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I envy Czechs Hável

Published on January 14, 2012 by: in: Politics

In remote times when Solidarity was starting the conflict between Lech Wałęsa and the government led by Tadeusz Mazowiecki, at first growing undetected, and later being quite open and abounding in spectacular fights, Vaclav Hável was holding the office in the neighbouring Czech Republic in Hradčany.

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Hável to Wawel

When Hável, who was granted almost dictatorial power (communists were on the defensive and the new parliament was chosen only in the middle of  1990), was creating a new order in Czechoslovakia and toning down conflicts and tension, in Poland the first symptoms of the disintegration of Solidarity were revealed. Poland lacked an authority who could calm the conflict and look for compromises – president Jaruzelski was an insurance policy for the Soviet Union and not an authority for anyone. The most important people of the Civic Parliamentary Caucus were slowly losing themselves in the irreversibly polarizing conflict which was also forcing them to choose either the entourage of Tadeusz Mazowiecki or the one of Lech Wałęsa being brought to power by the Kaczyński brothers.
It was at that time when the catchphrase “Hável to Wawel” appeared – Wawel was not associated with a necropolis but with the capital city status. I tried to find in the net who came up with this phrase but unsuccessfully. It seems to me that it emerged from the Confederation of Independent Poland and Leszek Moczulski as an idea for a Central-European federation, a form of personal union combining the Poles with Czechs and Slovaks. The idea seemed crazy to some extent – the surrounding countries were rather about to get divided, the systems were changing, the old constitutions did not match reality, the reality did not develop any new constitutions… The catchphrase found its followers but was absolutely unnoticed by those we would call the political mainstream today. Still it lived on for a few months – from my point of view being the first serious warning for the developing political elite (later rebuked with Tymiński, Lepper etc.) In comparison with Wałęsa and the Chief of the Presidential Chancellery Jarosław Kaczyński, dinner at Drawsko, wars for authority, prestige – Hável fighting like a tiger for the unity of the Czechs and Slovaks, handing in his resignation when he suffered defeat in this fight, Havel – a witty intellectualist following rules at the same time – it was like a dream of a leader we do not have.

True statesman and cool guy

Why was Hável supposed to be at Wawel? Because we were impressed with his naturalness, unforced ease of manner and modesty. He was a rare combination of a true statesman and a cool guy – who has something interesting to say and who everyone would like to drink Pilzner with. Talking and fighting for important things, he was far from pomposity, self-importance and screaming at others, all of which we experienced at that time because of warriors of the Centre Agreement, the Christian National Union and other. Since Hável treated freedom seriously and considered himself its guardian – being the president of Czech Republic, and having an incomparably lesser constitutional authority than his Polish counterparts, he could influence the reality of his country in an incomparably greater manner.
Hável did not end up at Wawel. He was the president of Czechoslovakia, later he was holding the office for two terms in Czech Republic – he became part of the history of our southern neighbour as its leading figure. Of course, the Velvet Revolution does not mean living in clover – he was accused of acting in Germans’ interest, of reaching an agreement with communists and carrying out the revolution in order to reprivatize his family estate – things we are already familiar with. He was a figure of  an outstanding stature – an intellectual who had always been faithful to his beliefs and values in politics. Poland lacked such president very much. We can only envy Czechs that they had one.

Translation: Marta Jagustyn-Pustelak

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About Marcin Celinski

Enterpreneur, manager. He was the first leader of the Liberal Forum.

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