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At the Velvet Revolution

At morning Assembly today, Level II student, Petra Jerabkova, gave a presentation about the public holiday that was celebrated on November 17, marking the 25th anniversary of the peaceful revolution through which the people of Czechoslovokia threw off the chains of 41 years of communist rule. The events surrounding those weeks in 1989 marked the acceleration of the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe. Petra described the 750,000 people gathered at Letna in Prague, and showed footage of the protests.

Mr. Vlasta Klouda, Townshend’s enthusiastic Music and German teacher, was one of the people standing in the square on that October 17th in 1989. Mr. Klouda gave a moving presentation, describing how as a student, he stood with others, hoping for freedom, but uncertain if Soviet tanks would roll in to crush their yearnings. “For 18 years I lived under the communist regime,” he explained. He remembered that as a student he was planning to perform a piece of music composed in honor of St. Wenceslas, the patron Saint of the Czech Republic. But his teacher forbid him to play it, because the communist regime would be against it. “Under communism, it was a very strange feeling. Everyone whispered. No one said anything in public, and you were afraid what might happen to you.” Thinking of the changes since the revolution, Mr. Klouda said, “I am still a very keen traveler, because this is something I appreciate — the simple freedom of movement. I remember that for years there was an iron curtain at the border with Austria — electric fences, soldiers to prevent your movement. And if you crossed the border, you were killed. Now, every weekend I go hiking to the border, and I zig-zag among the historic stones that have been there since the 1600’s, marking the border. This is what we call freedom, guys. Appreciate it for the rest of your lives.”

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