Havel celebration planned for Wenceslas Square

The former president and playwright would have turned 80 on Oct. 5

A celebration of what would have been the 80th birthday of playwright and politician Václav Havel will take place on Oct. 5 at Wenceslas Square. Among other things, people will be able to hear parts of his speeches and public appearances. The event, called Milí spoluobčané (Dear Fellow Citizens), is one of the larger events planned in Havel's memory. The program starts at 7 pm.

Pavel Jungmann, one of the organizers of the event, said that Havel's voice is noticeably absent from the current political and cultural scene, and that politics now is too pragmatic. Jungmann does not want to promote adoration of Havel, but says he should be remembered as someone who could be relied on not to disgrace the country on the international stage.

In Prague 6, there will be a gathering at noon in front of the National Technical Library, with people who knew Havel. The event will mark the opening of a series of large-format photos by Oldrich Škácha, running between the library and Hradčanská metro station. This event, called Pocta Václavu Havlovi, will culminate with a concert by the Plastic People of the Universe at the Dejvice train station.

These programs on Wenceslas Square and Prague 6 are in addition to a previously announced series of events throughout Lucerna Palace on the evening of Oct. 15 to the morning of Oct. 16. Information on that event is at www.havel80.cz. The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is being awarded on Oct. 12 at Prague Crossroads, formerly St Anne's Church.

The plaza between the historical building of the National Theatre and the glass-encased New Stage in Prague has been officially renamed náměstí Václava Havla, meaning Square of Václav Havel. Other variations had been considered but were found to be confusing for tourists. Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) said it was fitting since Havel was deeply involved in theater for most of his life.

Brno, the capital of South Moravia, is having a small festival of his plays at Divadlo Husa na Provázku (Goose on a String Theater). 

Events are also taking place internationally. The Czech Centre in Rotterdam is showing Havel's only feature film Leaving on Oct. 5. The Theater Museum in Vienna is having an exhibition on Havel and his theatrical works.

New York City celebrated Happy Havel Day on Sept. 28 with the unveiling of a bust of Havel at Columbia University and other events. In Washington, DC, Havel was remembered at the Capital Building with a speech by Czech lower house chairman Jan Hamáček (ČSSD). US politicians Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi attended the event. Further events also took place at the Czech Embassy and Havel's Place at Georgetown University.

Havel was president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to '92 and president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. He was also dissident before the Velvet Revolution, and one of the driving forces behind Charter 77, which called for increased human rights in then-Soviet dominated Eastern bloc. He pefered to be remembered as a playwright, though, and late in his life he became a filmmaker.

He died in Dec. 18, 2011, and there was three days of official mourning followed by a state funeral on Dec. 23. Thousands of people gathered in Wenceslas Square when his death was announced.

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