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Czech Student Visits Harvard

Pro-Democracy Leader Worked With Havel to Free Country

By Jon E. Morgan

Last November student leader Martin Mejstrik and dissident poet Vaclav Havel sat together negotiating with the then Communist government of Czechoslovakia.

Yesterday, Havel was performing his duties as President of Czechoslovakia and Mejstrik was at Harvard, meeting with other leaders of the international student movement for democracy.

Mejstrik, who is staying at Boston University, met with fellow student leaders Oscar Khsu '93, president of Students for a Democratic China, Jin-Goon Kim of Boston University and others to discuss a "Fast for Democracy and Freedom" scheduled for May 12-13 on Boston Common.

The pro-democratic odyssey of Mejstrik, who spent time in Tiananmen Square last May, began when he formed a national student network of college newspapers; Mejstrik, a third-year student at DAMU, the Academy of Theatrical Arts, was the editor of a student newspaper called Cafe.

"The Cafe stood for freedom of expression. What the government did was destroy our meeting places-the cafe," Mejstrik said. The publication "is named Cafe because I wanted it to be a forum where Western democratic ideas could be discussed."

Mejstrik said he took issue with the nonsensical ideas of Western students. He said liberal Western students favor many of the socialistic ideas that Czechs dislike.

"It is not true that Marxism is different from Marxist-Leninism; it is the same. We don't want Commumism, fascism, socialism or totalitarism," he said, adding "it's nonsense."

"Socialism and Marxism is not a human way to live. If you say to me that you are a socialist or a Marxist, you cannot say to me you are for humans," said Mejstrik.

Mejstrik, who has toured several campus printing presses in the U.S., said he believes that student newspapers are important places to discuss political ideas.

"Student newspapers are powerful, and writers are able to prepare students for revolution. It was even easy because almost everyone wanted to change the system," he said.

Mejstrik's strong belief in the power of the student press stems from his own experiences: his paper helped his university become the center of student protest in Czechoslovakia, he said.

"There was a rule in Czechoslovakia that a magazine from one university could not be sent to another. We established a student press and information center in Prague in 1988 and through that we established networks. My university was the first to strike and to be cracked down on by police," he said.

"Through the network we were able to mobilize a more general strike within days."

Still, not everyone believed that the revolution would succeed, said Mejstrik. Many remembered 1968, when the Soviet Union, frightened by the Prague Spring movement, sent Warswaw Pact tanks rolling across the border in August, he said.

"I am very glad the Soviet Union did not stop us like they stopped the people in '68. Two times during our revolution the military occupied Prague. I feared for my life. We all did," he said.

Mejestrik will soon be the subject of a biographical movie.

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