Thousands turn out to pay respects at impromptu gatherings
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”