"another victim of the democratic system"
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 12 07:55:57 MST 2003
NY Times, Mar. 12, 2003
Student's Suicide Leads Czechs to Bout of Soul-Searching
By PETER S. GREEN
PRAGUE, March 10 — Nothing marked Zdenek Adamec's life so much as his
leaving it. An introverted 18-year-old with straight A's and no friends,
he led a remarkably unremarkable life.
He lived with his Catholic parents, came straight home from classes at
the technical high school near his home 60 miles outside Prague and
spent nearly all of his time working with computers and reading about
electricity and electronics.
Last Thursday, after nearly 24 hours spent wandering around Prague, he
made his way to the soot-stained balustrade of the National Museum,
doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. A passing
policeman tried to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, but Mr.
Adamec died in an ambulance 40 minutes later.
His death could have been simply that of a deeply depressed teenager.
But the spot where Mr. Adamec chose to die was less than a dozen steps
from a small bump of paving stones and a wooden cross embedded in the
sidewalk that mark the spot where 34 years ago, another young Czech,
19-year-old Jan Palach, burned himself to death.
Mr. Palach, a college student, immolated himself to protest the
Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and the ensuing
crackdown. Tens of thousands of Czechs and Slovaks filed past Mr.
Palach's coffin when he died a few weeks later, and he became a hero to
human rights campaigners.
Mr. Adamec's death is unlikely to resonate as loudly, but its manner and
his suicide note have struck a chord in a country increasingly nervous
about the future, with a weak government, a stagnant economy and rising
"The situation in this country is not the same as it was then," said
Jaroslava Moserova, a senator who as a physician in 1969 treated Mr.
Palach. "But I have to say there is a great feeling of despair arising
among young people today."
Mr. Adamec left behind a confused note blaming the state of the world,
contemporary Czech society and a raft of personal problems. Dozens of
bouquets were left at the site of his immolation, and Web sites carried
"I am another victim of the democratic system, where it is not people
who decide, but power and money," Mr. Adamec wrote.
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