One by one they are leaving us. First it was Corazon Aquino, whose People Power Revolution of 1986 fired imaginations around the world and ignited the possibility of People Power. Half a world away, in grey, central European streets of Prague, another unlikely pro-democracy leader was emerging — a playwright, not a politician, who would inspire what would become known as the Velvet Revolution that was the first evidence that the Berlin Wall would, in a very short time, begin to crumble. Havel was a famously humble politician whose Velvet Revolution began with a non-violent student demonstration in Prague on Nov. 17, 1989 and led in a brief six week span to the end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia.
Timonthy Garten Ash remembers him vividly in the Guardian:
Vaclav Havel: Director of a Play that Changed History.
Hands whirring like twin propellers, Václav Havel moved with his characteristic hurried, short-paced walk across the mirrored foyer of the Magic Lantern theatre, the headquarters of the velvet revolution. The slightly stooped, stocky figure, dressed in jeans and sweater, stopped for a moment, began to speak about some “important negotiations”; scarcely three sentences in, he was swept away. He gave an apologetic smile over his shoulder, as if to say “what can a man do?”
Often Havel talked as if he was an ironic critic watching the theatre of life, but there in the Magic Lantern, in 1989, he became the lead actor and director of a play that changed history.