Czechs open memorial to student who burned himself to death

PRAGUE (AP) — A new memorial is opening to a university student who burned himself to death in protest at the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Jan Palach’s childhood home in Vsetaty, north of Prague, has been turned into a chapel-like space to allow visitors to contemplate what he did for the nation. An adjacent pavilion contains a small museum.

The 20-year-old set himself on fire five months after the Warsaw Pact countries crushed liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring. He died three days later.

Palach’s self-immolation shocked the country but failed to produce an immediate impact. The hard-line communist regime established after the invasion harshly persecuted dissenters.

But his action on Jan. 16, 1969, did inspire weeklong protests two decades later, and the Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel later in 1989 that ended Czechoslovakia’s communist era.

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