Credit: Michal Hroza, via Facebook

Local Politicians In Prague Commemorate Legacy of Martyred Student Jan Zajic

Student Jan Zajic, who immolated himself in Prague’s Wenceslas Square 55 years ago, sacrificed his life for freedom and the future of the Czech nation, said Prague 1 District Mayor Terezie Radomerska yesterday, at a commemorative gathering to honour Zajic’s legacy, which she described as inspiring.

Zajic, a student of the secondary technical school in Sumperk, in the Olomouc Region, burned himself to death on 25 February 1969, in protest against the hardline communist regime and the creeping lethargy of society after the August 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops.

Representatives of Prague 1 paid tribute to Zajic’s memory by laying white roses at a monument near the National Museum, and also at the memorial plaque on the house in Wenceslas Square where Zajic set himself on fire.

“Such love for the nation, for the homeland, for freedom is something we should commemorate across decades, centuries. We have very few such heroes, saints in our nation,” said Radomerska (TOP 09).

Zajic’s act followed that of Jan Palach, a student at the Prague Faculty of Arts, who set himself on fire near the National Museum in January 1969. Zajic attended Palach’s funeral and joined a protest hunger strike. He symbolically chose the anniversary of the 25 February 1948 communist coup for his self-sacrifice.

In his farewell letter, the 18-year-old student justified his decision by saying that Palach’s sacrifice had not changed society in the long term, and described its state as “the slow dying of national freedom”. “I have decided to stir your conscience,” wrote Zajic, who identified himself as Torch No. 2.

“You, the proud and beautiful Czech and Slovak people, don’t allow yourselves to be dictated to over who you will go with forever,” he wrote.

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