Czech Politicians Commemorate Anniversary of Student Jan Palach’s Death
Jan Palach, a 20-year-old university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on 16 January 1969. Photo credit: Roger Veringmeier, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Prague, Jan 16 (CTK) – Czech student Jan Palach immolated himself 54 years ago today, in protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces. During a commemoration ceremony today, lower house chair Marketa Pekarova Adamova told CTK that his sacrifice contributed to the fall of totalitarianism and to the current life of Czechs in freedom and democracy.
Pekarova Adamova (TOP 09) and the deputy chairs of the Chamber of Deputies laid flowers and lit candles in Prague’s Wenceslas Square at the place where a wooden cross on the pavement commemorates Palach’s act of resistance.
Palach, a 20-year-old university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on 16 January 1969, to wake people from the creeping lethargy that followed the Soviet-led invasion of the country on 21 August the preceding year. He succumbed to his injuries three days later, on 19 January.
A gathering to mark the 20th anniversary of Palach’s death in January 1989 unexpectedly developed into strong protests against the communist regime. Thousands of people repeatedly showed their dissatisfaction despite interventions by the riot police. Several months later, in November 1989, the communist regime collapsed.
16 January has had the status of a significant day in the Czech Republic since 2014.
Tributes to Palach, who studied at Charles University’s Faculty of Arts, were also paid by representatives of the university, led by Rector Milena Kralickova, and students laid wreaths at the portrait of Palach in the courtyard of Karolinum, the historical seat of the university where the coffin with Palach’s remains was displayed in January 1969.
This afternoon, university students and teachers will meet once again at a plaque commemorating Palach at the Faculty of Arts building in Palach Square, where Education Minister Vladimir Balas paid honour to him this morning.