At times like these, Ambassador of the Czech Republic Libor Sečka says it’s important to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution
It was 30 years ago that student demonstrations in Prague and other Czech and Slovak cities started a chain of events that led to the fall of the communist regime. In a non-violent yet decisive manner, the societal and economic system of our country was transformed. That’s why this moment in history came to be known as the Velvet Revolution. The changes in what was then Czechoslovakia were part of a wider political shift in Europe, with multiple countries across Central and Eastern Europe setting off on the path towards renewing or establishing democracy, the rule of law and a market economy. The Iron Curtain fell, and Europe was reunited and rejuvenated by a mighty wave of freedom. These developments could never have happened without the steady and effective support of many governments, institutions and individuals for which human rights and democracy have played and continue to play a crucial role.
I am very glad that I can now think back on the steadfast and principled stance of the British politicians and citizens who helped us significantly in our steps towards democracy. We remain grateful to them. This moment in history enormously strengthened the bonds of friendship between the modern Czech Republic and the UK.
It is also worth remembering that we started down the road to rebuilding our society under the slogan ‘Return to Europe,’ which, more than seeking a place of stability, prosperity and security, meant trying to find a new anchor in the value system of the Western world. The symbolic confirmation of this new course was the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO and the European Union. The UK now is leaving the European Union on the basis of the democratically expressed will of its citizens. Seemingly, therefore, our paths will diverge. Whatever our shared direction may be, in one way we will stay inseparably connected: in defence of the dignity and freedom of individuals, respect for their rights, furthering democracy as the foundation of contemporary society, and, of course, a shared responsibility for the development of Europe and the whole world in a wide range of aspects. These are monumental tasks. We still have a lot of work to do together.
The Velvet Revolution changed our lives for the better. Therefore, we have cause not only to remember it but to celebrate it. I am glad that our commemoration will be the Velvet Ball of Freedom — the very first Czech ball ever to take place in London. On 15 November 2019 we will become participants in a minor historical event. I firmly believe that the atmosphere of the ball will do justice to this important anniversary, and that we will carry an unforgettable experience in our hearts for a long time to come. I would also like to thank all our partners and sponsors, without whose efforts and contributions we would not have been able to commit to such an ambitious project. We would especially like to thank representatives of the City of London, who showed us not only support, but also deep understanding and sympathy. From a long line of other partners, I would like to specifically mention Czech Radio and Škoda UK, which from the beginning shared not only our enthusiasm, but also our temporary disappointments; even these, however, ultimately strengthened our lines of trust and cooperation.