Michaela Bakala remembering Václav Havel

October 3, 2016
Michaela Bakala shares her memories of Vaclav Havel on the occasion of what would have been his 80th birthday: "We had a lot in common in the final decade of his life and that is not going to go away. It extends far beyond the Václav Havel Library, which my husband Zdeněk began to support more than 10 years ago and which we continue to actively look after. What I have in mind above all else is the mutual friendship in the final years of his life, a period that could be described as his personal “Leaving”. I endeavour to keep my memories of Václav Havel very much alive. I oftentimes remember him and say to myself: “It’s good that Václav did not live to see this!” or “What would he have to say about this?” I have no doubt that he would prove an encouragement to us all in this day and age. He would quickly grasp the reasons behind the current successes of the various populists, and would know why Europe is becoming weaker and why we fear the refugees. He would also easily see through the Russian propaganda and attempts at undermining the values he fought to embody. And he would not be content with grasping the issues: he would do his best to explain and solve them. The more I learn about the contemporary world and its politicians, the more I appreciate his qualities as well as each moment I was fortunate enough to spend in his company. Václav loved to talk, but he was a good listener too. He never wanted to grab all the attention for himself. And he knew how to enjoy life, cherish its small things and have fun. He liked pretty things. He would design dresses and jewellery for his wife Dáša. He would draw the items and describe them for someone else to make them. He took a keen interest in architecture and urban development. He would for example describe to me his ideal vision for the development of Prague Castle and the Deer Moat (Jelení příkop) all the way to Letná Plain. Václav was a warm person. He endeavoured to make the world a better place. He asked questions, sought answers and described things as he saw them. He frequently had his doubts, but at the same time he was not afraid of expressing his opinions. He was far from perfect and he was aware of that. He would sometimes give the impression of a fragile boy who needed protecting. Even if he spoke in an apparently quiet voice, and his diction was not flawless, he never had problems gaining attention and natural respect. People felt comfortable and relaxed in his presence. He, on the other hand, would feel out of his comfort zone if there was tension around him. He disliked having to say unpleasant things and tried his hardest not to hurt anyone. He would always take into consideration the needs of those around him, sometimes even to the detriment of his closest ones. Václav had the courage to remain an idealist. That is not to say that he would not acknowledge the existence of any wrong, hypocrisy and outright evil, but he would always look for the best qualities in everyone. He gave them his trust and had sympathy for personal shortcomings. When speaking or writing about morality and values, he always did so with sincere humility. And he was able to forgive. I never saw him bitter or jaundiced. What a world of difference from his successors in the presidential office... It moves me to remember that we were able to be with him right up until his leaving and last farewell. When we celebrated his 75th birthday in October 2011, he smiled as he told us that when we met again in January he would be much less busy. He was prepared for his leaving. But he stays with us for ever." Michaela Bakala
Václav Havel and and his wife Dagmar are godparents to our son, who in September 2009 was baptised by evangelical priest Štěpán Hájek in Brno. Václav told us that he would consent to the role of godparent and was happy to attend the christening. What he was refusing to do for friends, however, was to serve as a witness at a wedding. Apparently because those weddings which he did witness were followed by marriages that did not turn out well...
In 2010, Václav and his wife Dagmar joined us to journey to Cape Town. It would prove to be our last long trip together. Apart from his private meeting with F. W. de Klerk, the same-aged former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Václav enjoyed the sunshine and a really good rest, most gladly by the pool. Zdeněk introduced Václav to the most interesting and best things amid the surroundings, including good wine and food. Not even at that time did we realise that we were on what was our last joint family holiday and that a planned working trip to Georgia would not take place. Václav had thoroughly prepared for it, but unfortunately his health did not allow for it...

More news