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Celebration of Vaclav Havel Day in New York City

(This article expired 04.10.2017 / 20:30.)

Mayor of the New York City Bill de Blasio declared September 28 as Vaclav Havel Day in New York. On this occasion, the Bohemian National Hall hosted several events between September 27 and 29, 2016. Wednesday September 28 was the highlight day: Mayor’s Office Commissioner Penny Abeywardena introduced the Proclamation and met Czech delegation led by Jan Hamacek, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. Prague’s Mayor Adriana Krnacova and Mrs. Dagmar Havlova also turned out to celebrate and support the memory of Vaclav Havel.

September 28 is a symbolic date for Czechs: it is a Saint Vaclav’s name day and it would have been a Vaclav Havel’s name day as well. Celebration of Vaclav Havel between September 27 and 29 wasn’t a coincidence: Vaclav Havel would turn 80 on October 5, 2016. The entire week was thought as a celebration of Havel’s 80.th birthday as well.


First event, exposition called “Qualia – Transcendence”, took place in the gallery of the Czech Center in New York and was opened by Lukas Kaucky, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Panel discussion entitled “The Relevance of President Vaclav Havel’s Work around the World Today”, moderated by Stephen Grande from Atlantic Council, followed the exposition. Havel’s relevance was discussed by Ivan Havel, Martin Palous, Jan Svejnar, Michael Zantovsky or Jiri Pehe.

September 28 began by introducing a tapestry “Flying Man” by Petr Sis. This tapestry is going to be exposed in Strasbourg in one of European Parliament buildings named after Vaclav Havel. Michael Zantovsky presented the exposition “Vaclav Havel: Politics and Conscience” inside of the Bohemian National Hall afterwards.

Wednesday’s highlight, Happy Havel Day, attracted a lot of people that came to listen and see personalities related to Vaclav Havel. Dagmar Havlova, Karel Schwarzenberg (Havel’s former Chancellor and current Chairman of the Foreign Committee) attended, as well as four previous Czech Ambassadors to the United States. Czech Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Jan Hamacek, held an opening speech, followed by Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs that represented Mayor Bill de Blasio. Adriana Krnacova, Prague’s Mayor, took a word to speak about the importance of September 28. The audience had an opportunity to listen to song by Jaroslav Hutka or to see live performance of plays written by Vaclav Havel and Samuel Beckett. Timothy Garton Ash presented the inaugural “Award for a Courageous Writer at Risk” that was given to Ma Thida, Burmese political dissident who was given a word as well.

Havel’s week was wrapped up by performance of one of his plays, Protest, in the Czech Center’s gallery on Thursday, September 29. Martin Dvorak, Consul General of the Czech Republic in NY, and Lukas Kaucky, spoke about their personal relations to Havel’s plays.

Havel’s week was covered by several media, both from the Czech Republic and the United States. Czech National Television, for instance, screened a TV shot and New York Times presented an article about Vaclav Havel Day events.