Readings and ‘big heart’ rally commemorate seven years since death of Václav Havel

Tuesday marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Václav Havel. The former president remains a much respected figure in the country, even though his quotes are often used to help delineate the current divide in Czech society. Several commemorative events are taking place across the Czech Republic, including those that seek to bring Havel closer through his works.

Václav Havel, photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech RadioVáclav Havel, photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio Seven years after his death, Václav Havel remains a figure very much alive in political discourse. Not always as a rallying point however. His quotes such as “truth and love must prevail against lies and hatred” have become a motto for some and a derogatory term for others.

Ondřej Škrabal is one of the organisers of a public event commemorating Tuesday’s seventh anniversary of the former president’s death. He says that instead of carrying any political message, he and his colleagues want to keep Havel’s legacy alive.

“For us the main goal is to turn back to the source, to Havel’s texts. Havel has become a label, a political star. Perhaps with negative connotations for some and very few people have actually read what he has written. In particular I mean along the line of artistic texts.”

Škrabal and his colleagues are holding an event at Prague’s Alfred ve dvoře theatre, where anyone can go and read their own selected passage from Havel’s works.

Another event taking place on Tuesday, titled “Svíčka pro Václava Havla” (A Candle for Vaclav Havel), brings together a number of Havel’s former colleagues and prominent admirers. It too includes selected readings of the former president’s texts, as well as a church service and musical entertainment.

A more politically loaded event takes place in the evening hours. Srdce na hrad (Heart into the Castle), is an annual rally that carries a large hand crafted heart to Hradčany Square, located just in front of Prague Castle. It is expected to gather a few hundred followers.

Photo: archive of Czech RadioPhoto: archive of Czech Radio Jiří Bareš, one of the men behind the march, is quoted on the events page as saying that “the heart will be brought to the square on every anniversary until it can be handed over to a person that deserves to be in the castle”.

Meanwhile, official circles ranging from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to President Miloš Zeman’s spokesman, Jiří Ovčáček, have tweeted statements and pictures honouring the former head of state.

Ms. Sabina Tančevová was Václav Havel’s secretary in the last years of his life. She remembers him particularly fondly as a “good boss who inspired loyalty and motivation”.

“His voice is certainly missing. Any sort of stance to current affairs. In the last years of his life he avoided making statements, but I believe he would always say something when it was a matter of grave importance.“