Anglo-American University's students on the Velvet Revolution: People here truly realize what they won years ago

Partnerská spolupráce

Foreign students of the Anglo-American University followed in the footsteps of the Velvet Revolution on November 17th. Their enthusiasm exceeded the expectations of lecturers.

It's a rather chilly Friday morning on November 17. Despite the national holiday, the streets of Prague are bustling with people. Not just Praguers, but also people from other parts of the republic. They have come to the capital to commemorate the thirty-four-year-old events that led to the fall of the communist regime. Among the people with tricolor pins on their coat lapels are also foreign students from the Anglo-American University in Prague.

Brazil, the United States, Russia, or Venezuela – these are the countries mentioned when their university lecturer, Joshua Hayden, asks them to introduce themselves and say where they are from. "It's fantastic. I must say, I didn't expect so many of you to come. I thought maybe ten of us would gather, but there are three times more. And it's a national holiday; you could have had a day off," Hayden appreciates at Újezd, where he met with his students at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and introduced them to the plan for today's historical excursion, the "Leading a Revolution" Tour.

The Velvet Revolution is a big topic at Anglo-American University

Before the group heads towards Wenceslas Square, the students discuss what the monument by Olbram Zoubek represents. "It seems to depict how the communists gradually destroyed the mental and psychological aspects of a person," one student guesses, holding an English translation of Václav Havel's political essay "The Power of the Powerless."

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More students joined in. After a few minutes, the conversation shifts to freedom of speech, threats to democracy, and dissidents. Joshua Hayden watches all this with a warm smile. His input into the flow of students' thoughts is not needed. They have been debating among themselves at the first stop for more than half an hour.

As the group moves on, Hayden, for whom the events of the Velvet Revolution have become a key topic, explains why he decided to organize the excursion: "Young people are very engaged in many areas and are aware of the severity of the challenges we face in today's world. However, I was surprised at how little they knew about the Czechoslovak struggle for human rights and freedom, and even about the Velvet Revolution itself. I am pleased with the great interest in this excursion among students."

An inspiration for the rest of the world, agree Anglo-American University’s students

During the more than two-hour excursion, the students read excerpts from contemporary works and speeches, listened to underground music, and discussed the anti-charter, the humiliation of artists in 1977, and their subsequent redemption when they rose up twelve years later.

"During the excursion, I realized that the desire for change here at that time was really great. For a long time, however, there was a lack of a personality who could connect all the disparate associations and programs. That changed with the arrival of Václav Havel," says student Jane from Maine, USA, coincidentally at the square named after this first Czechoslovak president.

At the end of the tour, the students agreed that the most interesting and powerful experience for them was walking through crowded National Street and stopping for a moment at the November 17 memorial plaque. "At that moment, you realize that people here really understand what they managed to fight for more than thirty years ago. I think it's right that they remember it so intensely here," says Jose from Venezuela, adding in one breath: "But it would be good if people elsewhere in the world realized it just as intensely."