I did not feel so alone, when Charter 77 came about, and my psyche basically improved," Romani activist Holomek said five years ago.

"Václav Havel saw each person as a human being. He did not look for differences in ethnicity, level of education, national affiliation, religion, and absolutely not in how rich somebody was. He was not guided by prejudice. He sought the truth. Seeking the truth is demanding, difficult and unpopular. That is what the life story of Václav Havel demonstrates. It's much easier to not stick out in a crowd, to be governed by half-truths, lies and slogans, mainly when one doesn't have a problem with that and can even take advantage of it," said the Romani author and musician Jana Hejkrlíková.

Havel, who passed away five years ago, was a director, dramatist, and the first post-1989 Czech President. For combating the totalitarian regime he was imprisoned three times before November 1989 and spent almost five years total in prison.

In November 1989 Havel became a founder of Civic Forum, and in December 1989 he was elected President of Czechoslovakia, an office he held until abdicating in July 1992. In January 1993 he was elected the first President of the Czech Republic and performed that function until 2003.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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