Burning Bush, Agnieszka Holland’s depiction of the aftermath of the self-immolation of Jan Palach, swept the boards at the Czech Lion film awards in Prague on Saturday night. The movie, originally a TV mini-series, picked up a record 11 prizes, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Zdeněk Tyc’s Like Never Before picked up the two main acting prizes, Clownwise by Viktor Tauš took Best Supporting Actor and Crooks by Sylvie Dymáková was named Best Documentary.
A new exhibition dedicated to Jan Zajíc is set to mark the 45th anniversary of his self-immolation in response to the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops and the “normalization” period that followed. Entitled The Story of Jan Zajíc, it will open at Prague’s Carolinum on Monday as part of the Mene Tekel festival, before moving to the town of Šumperk, whose grammar school students put the exhibition together. Aged 19, Zajíc set himself on fire on 25 February 1969 as he felt a similar move by Jan Palach had failed to shake the indifference and apathy of Czechoslovak society.
Commemorations in Prague on Thursday are marking the 45th anniversary since student Jan Palach set fire to himself to protest the Soviet-led invasion of former Czechoslovakia and its aftermath. Palach set fire to himself in Prague’s Wenceslas Square on January 16, 1969, and died from his burns three days later. A commemoration of the young student has been scheduled at Charles University’s Philosophy Faculty, where Palach was a student. It is one of a series of events taking place. Palach said his protest was aimed at the acceptance by his fellow citizens of the clampdown on liberties which had prompted the Soviet-led invasion half a year earlier.
Most people date the beginning of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia to November 17th, 1989, when a peaceful student demonstration was brutally broken up by riot police. But cracks in the regime's grip on power began to appear much earlier in that year, when people gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of Jan Palach's self-immolation in January 1969. For seven days starting January 15th, 1989, demonstrators who tried to gather on Wenceslas Square were beaten and sprayed with water cannon. Among them was Ivana Varju, who was a student at Charles University at the time. More
A total of Kč 6 million has been set aside this year by the government for a project to restore the abandoned family home of Czech student Jan Palach and make it into a fitting memorial. Prague philosophy student Palach set fire to himself on January 16, 1969, to protest at the passivity of Czech and Slovaks towards the Soviet led invasion of the country in August 1968 to clamp down on the so-called Prague Spring. He died a few days later. Palach was brought up in a village near the central Bohemian town of Mĕlnik, where the family house is now falling into disrepair.
The Senate has approved a proposal to commemorate the legacy of Jan Palach and Jan Amos Comenius through significant days in the Czech calendar. Jan Palach will be remembered on January 16th, the day he set himself on fire in protest of the growing public apathy to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Jan Amos Comenius will be remembered on the day of his birth, March 28. There are presently 9 significant days in the Czech calendar and contrary to state holiday’s they are not days off. Their significance is merely symbolic.
The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill to add two significant legislatively-recognised days to the Czech calendar. The bill, which passed easily in the lower house, will see January 16 become Jan Palach day in memory of the student who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia and onset of the Normalisation period; March 28 will commemorate the date of birth of 17th century pedagogue, philosopher and religious thinker Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius). The amendment – if approved by the Senate and signed into law – will come into effect on August 11 – Jan Palach’s birthday. He would have turned 65 this year.
The maker of a miniseries on the 1969 death of Jan Palach and its aftermath has hit back at statements made about him by a former head of the Communist Party. Polish director Agnieska Holland told the new website iDnes.cz that making Palach out to be a Communist represented an abuse of his legacy. On Friday, hard-line Communist Miroslav Grebeníček said Palach had acted out of sympathy for the reform Communists defeated by the Soviet-led invasion of August 1968, adding that claiming he had become a symbol of the struggle against totalitarian Communism was completely misleading. He made the comments during a debate prior to a vote that made January 16, the anniversary of Palach’s self-immolation, a day honouring his memory. Ms. Holland – whose three-part Burning Bush is currently being screened – said the student’s actual aim had been to spark resistance to Communist rule. The Oscar-nominated director, who is 64, studied at Prague’s FAMU film school and was herself involved in anti-regime activities around the time of Palach’s death.
Stormy debate in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday preceded a vote in favour of naming January 16 a memorial day to Jan Palach, the student who immolated himself on the day in 1969 in protest of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Palach died from his burns three days later, on January 19. On Friday, several members of the Communist Party voiced reservations about Mr Palach’s sacrifice as a symbolic act against totalitarian rule; members of the ruling coalition walked out in protest. Jana Černochová, a deputy for the Civic Democratic Party, called the commemorative day “a sign of respect for [Palach’s] heroic act against the totalitarian regime”. The vote passed with only one MP, Communist hardliner Marta Semelová, voting against, although 11 MPs, including five Communists, abstained. A total of 152 deputies were present. The legislation is now to be debated by the Chamber of Deputies cultural committee.
The new HBO miniseries Hořící Keř, or Burning Bush, receives a gala premiere at a Prague cinema on Wednesday night and kicks off on TV screens next Sunday. Over 23 years after the fall of communism, it is, remarkably, the first film treatment of one of the most dramatic moments of modern Czech history – the self-immolation of Jan Palach in January 1969. More