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Former Czech President Václav Havel has passed away at 75

Prague, 18.12.2011 16:07, (ROMEA)
Václav Havel (1936 - 2011)

This morning Václav Havel, the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, passed away in his sleep. He was 75 years old. Sabina Tančevová, Havel's secretary, announced the news to the Czech Press Agency. The former president was said to have passed away "peacefully in his sleep" at his cottage in Hrádeček u Trutnova in the presence of his wife, Dagmar.

"Václav Havel left us today. His wife Dagmar and one of the nursing sisters from the Boromejek order who have been caring for him in recent months were with him during his final moments," Havel's official web page reads.

Havel made his last public appearance a week ago. Last Saturday he received a visit from his friend the Dalai Lama. He was also awarded a prize by the Ján Langoš Foundation of Slovakia. This past October the author, human rights defender, playwright and politician turned 75.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said Havel's death is an enormous loss and that he had great respect for the former president, who he said deserves the state's highest distinction and esteem. Havel's successor at Prague Castle, Czech President Václav Klaus, will make a statement at 14:00 CET today.

Havel, the most famous Czech person in the world, was a leading figure in the fight against totalitarianism during the communist era. After November 1989, he served as the country's president for many years. He struggled frequently with health problems stemming from his imprisonment during communism, when he suffered pneumonia that was never properly treated.

Havel was imprisoned three times prior to November 1989 during his struggle with the totalitarian regime and spent approximately five years in prison altogether. In November 1989 he became one of the founders of Civic Forum (Občanské Fórum) and in December 1989 he was elected President of the Czechoslovak Republic. He served as president until his resignation in July 1992. In January 1993 he was elected the first-ever President of the Czech Republic and served in that office until 2003. After leaving his position as head of state, Havel continued to express his views on political matters, primarily in the area of foreign policy and human rights.

Havel was also famous for his plays, and writing was his life's mission. He was awarded many honors for his life's work.

After November 1989, Václav Havel's personal life was impacted by two key events. In January 1996, his wife Olga passed away. She had won the respect and sympathy of the general public through her charitable activities. One year later, Havel married the actress Dagmar Veškrnová.

Havel was hospitalized multiple times during his presidency. In November 1996, doctors removed a large section of his lungs due to cancer. In April 1998, when he was staying in the Austrian Alps, he suffered a sharp decline in his health. The University Hospital in Innsbruck performed an emergency operation on him for a perforated intestine.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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