Twenty years ago yesterday, students gathered in downtown Prague and marched through the city in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of International Students Day.* The police and the students clashed, one thing led to another and in a few days there were more than students demonstrating - the unions were out in force, the people were in the streets and democracy was in the air. By the end of 1989, the first free elections in more than forty years were held and Vaclav Havel voted President of Czechoslovakia.
Yesterday 10,000 people marched the route again. We walked parts of it earlier in the afternoon, but when the crowds got thick, veered off with the children towards home. It was an odd, uneven celebration, one that didn't feel weighty enough for the event. In the end, the best bits of the day were the personal stories told by our friends as we walked through downtown and talked about what used to be here, what used to be there, and especially about the march twenty years back; how no one knew just what would happen afterwards, and how much has changed since then.
* International Students Day marks the day in 1939 when the Nazis shut down Czech universities and sent more than a thousand students to concentration camps over protests and anti-Nazi demonstrations. Nine students and professors were executed without trial.
If I'm not working or hanging out with our 10 year old while a bouncy 5 year old dances around us, there's a good chance I'll be hammering away on our piano, reading a book or trying to sketch. I live in Prague, Czech Republic and hail from the U.S. South.