Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vaclav Havel, R.I.P.

Your overburdened Peasant apologizes to you,
my loyal and understanding readers, for sharing
this obituary of a great freedom-fighter with you,
2 1/2 months after his passing; Vaclav Havel,
the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first
president of the Czech Republic (which was
established after the amicable breakup of the
former nation of Czechoslovakia), and a tireless
champion for freedom and human rights in his
once communist-dominated homeland, died
after a long period of poor and deteriorating
health at his country home in Hradecek, the
Czech Republic on December 18, 2011.
He was 75.

Havel was the ninth and last president of
Czechoslovakia (1989-92), overseeing the
transition from communist rule to democracy.
After Czechoslovakia split into the Czech
Republic and the Slovak Republic (also
known as Slovakia), Havel became the first
president of the former. He was the founder
of the VIZE 97 Foundation, an organization
which operates in the realms of social care,
education, medicine and culture while also
on occasion lending support to endeavors
in the field of human rights. In addition,
Havel was one of the signatories of the
Charter 77 manifesto, a founding signatory
of the Prague Declaration on European
Conscience and Communism, and a council
member of the Victims of Communism
Memorial Foundation.

For his work, Havel received many recogni-
tions which have included the United States
Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Ghandi
Peace Prize, The Order of Canada, and the
Ambassador of Conscience Award. Havel
is known not just for his work on behalf
of freedom and human rights but for his
sacrifices for these virtues; he was impri-
soned many times, once for 3 3/4 years
for his opposition to the communist regime
in Czechoslovakia, and along with his
wife and fellow activist was constantly
under surveillance and subjected to harras-
sment, including being forbidden to leave
the country for a time.

Vaclav Havel gained the respect and admi-
ration of many political and human rights
activists on both the left and the right, as
well as many fellow heads of state in many
countries. Havel worked for the day when
there would no longer be any need for
freedom fighters, be they military or
intellectual, soapbox screamers or states-
men, to challenge oppressive governments
in the world; may we, as the world's people,
come forward to put our shoulders to the
wheel that Vaclav Havel had helped to push
to bring us to that joyful territory.

Rest in peace, valiant friend of freedom.


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