Thousands of people, including many students and staff, took part in a commemorative event at Charles University on Thursday, 4 January – fourteen days after an unprecedented tragedy unfolded at the Faculty of Arts. A commemorative procession honoured the 14 people whose lives were tragically cut short on 21 December, and served as a symbolic embrace of the faculty as it mourns and recovers in this difficult period. The school has emphasised January as a month for the faculty – Měsíc pro fakultu – or Four Weeks for the Faculty of Arts for people to express their solidarity and also hope.
“We will show the world that hatred will not win and that we intend to live and study on. We will not ignore that the tragedy happened, quite the opposite. We will proudly carry our response to it forward like a torch and show that we are stronger!” With this text, students from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University invited all comers to attend the commemorative procession and a symbolic embrace of ‘Filda’ as the Faculty of Arts is affectionately known (Filda referring to the faculty of Philosophy or Arts) which they organised as a commemoration of those who lost their lives and as an expression of togetherness and solidarity.
Eva Lehečková, the dean of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, addressed the crowd of several thousand at the meeting point outside the historic Carolinum, where a sea of candles and flowers flowed from the evening of 21 December. Speaking from a window of the nearby Estates Theatre, Lehečková praised and appreciated the university community, which has shown that it stands together in difficult moments. She thanked all those who have been tirelessly helping during the last fortnight.
The school’s rector, Milena Králíčková, reflected on how students had responded in such difficult times: “I am personally encouraged by the words of our students who say that hate will not win - we will live and we will continue to study. Our academic community is wounded but not broken. Our procession today through the streets of Prague towards the Faculty of Arts will also symbolise our path to healing,” she said.
Dean Lehečková also added a request: “Let us stand together not only in these days, but also in the weeks and months to come. We will need each other. Let us work together to bring back and revive our academic life. In spite of the many feelings and thoughts that overwhelm us in these moments, let us talk together about the future and about hope. Or as Paul Valéry put it in his famous poem, The wind is rising, we must try to live!”
The silent commemorative procession started from the Carolinum through the streets of Prague to the Faculty of Arts on Palach Square. The dean and rector together with representatives of the students carried a lamp with a light from the memorial site symbolising hope.
It was the wind that provided a truly symbolic new beginning, when a gust accompanied by rain extinguished the lamp at the corner of the Faculty of Arts building, which was then relit using candles from the sister memorial site on Palach Square. The attendees formed a symbolic physical embrace around the faculty building with several rows of people holding hands. Bells rang for fourteen minutes in memory of the 14 people – students and teachers – who lost their lives on 21 December 2023.
The entire gathering concluded with a performance by student choirs in front of the Rudolfinum concert hall and gallery also on Palach Square. As the main building of the Faculty of Arts will be closed for at least one more month due to necessary repairs, Palach Square will be a central hub for meeting and renewal of the faculty community and a space for expressing solidarity and remembrance. Individual events will be gradually published on the website mesicprofakultu.ff.cuni.cz. A commemorative flame will burn in front of the Rudolfinum building throughout the month.
The latest information on the tragic event can be found here. For anyone seeking psychological help or support, always remember, you are not alone and help is available. Don't hesitate and please get in touch.