Commemorative event in honor of a true friend of Belarusians (+photos)
14 January in Minsk the democratic society of Minsk marked the day of
memory of a well-known Czech dissident, the symbol of the "velvet
revolution", first president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Gavel,
who had passed away on 18 December 2011.
The event was organized by joint efforts of such NGOs as the "For Freedom" movement, the Committee to Protect the Repressed "Solidarity", the Human Rights Center "Viasna", the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
Speeches about Mr. Gavel, a true friend of the Belarusian people, were delivered by the representative of the HRC "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich, the writer Uladzimir Arlou, the director of the Belarusian office of Radio "Liberty" Aliaksandr Lukashuk and the guests – the acting Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Belarus Dagmar Didenko-Novohradska and the Ambassador of Slovakia Marian Servatka.
The stories told by the speakers again proved that Mr. Gavel took all possible efforts to support civil society activists, politicians and artists of Belarus, struggling for the right of Belarusians to live in a free and democratic country which would be a part of the united Europe.
As stated by Dagmar Didenko-Novohradska, the Czech people is proud of the fact that its first president acted for the benefit of Belarus. "I want to say that Vaclav Gavel has never refused to meet with the Belarusian oppositionists. He is one of the founders of the "Civil Belarus" and his membership in this NGOs favored to the recognition of the Belarusian problems not only in Czech, but also in other countries of the world," pointed the Czech diplomat. "We should also remind that Vaclav Gavel personally wrote a letter to ensure the opportunity for the well-known Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau (who had received a residence permit) to live in Czech, which he did almost till the end of his life. All of us are very proud of it." She also reminded that the last letter of Vaclav Gavel was addressed to Belarusian political prisoners. "I would like to express the hope that there will be no need in such letters in the future. Thank you for the fact tat Vaclav Gavel keeps living in your hearts as it does in the hearts of Czechs."
Gavel's attitude to Belarusians was also described by the head of the Belarusian office of Radio "Liberty" Aliaksandr Lukashuk who came to the event from Prague. "If we look at the photos in this hall, we an see that Aliaksandr Milinkevich, Andrei Dynko, Ales Bialiatski – many people met with him, he loved, valued and respected many people. But I want to tell about one meeting. In 2001, during the terrorist attack on New-York, Vaclav Gavel had a meeting with Vasil Bykau in his schedule. I think that probably all European presidents but one would have canceled the meeting that day. Gavel did not cancel it. When these two towers collapsed, when the world did not know what would happen next, whether there would be any nuclear blasts, when the plane of the US President remained in the air without landing, Gavel received Bykau. That's how important this meeting was for him and how well he understood what is Belarus. A year after Bykau's death we, Belarusians of Prague, met in a cafe in order to mark his birthday. In this very cafe there was a sitting, at which Gave was present. We passed him our invitations. He left his sittings, joined us and marked Bykau's birthday together with us..."
"He became a hero of the Belarusian literature long ago", said the writer Uladzimir Arlou talking about his personal meetings with Vaclav Gavel. "I was lucky enough to be a delegate of the Congress of the international PEN-club in Prague in 1994. At that time I had several episodic meetings with Gavel, which I have remembered since then." After this congress Mr. Arlou wrote an essay "A room with a look on Hradčany", some excerpts from which, dedicated to the meetings with Gavel, were read by the author during the event. "For me the congress started when somebody's iron hands put me up and set me half a meter aside as a chessman. Vaclav Gavel ran onto the stage through the pass which was created with such means and made a greeting speech. Among other things, the delegates are proposed a story about the president's friend who refused to take a high state position referring to his wish to secure the creative freedom. "Who will guarantee this freedom if all of us follow his example?" asks the president and looks at the audience, where his appeal does not cause visible enthusiasm." After reading another fragment Uladzimir Arlou stated: "I dream about the time when we'll have a president like Vaclav Gavel". The writer said that their fourth meeting had taken place in March 2012, when he came to Gavel's grave, located opposite the office of the office of Radio "Liberty". "Standing there, near his grave, I remembered the words he said at a conference in Prague several years before his death. He said that he was deeply convinced that the configuration of the democratic Europe will become complete only when Belarus becomes a part of it. I believe that it will surely happen."
The Ambassador of Slovakia Marian Servatka, philologist by education, shared his impressions of Gavel as a talented publicist and playwright, advising all to read his essays, and reminded the audience that representatives of Slovakian intellectual circles were among signers of Charter'77. "I would like to tell about the phenomenon of Charter. Do you remember 1968, the Prague spring started in Bratislava, then – the Soviet intervention, and what came next was terrible. Then there arises Charter. And that's where anti-Communists and high-rank communists from Czech met. There weren't many Slovaks in the Charter: the history knows only 38 surnames. Historians say that Bratislava was quite far from Prague at that time. This was said by Gavel, who came to Bratislava on purpose, in order to invite Slovakian intellectuals to the Charter. Dominik Tatarka, a very famous Slovak writer, was the first to sign the Charter, after which other Slovaks started joining him. Vaclav Gavel wrote about it in his memoirs..."
Later Vaclav Gavel often stressed: "In the conditions of a totalitarian, half-totalitarian, post-totalitarian, authoritarian or half-authoritarian regime all those who want changes for the better must freely unite. If there is a good will and the personal ambitions are tamed, many people can unite, even if they think differently, to come to a minimal agreement." Gavel, one of the founders of "Charter'77" considered it as a successful "model of resistance to the totalitarian regime which had all military powers".
The manifest of the Czechoslovak dissidents which criticized the government for the failure to implement human rights, was published in the Western press on 6 January 1977. 242 signatures stood under it, and many of the signers suffered repressions for their deed.
As reminded by the representative of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich, the reason for the establishment of the Charter was the arrest of participants of the Czechoslovak underground band "The Plastic People of the Universe". "These musicians were charged with organizing social unrest. The court proceedings were opened and Vaclav Gavel personally attended all hearings. He said that it didn't matter what for the people were imprisoned – for their political views or for wearing long hair and playing the music they wanted to play. That's what the action of solidarity with the "Plastics" started and how "Charter'77" came to existence.
A well-known Belarusin musician, Liavon Volski, put on a "black list" by the authorities, played at the event.