25 years later in Prague

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's hard to believe only 25 years ago brutal totalitarianism ruled here in former Czechoslovakia.

One friend of ours tells stories about spending a huge chunk of his monthly income on bootleg black market cassette tapes of Western music - even with the risk of being caught. Another friend relays that her grandmother hid a bottle of French perfume in a hole in the wall for decades and dabbed a little on during the holidays. A former landlord told of being forced to become a Math teacher in university because his mother was a Catholic; he was at the top of his class and had wanted to study medicine.

And of course many have far more horrific accounts of life under Communism, such as the people whose pictures and stories were on display last weekend near Prague's National Theater.

Although the past is painful, this Nov. 17 marked a beautiful and moving day of celebration in Central Prague, to honor Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day.

The day, originally called International Students' Day, first commemorated a Nov. 17, 1939, student demonstration against Nazism. In revenge, Nazis executed 9 demonstrators and declared all Czech universities closed for three years. 

Fifty years later, students honoring the victims in a peaceful demonstration were attacked by Communist riot police. The event sparked hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets and mobilize the Velvet Revolution, which led to the fall of Communism here.

We missed the parade but saw the confetti and many people carrying signs around, such as the Slovenian gal above. Below, someone had set up a 1980s-era Czech living room that you could take photos in. (Interesting how it was so "behind the times".)

As evening fell, the glow of the candles from attendees because even more luminous. This flickering strip was outside of the building where a famous plaque commemorating the Velvet Revolution is hung; the wait to get inside the building stretched for blocks and it was bursting with candles, as well. The street that's outside the building is where Communist police beat student demonstrators.

There were a lot of interesting artifacts and bits of information laying around, such as this collage showing what life was like under Communism vs. what it's like now.

This was apparently a holding cell, and the sign on it announces a human light chain starting there at 5 p.m.

There were a couple of places where you could try your hand at graffiti...

...and plenty more where you could leave notes and messages.

There were also a number of music stages, including these old trams that had DJs and bands playing in them.

By 5 p.m., the human chain came together and it was heart-stopping. Just indescribable.

Linking this post up with Bonnie, Cynthia, Yalanda and Courtney. Sorry the post doesn't follow the prompt, ladies; this one was time-sensitive and extra-special :)


  1. What an incredible time to be in Prague! And that night if I recall was NOT warm! But the warmth of all the people and candles helped, I'm sure. And no worries: the prompt is completely optional :)

  2. What an amazing time to be there. And what a story! x

  3. Wow that is a story. It is crazy to think that that was only 25 years ago - I would have been 2.

  4. Wow that human chain is very touching! It's hard to compare eras and regimes, etc. Glad they feel it's better now!

  5. Very interesting! I felt similarly when I was in Berlin -- trying to remember that even though it's a modern city, within my lifetime it was a very different place. So cool that you got to experience that!

  6. I love Berlin for that very same reason - especially when you compare East and West. Such a cool city!

  7. I wish I'd taken some better photos of it, but it was so crowded!

  8. I know, right?! I have to remind myself that a lot of my friends here spent childhoods not being able to leave the country or watch Mickey Mouse.

  9. It definitely makes me thankful for the freedoms I've always enjoyed!

  10. Really glad I decided to go out for the celebrations; it was a chilly day and it would have been easy to stay inside!

  11. Cheers - you did a great job covering Czech food, anyhow :)

  12. What is this nonsense? Protests again the best led fighting force in the world?
    All we wanted was to exterminate the Jews and take back our lands. But did
    anyone listen? No. No they didn't. And now here we all are...


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