Czechs pay tribute to the late Václav Havel

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On Wednesday, people across the Czech Republic paid tribute to former President Václav Havel, who died eight years ago at the age of 75.

Across the country, dozens of people lit candles and placed them in the shape of a heart – a symbol Havel liked to use – in order to pay tribute to a man many consider to be one of the most prominent intellectuals of the 20th century. Havel originally made living as a playwright but would later become a major dissident against communist rule before serving as the president of both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic after the end of communism.

In the evening, a commemorative event took place at Wenceslas Square in Prague, however, people gathered at several places in the country throughout the day, remembering the first Czech president by, for example, reading excerpts of his literary works.

Snippets of Havel’s theater plays were recited not only in Czech but also in English, Slovak, Ukrainian, and Polish. Among those reading his plays was philosopher Tomáš Halík and former Minister of Culture Daniel Herman.

A new plaque commemorating the place where Havel lived for 40 years was also placed in Rašínovo nábřeží, Prague.

“The plaque is nice, well-colored, and the text has a slightly absurd tone as it implies present tense but refers to the past,” the ex-president’s brother Ivan Havel told journalists about the plaque, which states, “I lived here, too.”

The former chancellor of Havel’s office, Karel Schwarzenberg, also spoke at the Wenceslas Square event. He urged the people gathered to defend freedom and the rule of law, as Havel did while he was alive.

Schwarzenberg then recalled that Havel managed to fight for democracy during normalization through silent resistance and his every-day work.

The current president, Miloš Zeman, honored Havel’s memory by sending a wreath to his grave in Vinohrady, Prague.

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