What does freedom mean to you? Can you imagine a weekend without freedom? How about your entire life? Thirty years ago, our acquaintances, friends, parents, grandparents fought for us to have limitless possibilities. You may have fought for democracy too. Stood in the crowded Wenceslas Square on a late autumn afternoon with keys over your heads, dreaming about your children getting a better chance at life. Let's remember the day that changed the history of Czechoslovakia forever. The day that kickstarted the fall of the communist regime and opened the doors to freedom. The Velvet Revolution started exactly 30 years ago, on November 17, 1989.
Freedom. A given for some, a gift for others who cherish it every single day. The liberty to freely shop, travel, study, or express your opinions and views was not possible in the Czech Republic 30 years ago. Because our country had been under communist rule for 41 years. Many of us have heard a number of stories of how the communist regime could ruin people's lives. Stories of hope for a better future and not losing hope. But the thing is that those who did not live in this "era" can hardly imagine the real face of the bygone system.
On the other hand, we tend to make fun of queues for bananas and Tuzex fashion. As a "90's kid" I did not really experience the big breath of freedom and relief, but my parents would tell me about it often. Because when they were my age, they told themselves that they'd secure a better future for me. History can't repeat itself? Are you sure?
If we keep publicly remembering the events that changed the course of our history, I'm sure that every memorial service, every wreath laid down, even every lit candle will have its purpose. We can believe in a better future specifically because we do not forget our past. The fight continues on. Even if we live in a democracy, it's important to keep our eyes open and, as Václav Havel would say, not close them in the face of lies and hatred.
Today it has been 30 years since several thousand students gathered at Albertov on Friday, November 17, 1989, to honor the memory of Jan Opletal and at the same time remember the 50th anniversary of the time Nazis closed down Czech colleges. The memorial event gradually began transforming into a demonstration against the totalitarian regime of the time.
The students took off from Albertov to Vyšehrad, to the grave of Karel Hynek Mácha, where they laid down flowers and lit up candles. At the same time you could hear anti-communist chants such as "We want a free election", "Jakeš in the trash" or "Do away with KSČ's monopoly". From the Vyšehrad demonstration, which ended with the national anthem, many people continued on to express their opinions at Wenceslas Square. Security forces attempted to prevent them from it, however, and so the protesters set out for National Street while singing the song "Ach synku, synku".
The protesters were stopped by police by the former Máj shopping center. Young people sat on the ground, the girls put flowers behind the emergency brigade's shields. The crowd chanted lines such as "We're empty-handed" or "Havel for the Castle".
The protest was brutally dispersed, hundreds of people were seriously injured during the crackdown and some of the protesters were arrested. The brutal crackdown of the security forces on the protesters shook all of society and it was the very last drop... the Velvet Revolution began.
There will be many events held in Prague in remembrance of these events. You can see a reenactment of the march to National Street at Albertov, for example, and on the other side, there will be a wide range of music bands and speakers performing at Wenceslas Square.
The anniversary of the Velvet Revolution brought, among other things, the option to once again publicly express one's opinions, such as disapproval of Andrej Babiš's government. That's why there was a protest held at Letenské Square yesterday, where three hundred thousand people gathered. According to the organizers of the protest, Andrej Babiš must resign before December 31, unless he asks Justice Miniser Marie Benešová to step down and gets rid of Agrofert. If he doesn't do that, more protests will be organized in January.
Will anyone take them seriously? Or will it just be a shout into the void? It might be that for somebody, but for somebody else it will be a sign that people can still express their dissatisfaction and will not close their eyes in the face of things and events they don't like. Whatever your outlook on the current political climate might be, when you're getting angry about the election results with your friends at the pub once again, remember that it is only you who can influence what kind of world we live in.