Truth and Love will Win over Lies and Hatred - 1990

"Please don't talk about the good Soldier Schweik," implored Vladislav Hancil, the former head of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. "I don't like this book, it's too painful for me...because it's so true. We Czechs, we're not fighters, but how could we be...between Germany and Russia? In spite of this, we do find ways to come out of dreadful situations all right."


It didn't look like events were going to be "all right" when, on the night of November 17, 1989, the Czechoslovak police assaulted a peaceful student demonstration. What began as a defiant stand by the communist government, however, quickly became a last stand as Czechoslovaks turned out en masse to protest the faltering regime. Chanting the slogan "Truth and love will win over lies and hatred," the people, led by Vaclav Havel and Civic Forum, brought down the government.


In June of 1990 Stephen Heintz was in Czechoslovakia as an election observer and witnessed the initial jubilation as men and women carrying bouquets of flowers, tears streaming down their cheeks, voted with a clear conscience for the first time in their lives. Within a year Stephen was working for the Institute and heading the newly opened Prague Centre, a major training facility located in a villa outside the Czech capital. In those days, the Prague Centre was situated downtown, on the riverbank in the beautiful historic home of the Havel family, and Prague became the European headquarters and heartbeat of EWI on the continent. Thousands of community and national leaders were trained and scores of projects conducted from Prague throughout the region. The library where President Havel once wrote became EWI's conference facility, keeping up the spirit of open thought and dialogue.


Ten years after the November Changes of 1989, the Prague Centre organized one of the most fascinating conferences since the end of the Cold War. In what Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash noted was one of the exceptionally rare cases wherein "it really was true...that today's speakers need no introduction," Czech President Vaclav Havel and EWI hospitably received former Presidents George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa, Helmut Kohl, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the wife of the late President of France, Danielle Mitterrand. If the "10 Years After" Conference commemorated a remembrance of things past, other conferences would work toward the future. One such conference was certainly the Bardejov Conference of 1991 in Slovakia.



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