What Today’s 14-Year-Olds Know About Nov. 17

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the student uprisings that led to the Velvet Revolution. Saturday’s MF Dnes had an enlightening man-on-the-street interview with 14-year-olds who were either infants or not even born. The translation is mine:

Å těpánka Růžičková, Plzeň
People went on the 17th of November with carnations against the policemen, and former President Václav Havel spoke on the square. The Velvet Revolution meant the end of the communist regime and the birth of a democratic state.

Václav Foff, Liberec
On Nov. 17, 1989 there were student demonstrations in Prague. I think some student was really beaten and injured. People then protested against the politicians, against president Gustáv Husák and Miloš Jakeš.

Gabriela Smetanová, Hradec Králové
In November there was a fight for freedom and democracy. I don’t know why it was, but I think it had something to do with the end of communism. The main figures I don’t remember. I don’t know.

Kamil Bureš, Praha
November 17? That’s the 85th anniversary of the end of World War I. Or not. That’s today. Yeah, it’s the end of communism in Czechoslovakia. And wat is the Velvet Revolution? I don’t remember. All I know about President Havel is that he was put in prison.

Klára Hlinecká, Příbram
November 17? Yeah, that’s a school holiday. But what happened on that day, I don’t know very much. Yeah, it was something to do with students. They were beaten. What was the totalitarian regime? You couldn’t go abroad. There was no freedom. People were forbidden to study, if you weren’t with the communists. The main figures? Václav Havel – he was the president. Dubček? That doesn’t say much to me. In school it isn’t observed very much. We haven’t learned it yet in our classes.

Andrea Žaloudíková, Karlovy Vary
I’ve heard something about the Velvet Revolution, which began November 17 with a protest march by students in Prague. They went to Václavské náměstí, to the monument of St. Václav. In clashes one student was injured and then died. Students protested, because they wanted more freedom. Why they called it the Velvet Revolution, I really don’t know. I know that everything was led by Václav Havel, but I don’t know the other people.

Martin Voldřich, Praha
I don’t know what happened on the seventeenth of November, 1989. And the Velvet Revolution? That doesn’t say anything to me. I’m not very interested in it. We haven’t taken it in school.

Jakub Fabík, Brno
I feel there were big demonstrations so that the communists would leave and stop occupying us. In the end they left and they called it the Velvet Revolution, so Václav Havel should have something to do with it.

Zuzana Gratiasová, Liberec
When they say the 17th of November, 1989, it means to me the fall of communism and also the Velvet Revolution. The seventeenth of November for us was preceeded by a freeing of political relations. That day in Prague, there was a police raid against university students. At that time Czech President Václav Havel started to become politically active. In Russia they had … I think … Gorbachev?

Jan Bernát, Olomouc
I only know that the Velvet Revolution had something in common with the communists. I think they left the country. I recall the name Václav Havel, the then-president.

Tereza Ondrušková, Olomouc
This doesn’t mean anything to me. I really don’t know.

Tadeáš Lhoták, České Budějovice
Students stood up for their schools. But where was it? In Prague maybe? I don’t know any other details. The jingling of keys on Václavské náměstí? I don’t know about that. But then Havel became President. We haven’t had that in history yet, and in our family we don’t talk about it. It’s enough for them that it’s a holiday and we’re going to our grandmother’s.

Tomáš Vlček, Plzeň
What comes to me when you say Velvet Revolution? Havel. The fall of the communist regime and the birth of a democratic state. What happened, I don’t know. Brezhnev died?

Kateřina Brázdová, Ostrava
Several of my friends have birthdays on that day. I also know that something happened, but I can’t remember what it was.

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