|The Legacy of Václav Havel and Charter 77 and the European Day of the Righteous|
The civic association ART FOR PUBLIC o.s., in cooperation with the Italian association GARIWO, organised the press conference ‘The Legacy of Václav Havel and Charter 77 and the European Day of the Righteous’, which joined also the main speaker Gabriele Nissim, an Italian journalist and writer and chair of the association GARIWO.
In 1986, in cooperation with Václav Havel and representatives of Charter 77, Gabriele Nissim filmed a secret documentary on Czechoslovak opposition and resistance to the Communist regime. This never before seen documentary was screened at the press conference.
Gabriel Nissim was present at the screening. He also presented a petition aimed at the European Parliament asking MEPs to declare March 6 the European Day of Remembrance for the Righteous. The day should be established to commemorate those who have fought against totalitarian regimes and who were not afraid to risk their lives to save others.
The conference aimed to draw society’s attention to the petition in connection with the dissident Václav Havel, who can be regarded as a ‘righteous man’ for his tireless and consistent resistance to the regime.
Gabriele Nissim is an Italian journalist, writer, essayist, and historian. For years he has been interested in central and eastern Europe. During his long career as a journalist he has focused consistently on the theme of ‘righteous men and women’, people who are willing to risk their lives for others. Gabriele Nissim’s mission is to find, study, and relay the stories of those who under totalitarianism were not afraid to risk their lives for others.
Nissim has devoted countless conferences to ‘righteous people’ and written several publications on the subject. He is very interested in is the fate of the Jewish community under communism and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although he is a prominent member of the Jewish community in Milan, he has focused not just on the issue of the extermination of the Jews under Nazism but also on the theme of genocide on a more general level, for instance, the events in Armenia, Rwanda, Cambodia, or the former Yugoslavia. In his latest book, published in 2011, the title of which could be translated as ‘Unreasonable Good. The Mystery of the Righteous’, he reflects on acts of goodness under extremist regimes. He examines the theme through the writings of greater thinkers, including Hannah Arendt, Hans Jonas, Jan Patočka and Václav Havel. He has concentrated particularly on those righteous men and women who in the states of eastern and central Europe and in the satellite states were oppressed by the Soviet regime, those who stood up for dignity and freedom in totalitarian communist regimes, and those whose courage made possible the re-unification of Europe. In late 1986 he met personally with Václav Havel in Prague, where he went to collect material to mark the 10th anniversary of Charter 77.Because of his activities Nissim was under constant surveillance by the Czechoslovak secret police.
A meeting with Václav Havel
During his stay in Prague Nissim met multiple times with Václav Havel and representatives of Charter 77; several recordings of the meetings were filmed secretly using a small hand-held Sony video camera and in open areas to prevent the secret police from listening in. No one noticed the videos when he was leaving because the border police thought that the cassettes were just music recordings. With this stroke of luck the material safely made its way to Italy. ‘It was beyond the imagination of those obtuse party heads that such an invention could even exist’, is how Václav Havel commented on the story when he heard it. The regime became a victim of its own backwardness and its isolation from the outside world. The meeting gave rise to a documentary titled ‘Young Anti-Politicians’, which was screened for the first time in the Czech Republic during the conference, where Gabriele Nissim spoke about the quiet civic resistance movement against the regime.
The last letter to Václav Havel
The meeting was important for both participants and they remained in contact even afterwards. Gabriele Nissim was hoping that Václav Havel would be able to sign the petition calling on European ministers to make March 6 the European Day of Remembrance of the Righteous. Unfortunately, the letter requesting his signature reached Prague too late. The petition was officially presented during the conference that was followed the screening of the documentary (8 February 2012).
Gabriele Nissim’s other activitie’s
Nissim’s work is not however confined to journalism. He is also the initiator of the construction of a museum devoted to Dimitar Peshev in the Bulgarian town of Kustendil, and he supported the creation of a garden in Milan commemorating victims of genocide, where in 2004 the first Italian park in remembrance of gulag victims was also created. In 2007 in the town of Levashovo near St Petersburg he unveiled a monument dedicated to the thousands of victims of Soviet totalitarianism in Italy. Gabriele Nissim is also the chair of the Italian association Gariwo (www.gariwo.net), which focuses on the problem of genocide around the world. Nissim also initiated the appeal to the European Parliament to declare March 6 the European Day of Remembrance of the Righteous. The day should be established to commemorate those who have fought against totalitarian regimes and who have not feared to risk their lives to protect others.
Press conference in Prague
Czech MEPs, top public figures, and prominent figures in Czech social and cultural life was invited to attend the event. Also invited were representatives of Charter 77 and organisations upholding the memory of victims of totalitarian regimes and those who are fighting against the new forms of totalitarianism that we are witnessing in Europe (racism, discrimination, and corruption). Representatives of the main media are also invited to the conference. During the conference participants had an opportunity to support the initiative by signing the petition.
copyright © 2012 Art For Public, o.s.