Back in November, I wrote a post about what the Velvet Revolution means to me and how life today compares with how things were in the Czech Republic back before the fall of Communism.
It is with great sadness that I write today following the death of the Velvet Revolution’s leader, Václav Havel. Havel played a major role in making the Czech Republic what it is today: not only was he a brave and outspoken opponent to Communism who risked his life and endured imprisonment to lead the opposition movement, he also involved himself whole-heartedly in re-building the post-communist Czech Republic.
A playwright, philosopher and intellectual, Havel was named President of Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the Czech Republic in 1993. Perhaps his greatest achievement in this role was the Czech Republic’s membership to both NATO and the European Union and, more generally, the fact that we have again become part of a democratic bloc.
Václav Havel was a rare breed: an astute, uncompromising politician, but also an everyman who ordinary people felt an affinity with – qualities that won him the hearts and minds of his people.
The Czech Republic is currently going through difficult moments (namely the financial crisis, economic and budgetary difficulties ― and the exhausting fight against corruption). Twenty two years after the Velvet revolution, Czech society seems to be re-evaluating its foundations. And sometimes we may lose sight of the right way forward.
The death of President Václav Havel is one of those moments where the whole of society can stop for a while – and reconsider.
On Sunday evening a lot of church bells rang out across the country, showing the nation in exceptional unity. Václav Havel was certainly not a navel-gazing politician, but I am pretty sure he would appreciate this calm moment of reflection that gives us some hope for our future.
He was an asset in every way to our country, and will be much missed. Let’s hope his legacy brings something positive to the way Czech society evolves.