I first crossed paths with then Czech President Vaclav Havel more than 15 years ago in the cozy Prague theater club A Studio Rubin. At the time, I was practicing my Czech language skills there with local journalists, actors, musicians, and artists, including David Cerny, who had gained international notoriety for painting the Russian tank commemorating that country’s liberation of Prague in 1945 a bright shade of pink, and Jiri Popel, a musician and dissident who had returned from living for many years in L.A., just by chance with one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, as his neighbor. A true man of the people, as well as an intellectual and playwright himself, President Vaclav Havel would sit at a large table and converse with the regulars, and I spoke with him there briefly a couple of times.
In the intervening 15 or so years of living in Prague, I’ve had an opportunity to witness first-hand the development of a new democracy and the revitalization of a nation’s entire economy, the Czechs having had their homeland devastated by decades of communism. In my own small way, I’ve also contributed to this country’s development by, among other things, having launched one of the first, successful, modern e-commerce websites here 10 years ago, having mentored one or two of the successful local entrepreneurs over the years, and most recently, having developed the new Czech and English free press website http://ceskapozice.cz for Leko Media Group. It is this last project that caused my path to cross Vaclav Havel’s briefly once again, and in a similar milieu of intellectual discourse as before, when he attended our open house party at our new offices on December 2, 2010.