Love, Prague and Unity

In Prague, there’s an unusual place. A place where time stands still, and yet it’s ever changing. Love and peace versus terror, a place that got demolished by vandals and rised from its ashes yet again. This is a story about the legacy of John Lennon; the worldwide legacy of love and peace.

It’s 8 december 1980 when Lennon unknowingly walks back to his appartment in New York. He just returned from the Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono. As he walks by a man standing by his appartment, he nods; he recognised him from handing him out an autograph earlier that day. Then, as he walks through the Dakota Alleyway, five gunshots, fired rapidly, echo in the alleyway, four of which hit Lennon in the back.

The story is well known in pop culture. It’s painfully letting us doubt whether or not the saying ‘love and peace conquers all’ is real, for an innocent singer-songwriter, advocating the message of love and someone who’s one of the pioneers of popular music, gets killed in an act of terror. A delusional motive by the murderer, stating he was summoned to do it by a book he misinterpreted (The catcher in the rye). Misinterpretation of books: it’s something that has victimized so many people already and has never stopped being a current topic in both our past and modern day era.

 

Annie_Leibovitz_Lennon_Ono_December_1980
Annie Leibovitz’ cover photo for Rolling Stone Magazine of John Lennon on 8 december, the day of his murder.

The message arrives in communist Europe

Eastern Europe is still under the rule of the USSR, and the Czech Republic didn’t even exist yet until 1993, but still, it was in Prague, Czechoslovakia where the message was heard. John Lennon, one of the few messengers of peace, was killed in an act of useless violence and it put the people of Prague into motion. Borders didn’t matter anymore, communist or capitalist had become empty words and the shock that hit the world, made people realise that it was never about being different from one another: it’s about connection.

And so the city reacts. Right after the murder in 1980, there’s already a graffiti portrait of Lennon to be found on the wall of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Although the government of Gustáv Husák is very much against these acts of ‘vandalism’, the wall doesn’t belong to him, but instead to the Knights of Malta. They condone the artwork, and so it prevails.

Throughout the years, the wall is being decorated more and more and if you go see it today, you can see an extraordinary piece of art in the name of love, a silent protest against terror.

But the looks are deceiving, because in 2014, the wall is victim to vandals. A group of art students decide to paint over the wall, painting it entirely white, only leaving the text ‘The Wall is over’.

Lennon Wall
A part of the Lennon Wall in Prague.

However, this gets picked up by the French embassy from across the street. They’re in total disbelief and state: “John Lennon was only advocating love and peace. Don’t you like love and peace?” The Knights of Malta decide to reach out to the group of students, which results in a useful dialogue, because the wall gets restored to its original form.

It’s 2019 as I write this, so that means that the wall has been spreading the message of love for over 39 years. It had obstacles to overcome and not everybody seemed to be drawn to the message. It has lost many battles, but in the long run, it never lost the war; the war for peace.

Love Locks in Prague
Love Locks on a bridge in Prague, not far from the Lennon Wall.

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