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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Havel recalls eve-of-invasion party
Vaclav Havel at Plastic People performance
Mr Havel became a focal point for the dissident movement

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has marked the 35th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia with a nostalgia trip to the town where he helped to organise resistance.

On the evening of 20 August 1968, the 32-year-old Havel was in the north Bohemian town of Liberec, attending a party with an actor friend, Jan Triska.

The following day, Soviet tanks rolled into town.

We were enjoying such a fun summer here in 1968, constantly listening to the news
Vaclav Havel
Thirty-five years on, the two men got together to relive those fateful few days.

They were joined by the Plastic People of the Universe, the underground band that provided a rallying point for Czechoslovak dissidents during the post-invasion period of "normalisation".

"We were enjoying such a fun summer here in 1968, constantly listening to the news," Mr Havel told students and journalists gathered at the library in Liberec.

Anti-invasion articles

However, he added, "we had a strange feeling that the summer could not end well."

Soviet tanks enter Liberec main square
A number of Liberec's inhabitants died in the 1968 clashes
By the late summer of 1968, the Soviet Union was becoming increasingly disturbed by the way the Prague Spring was developing, but few Czechs and Slovaks believed it would intervene directly.

Liberec resisted the arrival of the Warsaw Pact troops more strongly than anywhere else, apart from Prague.

Several people were killed and dozens injured.

Mr Havel and Mr Triska were immediately caught up in resistance to the invasion, and ended up staying in Liberec for a week.

They contributed by writing anti-invasion articles and taking part in local radio and TV broadcasts.

More free time

The Plastic People were friends of Mr Havel's and during the Communist era they met to play and record at his summer house in Hradecek - to the intense annoyance of the authorities.

"Truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred"
Vaclav Havel
Click below to read more quotes

Some of them were imprisoned by the regime.

The Plastic People gave a concert on Thursday as part of the Liberec anniversary events.

Then Mr Havel and Mr Triska reminisced about their August 1968 experiences and took part in a public debate.

Many of those present quizzed Havel on his aims, now that he is a man of leisure.

He admitted to having more free time than he used to as president - though much less than he had expected - but declined to comment on any precise plans.

Pictures reproduced with kind permission of the Severoceske Muzeum v Liberci and Czech photographer Ivana Vykypelova

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
European press review
21 Aug 03  |  Europe
Excerpts: Havel's farewell speech
15 Jan 03  |  Media reports


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