On Wednesday, November 17, thirty buildings around Prague will light up with the colours of the Czech flag.
Prague Castle, the Congress Center, the Žižkov Tower, the Petrin Tower, the Dancing House, the Straka Academy, university buildings and the headquarters of several companies will be colored in blue, red and white.
The Slovak singer Jana Kirschner will perform at 17:11 the song “A Prayer for Marta” (Modlitba pro Martu), which was banned under communism after the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968 and then revived during the Velvet Revolution.
Among other things, there will be an outdoor projection on the facade of the Máj department store, focusing on the current political situation in Belarus.
There will also be a program inside buildings – theater performances, a talk show, art workshops, and debates. Visitors can also look forward to street exhibitions or educational walks mapping the period of communism, the events of the Velvet Revolution, and the early post-revolutionary years.
November 17th is not at all just an ordinary day in the Czech Republic. It is a very important day for Czechs not only for one but for two reasons.
The original event that 17 November commemorated was the resistance of student demonstrators in 1939 to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Initially, a student named Jan Opletal was shot in a protest and died on 11 November.
His funeral, attended by thousands of students, turned into another anti-Nazi demonstration.
Fifty years after such oppression, in 1989, Czech students organized a demonstration to commemorate the student martyr Jan Opletal and the International Students Day. It started off as an officially-sanctioned march but turned quickly into demonstration demanding the resignation of the country’s communist government. Students were brutally beaten by riot police.
At least 167 people were injured. One student was reportedly beaten to death, and – although this was later proved false – this rumour served to crystalize support for the students and their demands among the general public. A number of workers’ unions immediately joined the students’ cause.
This demonstration, which took place on November 17, 1989, is believed to have sparked the Velvet Revolution which eventually led to the freedom of the Czech people.