Jakub Polák, doyen of the Czech anarchist scene, dies aged 60
The death has been announced of the veteran anarchist Jakub Polák, regarded as the leading light of the Czechoslovak and later Czech anarchist movement. The founder of numerous anarchist initiatives and long-time editor of the anarchist paper A-kontra, Polák was perhaps best known for his public – and at times unpopular – defence of the Roma community.
“Jakub Polak was truly an unchained element. If anyone personified not only anarchism but anarchy, unleased energy - it was to a great extent him. He was driven by a powerful refusal to let himself be restrained by any kind of obstacle standing in his path, whether it was a police cordon or ideas about ideological purity.”
One of the most notorious race-related killings in the early years of the independent Czech Republic was the drowning of the Roma teenager Tibor Danihel by neo-Nazi skinheads in the town of Písek in September 1993. Ondřej Slačálek says it was largely thanks to Polák’s tireless campaigning that Danihel’s killers were finally put behind bars:
“Back then there was a general tendency to play down the seriousness of such crimes. You know, that it was just a boyish prank that got out of hand, that the skinheads didn’t really mean to hurt anybody. I think even the state prosecutor used the word ‘boyish prank’. There was also an attempt by these small town local officials to sweep the whole thing under the carpet, and the skinheads were initially given suspended sentences. Jakub got involved with his typical energy and dedication, broke apart the manipulated police version of events, and after an endless round of appeals managed to get them properly punished.”
Polák – who died of cancer – was honoured in 2001 by the Charter 77 Foundation for his long battle against prejudice and police apathy in cases of racially-motivated murder in the Czech Republic.