In the 1970s and ‘80s, Czech and Polish dissidents, including Václav Havel and Adam Michnik, held clandestine talks in the Krkonoše Mountains, which forms part of the border between the two countries. This Saturday a new tourist trail will open to mark those legendary meetings.
The first undercover meeting of Czech and Polish dissidents took place on July 28, 1978, below the summit of mount Sněžka. Forty years later, the Czech town of Malá Úpa is opening a new tourist trail, called Freedom at the Border, to remind people of that landmark gathering. Klára Stejkalová works for the initiative Paměť Krkonoš, which helped to prepare the project:
“The dissidents met below the summit of Sněžka. The first meeting was attended by Václav Havel, Marta Kubišová and Tomáš Petřivý, who initiated the meeting. From the Polish side there was Adam Michnik, Jacek Kuroń, Jan Majewski, Jan Lityński and Antoni Macierewicz.
“The meeting, which was supposed to be just a friendly picnic, established a tradition of Czech-Polish meetings and was mentioned by the foreign press. The British newspaper The Times and France’s Libération described it as a ground-breaking meeting, which united the oppositions from the two totalitarian countries against the tyrant.”
A planned further meeting, set to take place on October 1, 1978, was prevented by both states’ secret police, which arrested and harassed a number of dissidents. The tradition was then interrupted for nearly 10 years, but resumed again in August 1987, first in the Jeseníky mountains in the northeast of the country and then again in the Krkonoše mountains.
To mark the opening of the educational trail, a concert, theatre performance and debates will be held in Horní Malá Úpa on the Czech-Polish border on Saturday. According to Mrs. Hrubá, the meeting should serve as a reminder that freedom is something we cannot take for granted. She also explains the choice of date:
“We chose this date on purpose as a traditional meeting of the Communists takes place at the nearby Pomezní boudy on the same day. Last year we decided to have a meeting on our own, just 100 metres from the Communists, to mark things that we consider important.
The trail, which has altogether six stops, starts in Horní Malá Úpa and runs past a former customs office on the Czech-Polish border.
“You don’t have to strictly follow the trail, because each of the panels makes sense on its own, and explains some aspect of the clandestine meetings.
“It explains how the dissidents met and how they exchanged information. One of the panels is also dedicated to the opening of the border and to the situation after the Velvet Revolution.”
After the fall of communism in 1989, the newly elected president Václav Havel again initiated Czech-Polish pilgrimages to the summit of Mount Sněžka. The first one took place in 1990.
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