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On the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the death of Jan Palach and on the occasion of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union
The Embassy of the Czech Republic,
the University of Malta and KSU
Jan Palach
Jan Palach remembered at UoM (2009)
Jan Palach - Czech student who died for freedom in 1969.

  On the 16th January 2009 H.E. Vladimir Zavazal Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Malta together with Dr Mary-Anne Lauri, Pro Rector of the University of Malta, and The President and Council of the Kunsill Studenti Universitari (KSU) placed flowers next to the Plaque which commemorates Jan Palach at Students’ House on Campus. Also present for the event was Mr Tonio Casapinta, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic to Malta and Dr V. Nezval President of the Czech Compatriots Society, together with various Czech nationals resident in Malta.

Jan Palach was born on August 11, 1948. His parents, Josef and Libuse Palach, worked in their own sweets shop and business; later, when their business was seized as a result of the Communist takeover in 1948, his father made his living as an ordinary factory worker while his mother worked in a shop.

Jan was their second son, their first son, Jiri, was born seven years earlier. The family members were declared evangelicals. Jan Palach spent his childhood and youth in Vsetaty, where he also attended elementary school.

When Jan was thirteen, his father died. It was hard on the boy, as Josef Palach was very much the devoted father to his sons.

In 1963, Palach took the school entrance examinations and was accepted at the Gymnazium (preparatory high school for university) in Melnik. There his interests began to take shape. His favorite subject became history. He also tended toward other departments in the humanities - from childhood he had been an avid reader.

For this reason, when he graduated from secondary school in 1966, he tried to enroll at the Faculty of Philosophy at Prague's Charles University. Though he met the demands of the interviews, he wasn't accepted due to the large number of applicants.

So instead he began his studies at the Prague School of Economics, where he completed four semesters. While there he also experienced the social movement of 1968. The process was enthusiastically supported by a majority of the school's students, and Palach was doubtless among them.

Over his two summer breaks he traveled abroad both times. With his student work brigade he visited the Soviet Union, and he went to France to work on his own.

In the dramatic fall of 1968, Jan Palach had a personal reason for happiness: he managed to transfer into the history-political economics department of Charles University. There he took part actively in the November strikes against the occupation.

During his studies in Prague, Palach visited his mother regularly in Vsetaty.
He also went home for the emotional time of Christmas and the New Year. He returned to Prague during the first days of January 1969 and returned to his normal daily routine, filled with university responsibilities and consulting on his seminar work.

On January 15 he attended his uncle's funeral in Libis, not far from Vsetaty. On January 16 he took the morning train to Prague. At the dormitory he wrote his last letter, intended for publication. One copy he put in a briefcase, and three others he addressed to the Writers' Union, Lubos Holecek - an activist in the student movement, and Ladislav Zizka, a friend from the economics school, to whom he also included his personal greetings.

At around four o'clock that same day he stood at the ramp of the National Museum, at the top of Wenceslas Square, poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire. He ran burning across the intersection toward a grocery store, and fell by the road.
A transport worker threw his coat over him and according to witnesses, Palach was still conscious.

He was taken by ambulance to the department for burn victims on Legerova Street. Eighty-five percent of his body was covered with serious burns, the majority of them third-degree. He lived another three days and died on January 19, 1969.

His funeral took place on January 25 1969 in Prague. It was a grave and silently expressed universal dissent with the occupation of the country. Jan Palach is buried in Prague at the Olsany Cemeteries.


Jan Palach remembered at UoM (2009)


Photo caption: left to right
H. E. Vladimir Zavazal Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Malta, Mr Tonio Casapinta, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic to Malta, Dr Vitezslav Nezval, President of the Czech Compatriots Society, Mr Carl Grech, PRO Kunsill Studenti Universitari (KSU), Dr Mary-Anne Lauri, Pro Rector of the University of Malta, placed flowers next to the Plaque which commemorates Jan Palach at Students’ House on Campus.


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