Jan Palach´s week – 50 years from the act
Who was Jan Palach?
Jan Palach was born on 11th August 1948 in Prague. He was a student of history and political economy at the Charles University. For his bourgeios family roots he wasn´t allowed to enter to the Faculty of Arts at first. Nevertheless in 1968 he was finally admitted as the Czechoslovak communist regime was living its brighter period later known as the Prague Spring.
After 21st August 1968 – so called day of Occupation by the Warsaw Pact troops, in October he was allowed to travel to France which was at that moment affected by student demontrations and strikes. Very influenced by this experience and event soon after his return back to Czechoslovakia he started to participate in various demostrations against the Occupations and socialist regime. He was very concerned by resignation and desilusion of the citizens. So he started to think about something „big“ that would wake people up....
Human torch for long minutes
On Thursday 16th January around 2:30pm at the upper part of Wenceslas Square he poured his bod with flammable liquid and he lit his body. Burning he ran towards Washington street where he fell down to the floor and some technician was trying to extinguish the flames with his coat. With severe burns he was transported to a hospital where he died after three days of pain and suffering.
In the hospital it was made a voice record where he´s expaining to the doctor the purposes of his action. He said: „I wanted to express my disagreement with what was happening and wake up the people.“
Unfortunatelly he was not the only one who decided to finish his life in this way. Many times the socialist regime was succesfull in hiding these cases but we can name at least few people who did the same as Jan Palach – Josef Hlavatý, Jan Zajíc, Evžen Plocek,..
These acts served to their peers and next generation as a motive for demonstrations against the regime in January 1989 and started the begining of the end of communist-socialist era in Czechoslovakia.
Why should people remember it?
Mainly because a young people died trying to point out the state of former regime in Czechoslovakia and were willing to sacrifice himself for the others to live and get better future.
Regarding to the Jan Palach´s week – a memory of his act and death in 1969 – you can join a reconstruction of Jan Palach´s march in Hradec Králové this Friday 25th of January. The procession starts in Old town square at 3:30pm continues thow streets Adalbertinum, Tyršův most and finishes in Masaryk´s square in the New town. More about this event on the website of Universtity of Hradec Králové - https://www.uhk.cz/cs-CZ/UHK .
Also on your visit or stay in Prague – close to National Museum in Wenceslas square don´t miss Jan Palach´s memorial. Look carefully - it´s a metal cross placed on the floor and always with some candels or flowers on top.
Photo: Milan Malíček: Právo