Figuring we’d get either the runaround or the pat party line, we bypassed the Hrad and went straight to the phone book, where we found plenty of Václav Havels willing to take a stand on some tough issues.

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Mr. President, haven’t you changed your position on the German question, initially all but apologizing to Sudetens whose land was confiscated following World War 11, then recently qualifying your remarks with pointed observations about how the Czechs did not start the war?


Václav Havel, 60, construction engineer: I haven’t. I am following the status quo, which means I would never ever give them back anything and in fact I didn’t want to apologize for anything either.

Václav Havel, 70, pensioner: It was a mistake with the Sudetenland; it shouldn’t have happened. It was also a mistake to apologize.

Václav Havel, 32, businessman: Do you mean to offend a head of state?! No comment.

Václav Havel, 47, dentist: I, of course, stand on my word. I consider the fact that I apologized correct. The resolution of the other questions will take a long time.

Václav Havel, early twenties, profession unknown: I don’t have time to answer any of your stupid questions. I have a job to do. Don’t call again. [Hangs up].

You said that you would not accept another term as president if it was “just a flower-laying job,” yet you have had little success getting Parliament to act in accordance with your priorities. Does the title of president carry real powers with it, or is it more ceremonial, making you, as one critic has suggested, “a tragic figure from one of your own plays?”

V.H. #1: Of course I have power, but there is a constitution, too. I must say I made a mistake giving amnesty to [alleged forger] Marta Chadimova – I apologized publicly for it. It was supposed to be done after the trial.

V.H. #2: I definitely have less power than Bill Clinton. Let’s behonest here: I am a tragic figure from one of my own plays.

V.H. #3: You reporters are all the same: asking blah-blah questions. Go talk to my secretary.

V.H. #4: I am trying to be as objective as possible and not to use my power in the wrong way,..

As an international icon of human rights, why have you remained silent on subjects like the Czech Citizenship Law, which has been seen internationally as discriminatory to Romanies, many of whom are losing their legal rights in this country?

V.H. #1: I think that everyone has equal rights, the same for me as the Gypsies.

V.H. #2: I believe we should have the same rights for everybody. If someone feels bad about it, it’s his own fault.

V.H. #3: 1 don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

V.H. #4: Look, Romanies are no different from us at all. It’s just that they have a different culture, which in our society certainly causes them problems. Other than that, my Gypsy neighbor has the same rights as I do.

What’s the deal with the 16-year old babe you showed up with at the Stones concert?

V.H. #1: I don’t know who you’re talking about.

V.H. #2: She is my niece.

V.H. #3: How did you find out about her? She’s a friend of mine,

V.H. #4: I really think you should mind your own business.


– Originally published in Velvet Magazine. Foto by Zuzana Oplatková.