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Palach foto...Jan Palach

Plocek foto...Evzen Plocek

Jan Zajic

Jan Zajíc

- was born June 3, 1950 in Vitkova, the second son of Marta and Jaroslav Zajic. His mother taught Czech and other subjects at a local elementary school and his father was a druggist. His other two siblings, an older brother and a sister five years younger, were named after their parents.

Jan Zajic grew up in the town where he was born, where he also attended elementary school. In 1965 he was accepted at the Railroad Engineering Secondary School in Sumperk.

Although a student art a technically-oriented school, he devoted more and more time to reading fine literature. He also began to write poetry. Zajic very much welcomed the social events of 1968. He took part in many meeetings and he spoke at gatherings; he was one of the most active in the discussions. After the August 1968 invasion by Warsaw Pact troops he had only words of condemnation. He regreted that the army didn't fight and wanted to register for the militia.

When he learned of Palach's self-immolation in mid-January 1969, he said at school that he was sick and was going home. He traveled to Prague, however, where he took part in the protest hunger strike at the statue of St. Wenceslas that lasted until Palach's funeral. There he also met Oldrich Vit, a student at Hus Seminary, a later recipient of one of Zajic's farewell letters.

The decision to become Palach's successor took shape in Jan Zajic during February. He didn't keep his intentions secret from his friends in any way, though no one believed the seriousness of his intent.

On the morning of February 25, 1969 Jan Zajic left Sumperk for Prague. He brought with him a suitcase, in which he had several letters and an appeal to the citizens of Czechoslovakia, meant for copying and stenciling. He was accompanied by three classmates from Sumperk.

In Prague he bought acid, several bottles of benzine cleaner and paste for floors, with which he spread over his whole body in a lavatory. He handed his friends the stencil as well as the messages for Oldrich Vit and said good-bye to them.

Around 1:30 in the afternoon he walked into the passageway of the building at No. 39 on Wenceslas Square. There he drank the acid down and poured the cleaning fluid over himself and lit himself on fire. He wasn't able to run out of the passage, however, and he fell after a few steps and died there.

Jan wished for his funeral to be held in Prague. This was prevented by the security service, however. Jan Zajic was therefore buried in Vitkova on March 2. On his final journey, thousands of people came to see him off.

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