Thousands turn out to pay respects at impromptu gatherings

Foto: Jan Krčmář

A crowd of several dozen people at Prague’s Wenceslas Square swelled to several thousand within the space of minutes Sunday evening, and the statue of St. Václav went awash in candlelight. At the end of a reading of the writings of the country’s mentor in democracy and freedom, the entire multitude was silent for a long time - some weeping quietly, but most just standing speechlessly, gazing at the memorial, and looking stunned and lost in thought. The passing of Václav Havel had not been unexpected, but that did not make it any less of a shock. It seemed that for those gathered at this and other squares around the Czech Republic there had been a sudden realisation that their world had just become a slightly different place.

Photo: Jan Krčmář
“I am very sad because I loved Václav Havel, and he was my hero. He’s a national hero for all of us.”

“Well it’s over, isn’t it? It’s like the Revolution has just ended now. It’s a big loss, I don’t know what to say. It’s the end of an era, that’s for sure. There are some people left, but he was the one. It’s over.”

“He was a national symbol, and it has a deep impact on the feelings of the whole nation now. There has been a bit of a struggle around this symbol, a political struggle, some part of the country dislikes the symbol and would like to ignore Havel, and the other part keeps him in our hearts. I think the struggle between these two parts of the system can be clearly seen in the politics of this country. So nothing is sure for the future in our country.”

Photo: Jan Krčmář
“I think it’s sad that he passed away, that I never had the opportunity to meet him, which I think was a mistake. And I think he was a very, very important person for our nation. I think he was the moral leader of this nation, and without him it will not be as it was before. We have lost our moral symbol. And I think that Czechs did not appreciate him the way they should have, because he was really a great person, a great man a great philosopher also, and the Czech people were just angry about some of his mistakes. He might have made mistakes, but I think the most important thing is his philosophy and moral values.”

“I think that with him a really important person died, and not only for the Czech Republic but also for Europe as a whole. I think he is really an inspiration for other people. It’s really sad that he passed away.”

Photo: Kristýna Maková
“Václav Havel was certainly the only modern president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic who directed the nation in the right direction, in my opinion, which was towards humanity, democracy, deep philosophy, and less of the kind of materialistic stuff. It’s very sad. However, if Czech people realise where the nation is directed right now – which is different now than what Václav Havel had in mind – then I am hoping it will help us to realise we were here on this square in 1989, and will remind us of where we want to be in the future.”

“I would just like to light a candle for him, because he meant so much for us, for the country, and everything else. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Photo: Jan Krčmář
“We were quite young when the Velvet Revolution happened so, for us, we can see the change that happened over the last, more than 20 years. And, you know, you walk down the street and look around, and you just wonder if all these people realise that if it weren’t for him, it would be totally different here. I just hope that everyone remembers that.”