President Havel remembered with nostalgia as Czechs reflect on present-day morals

Photo: CTK

Czechs have marked six years since the death of the country’s first president and the icon of the Velvet Revolution Václav Havel. Commemorative acts took place in Prague and Brno as well as in Hrádeček, the president’s beloved country retreat, where he died on December 18, 2011.

Václav Havel | Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio
A heart of candles on the pavement of Jungmanovo námestí, in the centre of Prague, flickered in Václav Havel’s memory as passers-by stopped to pay homage to the much-loved dissident, writer and president. Actors, writers and friends of Václav Havel took turns of read excerpts from his novels and reflect on his legacy at the all-day happening.

The Václav Havel Library presented Havel’s most famous novels and the National Technical Library unveiled a bench in his memory - the Ferdinand Vaněk bench named after a character in his book Audience and Havel’s alter ego.

At every one of these happenings the prominent symbol was a heart – which Václav Havel frequently attached to his signature. There was one on the fence of his country cottage where Havel died six years ago, surrounded by flickering candles and a message someone had made in the snow reading “Václav Havel – Thank You”.

Dagmar Havlová,  Jan Burian,  photo: CTK
Outside the National Theatre in Prague people gathered around a big, red plastic heart – symbolizing the president’s often-quoted message that “truth and love will win out over lies and hatred”. Among those who came to pay their respects –with a huge bunch of red roses -was the president’s second wife Dagmar.

“I think about him a great deal and I think that the things he believed in are not just important for me but for many people in this country. I feel that very strongly from the mails and text messages I receive and from what I read on Facebook - his legacy is important for us all.”

Among those who came to pay their respects was the head of the National Theatre Jan Burian.

“Havel always emphasized the moral dimension of our life, and applied it to the world of politics. I think that in the present-day that is particularly significant.

Former culture minister Daniel Herman also came to light a candle in Havel’s memory and gave journalists a quote from one of Havel’s books.

“If you do not have the courage to do what you believe in, at least have the courage not to do what goes against your convictions.”

Ferdinand Vaněk bench,  photo: CTK
Six years after his death Václav Havel’s legacy and name are remembered at home and abroad. Schools and streets have been named after him, Havel benches have appeared in Washington, Barcelona or Venice and anyone arriving at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport is reminded of how much the dissident-playwright-president meant to the nation.

Many people today feel that the country has strayed too far from his principles. Asked what he would have thought of the present political situation his wife Dagmar gave reporters a terse “I think he would have said plenty.”