„Kdo, když ne my, kdy, když ne teď.”
"Who if not us. When if not now."
The motto of student strike on 17th November 1989.
The 17th November is probably the most important public holiday for Czech history. And not only for us. It is the only Czech holiday which gained international attention. Let’s remember the events behind this day 29 years ago.
The 17th November 1989 started the revolution when we won a fight for our independence once more. The political situation of our republic was not ideal after World War II - we belonged to the Eastern Bloc and were under communist administration.
On the mentioned day in 1989 crowd of students wanted to honour the events of 1939 when many student demonstrations against Nazi took place in Prague. After these demonstrations, it was decided to close universities for three years. Some students and professors were executed and 1 200 of them were sent to the concentration camps.
In 1989 the crowd of students met in Albertov to honour their memory. The crowd then decided to continue to the Wenceslas Square. Of course, it wasn’t wanted by the political situation. Students gradually started to be encircled by riot police because the crowd quietly protested against the political system. On the way to the square where the student demonstration was stopped, students sat in front of the police and some women put flowers to the police shields. Because of fear of strike, the crowd was blocked from all sides and the police started to beat the participants. There were only a few ways how to escape and it was through the beating policemen. After one hour the crowd was dispersed. However, more than 500 people were injured.
Following the event of 17th November one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia ended after more than 40 years. The Civic Forum (Občanské forum in Czech) was established consisted of members of the audience in a Prague theatre and Václav Havel who became the first non-communist president of Czechoslovakia at the end of the year 1989.
Well, this day has a really strong place in hearts of all us. In 1939, as well as 1989, it was the students who decided to go on the street and do something for a better future. In 1989, they became one and with many other great people, they brought something big back to us - freedom.
And till now, this freedom let us do what we do. We can travel around the world, tell things which we sometimes should not. We can explore things and improve ourselves with no limits. On this day, let’s just be grateful. :)
Happy International Students’ Day!
Author: Lucie Váchová