Almost 30,000 candles were lit in the courtyards of Prague Castle on Monday night, one for each person who has died of coronavirus in the Czech Republic since last March. The first candle was lit by President Miloš Zeman together with his wife Ivana and daughter Kateřina. Dozens of others lit candles after him. So far, more than 29,700 people have died with COVID-19 in the Czech Republic.
At the beginning of the act of reverence for the victims of the Covid-19 epidemic, president Zeman said that “we are responsible for the deaths of some of the victims, due to our indifference and recklessness, especially since we succumbed to the temptation to relax the measures prematurely,“ he said.
He hopes that people have learned from their mistakes and will continue to be humble.
The president also expressed respect and gratitude to medics and other people who have fought and are still fighting the epidemic. According to him, they deserve not only a thank you, but also a proper award for their work.
“And I want to stand up for it,” Zeman said.
Finally, he expressed the hope that the epidemic in the Czech Republic will end in September at the latest, mainly due to the massive vaccination.
“We will remember it as a terrible dream, and we will believe that at least in the time of our generation, nothing like this will happen again,” Zeman added.
White candles completely filled the third courtyard of Prague Castle, part of the second and first courtyards. The candles also created a symbolic path from all entrances, which led visitors to a place of reverence in the third courtyard, where they could leave a flower.
The very beginning of the act of reverence was watched by several hundreds of people, dozens of them remained in the area even after dark. About two hours after the start, about half of the candles were still burning.
The organizers placed candles commemorating the victims of the epidemic in plastic cups, which they justified by protecting them from the wind and melted wax. However, some criticized such a form of honoring the memory of victims on social networks as disrespectful and non-ecological.
“We each cope with the loss of loved ones differently. But to honor the memory of the dead in the courtyard of Prague Castle by 30,000 disposable plastic beer mugs is disrespectful to the bereaved and nature,” the environmental organization Greenpeace said on Twitter.
The lighting of the candles was accompanied by the music of the castle guard. The Prague Castle complex stayed open for an extended period of time until midnight.
The place of reverence for the victims of the pandemic was established at the beginning of April on Old Town Square. Supporters of the Million Moments for Democracy initiative drew 25,000 crosses in chalk on the cobblestones. In the following days, people there spontaneously began to carry flowers and candles and attributed the names of their loved ones to the crosses.
Title image: A soldier lights up a candle to commemorate victims of the COVD-19 pandemic at the Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, Monday, May 10, 2021. The Czech Republic is massively relaxing its coronavirus restrictions as the hard-hit nation pays respect to nearly 30,000 dead. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)