500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Meeting Vaclav Havel – Play-write, Poet and first President of The Czech Republic


A couple of weeks ago our friends phoned and asked us to meet in Prague. Now, communication with our friends has never been the most precise art – there’s a linguistic chasm between us, though English and Czech are improving on each side. The first time our friend Jerry called us, we were not sure if he was calling to invite us to their cottage for the weekend, or just to talk about Mike dancing like a chicken.

Last year they introduced us to a friend of theirs who is a radio producer – I told her the story of my grandfather and the bomb (his life had been saved during the second world war as a result of the actions of Czechoslovakian saboteurs). Helena said she’d like to make a radio programme about it & we were made up by the idea that this story could be shared with people in the Czech Republic. The second world war was such a dark time here, but there were acts of astonishing heroism – and reprisal. The land was occupied, and many were forced to work in German munitions factories.

So, the interview was recorded a couple of months ago, a few days after our chimney fire, when, for a second time, we were saved by Czechs filling something with sand. During the interview, we mentioned that our chimneys had been cleaned by a man called Vaclav Havel – namesake of the first President of the Czech Republic.

Jerry & Vladka mentioned something about an interview, and insisted that we had to be in Prague – though we were pretty vague about what was going on. We arrived at the Fireman’s Theatre, and they told us that Vaclav Havel was coming. ‘Vaclav Havel our chimney sweep?’ ‘yes, yes, the chimney sweep’.

There seemed to be a pretty big crowd of people at the theatre to see a chimney sweep. So… it transpired that we were there for a live interview with the former president and his second wife, Daša. Vaclav Havel spoke Czech in a beautifully slow and (therefore) comprehensible way, and seemed genuinely delighted when Vaclav Havel the chimney sweep was introduced to him.

After the interview the radio producer asked us back stage and introduced us to the president. Unfortunately I was totally tongue tied and, blank minded, didn’t tell Vaclav Havel the story of my grandfather and the bomb. Another time.

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