Goodbye Vaclav Havel

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So today’s post was supposed to be my customary mix of amusing photos and ironic comments poking fun at Christmas markets. However, instead Girl In Czechland would like to say farewell to “Czech hero” * Vaclav Havel, who has just passed away.  No one individual was responsible for overthrowing the Czechoslovak Communist regime but Havel played a major role in leading Czechs towards and during freedom.

He wrote plays too. Lots of them. Some of them are quite good.

What was most fascinating to me as an outsider was how humble Havel appeared to be: a rare thing indeed in any politician, let alone a national leader. Humility can be feigned of course but it seemed genuine. I greatly enjoyed watching Citizen Havel, a fly on the wall documentary of his first few years in office after the Velvet Revolution. The viewer is rewarded with intriguing glimpses of life behind the scenes at the Castle. Like Klaus getting in a sulk because Havel doesn’t immediately invite him along when Bill Clinton’s due to play the saxophone at a club in Prague.

Poor Klaus. If he’s mourned at an international level it will be only as the man who stole that other guy’s pen.

Back to Havel. I know he wasn’t universally admired among Czechs and it certainly isn’t up to me as a foreigner to judge the success or failure of his two terms as president.

However, even a cynic like me can’t help but wish that more of those in power who strive to make truth and love triumph over hate and lies.

*Havel was described as a “Czech hero” in the headline on the Guardian website when it reported on his death.



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12 Responses to Goodbye Vaclav Havel

  1. Jana

    I hardly remember him as the president, yet I feel strangely shocked and sad today. Perhaps because he was indeed more than just that.

    Btw, about Klaus: this is what a friend who is in England now posted on Facebook:
    “Do you know who Václav Havel was?” “Yea, first Czech president, right?” “And do you know who´s Václav Klaus?” “No.” “The current Czech president.” “Oh, the pen-stealer!”
    She swears the conversation really happened.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Jana,
      I too feel a bit strange today, which is perhaps stranger still as like I said in the post, I’m not Czech. Still, if there hadn’t been a Velvet Revolution, there wouldn’t have been a Girl in Czechland (third conditional!) so I suppose he has had an effect on my life in a way.
      BTW I love the pen-stealer story! As the kids say, LMAO!

  2. lovely blog.I don’t live in Czech but like you as a result of Havel I now have deeeply personal connections there. I remember him well and the events of 89 and even before vividly. My connection through him here
    My brothers favourite bit of Citizen Havel is the Ronnie Wood conversation,

  3. Good post… I was planning as well to post about something completely different, but this piece of news deserved a post…

    Rest in Peace Václav.

  4. Michael

    Who is Ferdinand Vanek?

    Farewell, Vaclav.

  5. Miranda

    Yesterdays Times carried a large amount of coverage on the death of President Havel – front page, editorial, 2 page article, plus 3 page obituary. I think this shows how much he was respected in the West. He does sound a very genuine, interesting and amusing man. RIP

    Your blog is highly interesting and amusing altogether. I have helped a young Czech girl with her FCE exam – B result; have also had a couple of young Czech Wwoofers to help. So now I am becoming interested in things CZECH!

  6. Hi GIC – you’re in good company. I was planning to write a post about something completely different when the news of Havel’s death broke. Like you, I am the foreigner living here in the Czech Republic (NOT ‘in Czech’) & an interested observer of the reaction of Czech people to the death of one of their most famous fellow citizens. Hence my most recent post

    • Sean

      Hi GIC,
      I like that you tried to say goodbye to Havel. These tributes show how much he affected people – here and elsewhere
      Rudolf Zahradnik a former president of the Academy of Sciences has a good recollection/commentary on Havel at the Academy’s website
      My favourite is from Havel himself:
      Why do I care about the final assessment? It may not matter to me (when I am dead). I do care, because I believe that my existence – like everything that has ever happened – churned the surface of existence, which after my wreath, even though it was marginal, insignificant and ephemeral, is and forever in principle will be different than it was before it … and thus my trifle – a bourgeois child, lab worker, soldier, stagehand, playwright, dissident, prisoner, president, pensioner, public phenomenon and hermit, the alleged hero and secret coward – will be here forever. Or not here, but somewhere. But not elsewhere. somewhere here. – Vaclav Havel

  7. Havel was a important character of our history. We are proud on him, he was national hero because he destroy a communist circus here. And he do it with love and truth!

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