Václav Havel remembered for ideals but also humour on fourth anniversary of his death

Source: Radio Prague www.radio.cz /By Jan Velinger/

Czechs on Friday are marking the fourth anniversary of the death of the country’s first post-communist president, Václav Havel. One thing that many people are doing in fond memory of Mr Havel is rolling up their pant legs – a reference to Havel’s inauguration, when he famously wore trousers which were too short.


I spoke with one of the people behind Krátké kalhoty pro VH, Tomáš Pikola, about the event.

“Above all, we would like to show that the values and that the ideas that Mr Havel was fighting for are not ‘dead’. And we are very happy that such a high number of people are involved; from the social networks it is apparent that least 10,000 people are taking part.”

Mr Havel played a crucial role and during the Velvet Revolution he became a symbol and one of the main personas who helped bring down the totalitarian regime. On this day, do you think people are looking back to those days and thinking of him in those terms?

“It’s interesting: according to the reactions in emails and comments on the social networks, people are remembering all aspects of his life: dissident, writer, statesman. Some people remember some of his earlier work, some his work as a politician. In any case, people remember him for being much more than just a president.”

What is the legend behind the ‘pants’ initiative?

“It goes back to his first inauguration when Mr Havel appeared to have trousers which were too short, they were actually taken in. We were inspired by this and when he died we wanted to find an easy gesture which could be repeated, easily understood, yet still recall Mr Havel as a person. We also wanted to show his humorous side; he often later referred to the incident and knew how to laugh at himself.”

Humour it seems was a part of especially his early presidency – there is the story of the scooter or push bike he got from his aide to ‘scoot’ around the enormous Prague castle complex… I imagine he would have enjoyed this type of joke as well!

“I hope so, yes. If it is any indication, many, many of his former colleagues and friends backed our initiative so I am very happy about that. They also saw it as a good way to commemorate Mr Havel.”

The Vaclav Havel Center