Jan Palach’s Monument
Mělník, Jungmann Gardens
“He was a quiet student, interested in political events that he followed in the daily press. He had very good relationships with his classmates and was quite popular. He eagerly helped students who were falling behind, especially with history.”
From Jan Palach’s assessment written by the headmaster of the secondary school in Mělník, 27 February 1969
From 1963 to 1966, Jan Palach attended a grammar school in Mělník, which was transformed to a USSR-inspired general secondary school (SVVŠ) in the 1960s. In 1990, the school was renamed “Jan> Palach Grammar School”.
In front of the grammar school, there is a monument to Jan Palach. It was designed by the Hungarian sculptor, András Beck (1911-1985), who had lived in Paris since 1948. The sculpture called “In Honour of Jan Palach” was created in the late 1960s, and it is a stylized silhouette of a burning figure.
In September 2007, a miniature of Beck’s sculpture was placed in the Jan Palach Grammar School in Prague, which accepted it as a gift from the French Association des Amis du Sculpteur András Beck (Society of Friends of the Sculptor András Beck). The society then offered the original sculpture to the Czech Republic, but it was rejected by the Czech ambassador who said that it should be taken to France.
Nevertheless, Mělník representatives expressed their interest in the sculpture as they had been considering some way of commemorating Jan Palach’s attendance at the local grammar school. The cast, transport, and installation of the monument were coordinated under a Czech-French project financed from a fund-raising campaign initiated by the town.
The unveiling of the monument on 19 January 2009 roused great interest from the general public. Many politicians and diplomats attended the ceremony, among others, French Ambassador Pierre Lévy, Hungarian Ambassador László Szöke, and Czech President Václav Klaus.
The sculpture stands on a base with the following inscription both in Czech and French: “A LIFE FOR FREEDOM, IN HONOUR OF JAN PALACH * 11 August 1948 † 19 January 1969, Czech-French project 19 January 2009”.