SK RVŠ – UDU joint statement against neo-fascist commemoration to Jan Palach
On 19 January 1969, Jan Palach, a student at the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University in Prague, set himself on fire as an act of defiance against the Soviet occupation of his country which crushed the Prague’s Spring some months before.
On the 50th anniversary of his death, a neo-fascist association organised a concert in Verona (Italy), where the main bands linked to extreme-right movements were set to play to ‘commemorate’ Palach. Furthermore, the City and the Province of Verona gave the official sponsorship to the event.
This outrageous exploitation of the memory of a martyr for freedom propelled the response by Verona’s civil societies, especially students: the local branch of UdU (the University Students’ Union in Italy) in Verona, together with ‘Rete degli Studenti Medi Verona’ (the High School students’ union of Verona) organised on 19 January an event of commemoration in order to do justice to the memory of Palach.
Information about the attempt to misuse Jan Palach’s figure associating his image to extreme right movements has caused a great upheaval in the Czech Republic. On this basis, Palach’s colleagues from the Charles University in Prague organised a petition condemning his use as a symbol of intolerance and made a video to support UDU Verona’s union in their event to commemorate Jan Palach.
Thanks to the pressure put on the authorities, the theatre that was going to host the event withdrew its support. However, the Province and the City of Verona kept offering their sponsorship. Finally, this event took place -despite all the efforts against- in an industrial building in a small city called Vigasio.
The Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions from Czech Republic (SK RVŠ), together with the University Students’ Union in Italy (UdU), perceive the effort to appropriate the sacrifice of a Czech student, by the extremist scene as an attempt of trampling the thoughts and the legacy that Jan Palach still impersonates in his act.