Václav Havel – the last of the Mohicans – has left

Our mountains and valleys are still crying tears and we are crying with them. Our Chief has left; the one whose blue eyes used to sparkle and whose spirit used to soar as an eagle even though his body was giving up. Our festival tribe was made an orphan. The one who meant everything for me has left. Everything will be different from now on. It will be divided into the period before and after Václav Havel. The news approached me while walking along a street in Brno; something rustled around and my head got dizzy. I still find it hard to find the right words. My heart is heavy and my head is full of memories of this extraordinary man. There is no bigger personality in our land and only now we are staring to recognize who we have lost. Many countries can envy us for having Václav Havel and they do. Yes, I am one of the followers of the truth and love and our Chief, who was sometimes pejoratively called “truelove”. I believe that if Václav Havel was nowadays at the castle, this country would have a bigger prestige and it would be more respected. However, as it usually goes in these lands, those who would not even reach Václav Havel’s ankles are those who spit on him the most. I believe that it will change now and Václav Havel will start to be fully appreciated.

Even though it might sound pathetic, I feel that with Václav Havel I also lost my youth years; times when my own personality was being formed. We met when I was 16 or 17. I am grateful for the fact that Václav Havel and those who surrounded him significantly influenced and co-determined the direction of my future steps. I am grateful that I am part of the generation that experienced him.   Without Václav Havel, even the Trutnov festival would not exist in the form that we know it in. Even in the times of deep totality, Václav Havel took place at our cultural meetings and various unofficial concerts. It was not a problem for him to drive to some village in the middle of nowhere and it was sometimes quite a paradox when the Chief parked his Volkswagen next to shabby police Škoda cars and then this high profile dissident sat among the long haired youths. Of course these cops, who rarely missed such cultural evens (if they were not trying to abolish them), saw this with great dismay. The fact that the Chief did not refuse invitations to various meetings gave us great spiritual support and strength to continue. That is one of the reasons why he became Chief of our festival tribe.

In the recent years we have looked after the Chief’s garden in Hrádeček. Even in the times of deep totality we admired how tastefully and moderately Olga and he decorated it. In the times of general bad taste it was unusual. Everything had its order. No wheels from hay wagons, kitsch objects made of china or flower pots imbedded in tyres. Not even present times with plastic windows and showing off of property owners´ wealth did not influence Hrádeček. Several times I have been present when somebody saw Hrádeček for the first time. “This is it?” you could hear behind the content of these surprised words. Many had expected something different and pompously spectacular. The interiors were specific and full of order and peace. No Ikea furniture. Hrádeček has been and will always be a cult place. I wish it stays as it is for the coming generations.

During one of the last autumn reorganisations of flower beds the Chief remarked with a smile that he was looking forward to seeing the result in the coming spring. I am terribly angry with myself that in the last weeks I did not visit the Chief and that I was postponing my next visit to Hrádeček. I did not want to disturb. Apparently it was stupid. I will be blaming myself until the end of my life. Our last visits were very nice, strong and cheerful. We went to the cinema, to the pub and watched the news. Once before the news he complained about the direction the world was going. Another day when we were, together with the photographer Bohdan Holomíček, the nun and the director Andrej Krob, going to the pub after visit to the cinema, his blue eyes were sparkling. The Chief tasted perhaps everything the pub offered, it was long after the closing hours and the bodyguards were getting impatient by the bar. The Chief would have stayed until the morning. We left long after midnight. The face was shining and the spirit was strong, even though the body was starting to give up. I last experienced it with him a month and a half ago. Then we met at Václav´s birthday where I forgot his framed photography. Later I brought it with him to Hrádeček. On the front there is an inscription from the party that was held when he finished with his presidency. Nine years later he signed it for me on the back, smiling. It was our last meeting.

Whenever even complete strangers visited Václav at Hrádeček, he did not hesitate to treat them generously. He was not mean, he loved company and people. No matter whether a worker, homeless, important intellectual or politician, they all left with a great feeling that they had good conversation and that they shared something interesting. Unlike his castle successor Klaus and similar types, he did not listen to himself but mainly to others. That was our Chief’s greatest gift. I do not know anybody that would be disappointed after a discussion with him.  He loved people, company and discussions. His humility was impressive. In the recent years it shined from him more and more. It was pure happiness when during some discussions his blue eyes shined and his spirit took off like a hawk.

The Chief left quietly and his recent meeting with the Dalai Lama was more than symbolic. I believe that the Chief and Magor will invent some crazy games in the Underground heaven, from which they laugh at what shallow matters we are involved in. He told me I was his friend. And as a friend I am crying now. The Chief of a world format has left us. Václav, our Chief, look after us!

Martin Věchet, Geronimo Open Air Festival Trutnov