At six this evening (one hour ago) all church bells across the Czech Republic tolled their bells in mourning at the passing of Vaclav Havel, one of the truly great political leaders in the world today - of the stature of Nelson Mandela. The story is well known how Havel after suffering imprisonment and harassment for many years at the hands of Communist officialdom led his country to freedom through the non-violent Velvet Revolution of 1989. A playwright, an artist, a creative and moral thinker, Havel was anything but a career politician, and even through two terms as Czech president, never became entirely comfortable in the role. He always longed to return to the role he loved best, that of writer and thinker and chronicler of his times, and for this longing and for his evident resistance to the political life he was beloved by his people, for all of his quirks and faults. His passing will now send shock waves of reflection and assessment through his country, as we evaluate how we have evolved as a country since 1989 and in what ways we have honored his legacy and in how many ways we may have betrayed it. The passing of a giant.
Estimated crowd of 100.000 pays homage to Havel this evening in Wenceslaus Square.
This is the self effacing poet and playwright who led them to freedom 22 years ago.
Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War, died Sunday.
Christian Science Monitor