October 5, 1936 - December 18, 2011
Václav Havel was born in Prague in 1936, into a well-known Prague business and intellectual family. His grandfather built Prague's Lucerna Palace, his uncle founded the Barrandov Film Studio.
After completing his basic military service (1957-1959), he worked as a stage technician (first at the ABC Theatre and from 1960 at the Na zábradlí Theatre) and studied dramaturgy at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (DAMU). In 1964, his first play, The Garden Party, was staged.
During the Prague Spring, Václav Havel was active in the Club of Independent Writers and the Club of Committed Non-Partisans. He consistently spoke out against political repression. In 1975 he wrote an open letter to President Gustav Husák, and the culmination of this activity was the publication of Charter 77 in January 1977. These political activities cost him 5 years of his life in prison. He was perceived as a prisoner of conscience by the international human rights organisation Amnesty International.
In April 1979, he co-founded the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted.
Václav Havel was imprisoned twice more in the second half of the 1980s, most recently in 1989. In November 1989, Václav Havel became the leader of the "Velvet Revolution".
The social movement then culminated on 29 December 1989, when Václav Havel, as a candidate of the Civic Forum, was elected President of Czechoslovakia by the Federal Assembly. In his inauguration speech he promised to bring the country to free elections, which he fulfilled in the summer of 1990.
Václav Havel was elected President for the second time by the new Federal Assembly on 5 July 1990.
Václav Havel's positions during the years of totalitarianism earned him the status of a recognized moral authority. The depth of his views on the problems of contemporary civilisation and the sophistication of his formulations made him a respected figure, unique among politicians, even in his new constitutional office.
After the dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation, Václav Havel ended his several months in seclusion and was elected the first Czech president after the elections on 26 January 1993. His wife Olga, alongside the head of state, devoted herself mainly to charity work. Inspired by her work in the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted, she founded the Committee of Good Will in 1990, whose activities focused on helping the physically and mentally disabled. In January 1996, however, she succumbed after a serious illness.
Subsequently, in 1997, Václav Havel married Dagmar Havel Veškrnová, who interrupted her successful acting career in order to take on the role of First Lady of the Czech Republic.
Until 2003, she fulfilled the duties arising from her position as the wife of the Head of State.
In 1997, she founded the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97, where she is still active as the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees.
In 1998, Václav Havel was re-elected President of the Czech Republic by both chambers of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, a position he held until 2003.
Although Václav Havel succumbed to an insidious illness on 18 December 2011, he remained an icon of the fight for freedom and democracy not only in the Czech Republic but throughout the world. He was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his stand.