The day of 17th November is crucial in the history of the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia respectively). Two significant events took place on this day, fifty years apart.
The first one was in 1939. On 28th October, students demonstrated against the nazi occupation. A student of medicine, Jan Opletal, was shot and died a few days later. As a reaction to these demonstrations, Adolf Hitler had the Czechoslovak universities closed and had nine students executed both on 17th November 1939. During the next few days, around 1200 other students were transported to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen.
Fifty years later, on 17th November 1989, students (together with other people) rose once again. This time it was against the communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Today we know, this demonstration went smoothly, with relatively no aggression and no one was killed. That’s why it is called the Velvet Revolution. But it is good to mention that those people who went there that day, didn’t know it would go this way. They knew they could die, but thanks to their courage, we live in a democratic state(s) now. The Communist era ended in Czechoslovakia after that and Václav Havel became the next president.
Many parents and grandparents of today’s students (yes, even those of your beloved buddies and ESNers) went there on 17th November 1989 and rose against the system. So please, let’s keep this in mind tomorrow when you wake up and breathe in deeply the air of freedom. This is it. This is what our parents fought for.