For a Decent Slovakia gathering: The legacy of November 1989 lives on

The organisers and participants stressed the importance of the 2020 general election.

(Source: SME)

There are several parallels between November 1989’s Velvet Revolution and today. This is what the organisers and participants during the event organised by the For a Decent Slovakia movement told a 7,000-strong crowd in Bratislava's Freedom Square on November 17.

“We’re standing here today to give the relay baton to the current generation and stress that it’s still necessary to fight for the November 1989 values,” said Filip Vagač, one of the representatives of student movement that started the Velvet Revolution.

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Both the organisers and invited guests who addressed the crowd stressed the importance of the upcoming 2020 general election. Although society has achieved much during the last 30 years, of which it can be proud, the fight for a better and more democratic society is not over yet.

“We shouldn’t stop requiring politicians, judges, prosecutors and public officials to work on making Slovakia a better country,” said Karolína Farská, one of the organisers. “Civic society is more sensitive to injustice. People aren’t afraid to express their opinion if governing the country is in danger. And these gatherings prove it.”

Many called on the opposition to forget their egos and start cooperating.

Society still needs to fight for democracy

Another representative of the student movement that initiated the Velvet Revolution, Zuzana Mistríková, reminded the crowd of the November 1989 events and the reasons why the students in Slovakia decided to respond to what was happening in the Czech Republic. She stressed the importance of today, saying that “it bounds us to give the other generations authentic information about what the student movement was about”.

“We have a chance to refresh November 1989,” Mistríková said.

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She also stressed the importance of the public being present and engaged since without them “no movement would be able to carry out changes to have a better and fairer society”.

Another speaker, Dutch writer Chris Keulemans, thanked the organisers for organising the protest gatherings and showing that the post-1989 generation has found an alternative to fight corruption and injustice in society. He also stressed the importance of street protests to achieve changes.

“To be decent is the most complicated thing in the world,” he said, adding that to battle injustice means to battle all injustice on all levels.

Elections as a tool for change

Several speakers, including the representatives of journalists, parents, teachers, health care workers and state employees, stressed the need to fight for a life in a better country, particularly after the recent revelations of ties between Slovak politicians and organised crime figures.

“We have to be prepared to work hard so as not to lose democracy and have something to pass on to other generations,” said Beata Balogová, editor-in-chief of the Sme daily.

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The road to the change is not easy, though, Vagač said. This has been proven by the events of the past few weeks, during which lots of dirt has been revealed. In his opinion, there are not many possible solutions.

“The election is close, and now it’s time to stop fighting,” Vagač said. “Let’s show we’re able to make an agreement, that politicians are able to make an agreement.”

Other speakers stressed the need for a change that can be shown in the elections, and told the crowd that they can contribute to it, too.

“Murderers can’t rule Slovakia,” said Peter Zajac, co-founder of the Public Against Violence (VPN) movement.

The legacy of November 1989 and the murdered couple Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová will be fulfilled only when people take away the power of mobsters, murderers and racists, he added.

Despite our differences, we need to follow a higher goal: to defeat evil, hatred and corruption, said Robert Mistrík, who withdrew from the presidential fight earlier this year.

“We want to live in a better country,” he said, stressing that to do it, the leaders of the democratic opposition need to join forces.

Čaputová thanked those contributing to freedom

Other events to commemorate the November 1989 events were held across the capital on November 17.

Earlier that day, President Zuzana Čaputová commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and the victims of the Communist Regime close to the Gate of Freedom in Devín.

The event was attended by several state representatives, contemporaries, and dozens of people.

We do not have the right to forget, Čaputová stressed in her speech.

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“Those who chose at the time of oppression to revolt against the regime chose the most decent alternative of human existence, and thus they deserve our respect,” Čaputová said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

She praised everybody who contributed to the fight for our freedom, including those who were imprisoned and persecuted by the former regime.

Another event, titled “The Public for Justice”, was organised by the opposition parties and the personalities of the Velvet Revolution at the SNP Square in Bratislava.

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