Prague, Jan 14 (CTK) – The Prague City Hall will unveil a memorial to Jan Palach, a student who immolated himself in protest against the Warsaw Pact occupation of Czechoslovakia in Prague in 1969, on the anniversary of his act, on January 16.
The memorial is comprised of two, 6-metre geometric statues with flames going out of a square plinth. It was designed by U.S. sculptor and architect of Czech origin John Hejduk (1929-2000).
The light statue symbolises the figure of a son carrying light and the dark one a suffering mother. It is complete with a commemorative plaque with a poem by U.S. writer David Shapiro called Jan Palach’s Funeral. He wrote it after reading about Palach’s act in newspapers in 1969.
The poem inspired John Hejduk.
“In the 1980s, it inspired him for an interesting event. Along with students in Atlanta, he made the first statue that became an initiation object, to which the pair object was added,” architect Miroslav Cikan, who made the architectonic design of the area around the memorial along with Pavla Melkova, told journalists yesterday.
“After the revolution [in 1989], he was invited to the Prague Castle to make the pair sculpture that was subsequently donated to the Czechoslovak people and the city of Prague,” Cikan said.
In the 1990s, two wooden statues, called the House of the Suicide and the House of the Mother of the Suicide, were installed at the Prague Castle, seat of the Czech heads of state, but they decayed and were removed in 2000.
“After a long time, this is the most important installation of a work of art with national importance in the public space of the city,” Petr Hlavacek, director of the Prague Institute for Planning and Development, said.
Palach, a 20-year-old student of Prague’s Faculty of Arts, attempted to burn himself to death on Wenceslas square in Prague on January 16, 1969. His act was to rouse the society from lethargy following the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact troops invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, which crashed the reform movement, Prague Spring.
Three days later, on January 19, Palach succumbed to his burns. His funeral, in which thousands of people took part, developed into a national demonstration for freedom and democracy.