January 20, 1969: two people emulate Jan Palach’s sacrifice

Palach Museum in Všetaty

On this day 55 years ago, Sándor Bauer and Josef Hlavatý emulated Jan Palach’s sacrifice and set themselves ablaze in protest of the Soviet occupation.

Josef Hlavatý | Photo: archive of ABS

Just a day later, two people followed Jan Palach’s example. The first was Sándor Bauer, a 16-year-old boy from Budapest, who set himself on fire outside the city’s Hungarian National Museum. Holding two national flags in his hands, he protested against the Soviet occupation of Hungary and Hungarian participation in the occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Later on the same day, a 25-year-old brewery worker from Pilsen, Josef Hlavatý, doused himself with kerosene, burning to death on the city’s Dukla Square. In his own words, he was protesting against the "Russian occupiers".

Between January and April 1969, nearly three dozen suicide attempts were recorded in Czechoslovakia. Some of the people were inspired by the act of Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in protest against the growing public apathy to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

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