Jaroslava Moserova - reaction to the death of Zdenek Adamec

Prague's Wenceslas Square, photo: CTK

The death of nineteen-year old Zdenek Adamec - who set himself alight on Prague's Wenceslas Square on Thursday - has shocked Czech society. Among the first to react to the incident were the country's politicians, among them senator Jaroslava Moserova. Mrs Moserova is a burns specialist, and she was the first doctor to treat Jan Palach, the Czech student who set himself alight on Wenceslas Square in 1969 to protest against what he said was widespread apathy in Czechoslovak society following the 1968 Soviet invasion.

Prague's Wenceslas Square,  photo: CTK
Zdenek Adamec left a letter on the internet explaining the reasons for his self-immolation. He describes his death as a protest against the evils in the world - including violence and war, environmental degradation and a lack of democracy - and that he was following the example initiated by Jan Palach. My colleague Dean Vuletic spoke with Mrs Moserova about yesterday's incident, and began by asking her what her immediate reaction was when she heard the news.

"Well, you can imagine that I was shattered and disturbed very much. It was normal that 1969 came back to my mind immediately. But it's different, this case is something else. I don't think one should compare the two young men."

Zdenek Adamec referred to Jan Palach in the letter that he left, and he took Jan Palach as his inspiration. How do you feel about that?

"The one thing which is a common denominator in the two terrible events is that both young men wanted to shake the consciences of people, they wanted them to think. But Jan Palach did it after very careful reflection, and there was no doubt whatsoever about him being a balanced person, totally sane, rational. He did it with a very well thought out aim, while this young man, I think, is not as rational as Jan Palach was."

Do you think that it may pose a problem, in some ways, when people glorify Jan Palach. Many people regard him as a national hero - do you think that one of the negative effects of this is that it can inspire copycat incidents even when they may not have the same legitimacy that Jan Palach's case did?

"Yes. I'm afraid of that, of course, because it would be too bad if Palach's memory was soiled in any way. And there were copycat incidents after Palach's, even in 1969, but not with an idealistic aim. This young man did have an idealistic motivation, but misguided, I am afraid. And of course the difference is that Jan Palach appealed to the conscience of his own people, while this man really has a global appeal, he had a global message."