Václav Havel’s Legacy
President Václav Havel’s death in December 2011 had a profound effect on all of us and was a cause of great sadness. Since then, Mrs Dagmar Havlová and the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 have received dozens of requests for permission to pay tribute to President Havel’s personality and legacy. It was clear from the reactions from all round the world and from the expressions of condolence of our own citizens, that Václav Havel’s ideas, personal commitment and political foresight will continue to be values fimly rooted in recent Czech history. The public at home and abroad have felt the need to keep Václav Havel’s name alive. On the very day of the final farewell to Václav Havel, the city of Gdansk named a new avenue in the city after the late President. Václav Havel was well-loved in Poland and each of his visits was a major event for the Polish people. There was also a swift reaction from the spa town of Poděbrady, where Václav Havel studied as a young man and of which he was an honorary citizen. A primary school there was named after him a month after his death.
Shortly after Václav Havel’s death, a campaign was launched by the film director Fero Fenič to rename Prague’s Ruzyně Airport in honour of the late President. The campaign was supported by a large part of Czech society, and the then Minister of Transport, Pavel Dobeš, successfully promoted the idea within the Czech government. The renaming ceremony on 5 October 2012, the 76th anniversary of Václav Havel’s birth, was a major event. It was attended by leading representatives of Czech political, social, commercial and cultural life, as well as of foreign embassies in the Czech Republic. In conjunction with the event, an exhibition of photographs from the archives of the Czech Press Agency was opened, documenting Václav Havel’s life and work, and an art work by the architect Bořek Šípek, which will be a permanent reminder at the airport of the work of the Czechs’ first President after the fall of the Communist regime. Also linked with the Václav Havel Airport is an enormous tapestry by the artist Petr Sís, woven to his graphic design by the French master weavers Daniel Bayle and René Duché. The graphic, “The Final Audience” was painted by Petr Sís for a special edition of the Hospodářské noviny newspaper in December 2011, after Václav Havel’s death. The tapestry is the brainchild of Bill Shipsey, the founder of Art for Amnesty International, and contributions towards the cost of its creation were made by Bono Vox, The Edge, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Yoko Ono, who regarded their involvement in the project as a tribute to Václav Havel. The tapestry was officially unveiled at Václav Havel Airport on 9 December 2012 on the eve of Human Rights Day and dedicated to the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97. In her speech, Dagmar Havlová recalled that it was Václav Havel who had played a major role in enabling the Czech people to travel freely once more and therefore the installation of a tapestry depicting a man flying over Prague was very symbolic. She expressed satisfaction that travellers would be reminded of Václav Havel’s legacy and his lifelong fight for freedom not only when they landed at an airport named after the late President, but also when they viewed the tapestry.