New York to mark late president’s 80th birthday with “Václav Havel Day”

Source: Radio Praha / / By Dominik Jůn /

The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, is to declare September 28 to be “Václav Havel Day”, according to the Czech Consulate in the American city. Numerous events are to surround the roughly three-day commemoration, including performances of Havel’s plays and the unveiling of a bust of the late Czech president.

I spoke with Michael Žantovský, the head of Prague’s Václav Havel Library, and began by asking him to detail what was being planned:

“The mayor of New York has declared September 28 to be Václav Havel Day. This is the name day of the former president, and is also a national holiday in the Czech Republic honouring the legendary founder of the country St. Wenceslas. Havel shared a name with this figure. For the event, the Czech Centre in New York – the Václav Havel Library Foundation, as well as our Library in Prague are joining forces. Amnesty International is preparing a series of “Art for Amnesty” presentations of Havel’s plays. There will also be a photographic exhibition and the unveiling of a bust of Havel in the Czech Centre. There will also be a dinner to honour the late president.”

Will this become a permanent annual event in New York?

“This year is the 80th anniversary of the birth of Václav Havel (October 5), so I believe the major is honouring this event. I don’t know what the plans are for future years.”

So what has led New York mayor Bill de Blasio to apparently make this decision? Was there any lobbying involved by the Czech side?

“I believe our friends and partners at the Václav Havel Library Foundation in New York had something to do with the decision.”

You serve as both the head of the Czech Václav Havel Library and as a board member at the New York-based Foundation. Presumably this means you are helping to promote Havel’s legacy not just in the Czech Republic but abroad as well.

“This is a joint effort by our two organisations and the Art for Amnesty programme. There will be other events, too, in New York, Washington, Florida, and probably elsewhere too in the US commemorating the 80th anniversary.”

The information we have so far is that Bill de Blasio has not yet formally decided to make the declaration about September 28. Can you confirm that the decision has indeed been made?

“I understand the mayor has made that decision. Whether he has officially made a public declaration yet, I believe he has, but I am not 100 percent certain.”