Klinika closure: Prague’s poets protest – statements by Jáchym Topol and Adam Borzič
We would like to raise your awareness to current happenings and a heated debate in Prague where the social and cultural centre Klinika is threatened with closure. Authorities refused to extend their lease of an old building that once was a sanatorium for consumptives. Over the last year the Klinika activist group breathed new life into the old premises by organising cultural events and providing aid for homeless people, migrants and refugees, supported by many volunteers. In the last days and weeks hundreds and thousands of Prague’s citizens spoke out against the closure in demonstrations and events organised to support the centre.
More than 30 Czech writers wrote an open letter to support Klinika, among them many poets, e.g. Jáchym Topol and Jonáš Hájek. They organised readings to support the centre. We think that support and solidarity for Klinika is important also beyond Prague and the Czech Republic so we hope this reaches out to many people and places. We are happy that the poets Jáchym Topol and Adam Borzič wrote us some lines about their thoughts and the situation which we can post here in English thanks to @olga_pek.
The poets’ statements:
The Klinika Autonomous Social Centre in Prague is a centre of volunteer help on many levels – from regular shipments of clothes and necessities to refugees and the Zdrojovna (“Sourcing Room”) freeshop, to a homeless kitchen, pre-school kids centre, foreign language school (including Czech as a foreign language) as well as a cultural hub (hosting readings and lectures). It came into being about a year ago, in an outstanding feat of public involvement across the Czech society. Klinika is run exclusively on the basis to civic cooperation and volunteering, with no financial donations or grants either from the state or private companies. While in state ownership, the premises of the former clinic have been dilapidating for many years before the Klinika collective managed to breath a new life into it. Since then it has become the symbolic lungs and heart of the Czech civic society.
Now, after a year of exemplary functioning, during which Klinika successfully won the support of the majority of publicly involved citizens, the state authorities have refused to extend Klinika’s lease contract, citing several bureaucratic obstacles. This comes only a few weeks after an attack by right-wing extremists on Klinika, which took place on the same day that saw demonstrations in Prague both for and against migration. It is precisely as a symbol of the civic society extending help to refugees that Klinika became a target of the ultra-right-wing hooligans.
Many NGO’s and individuals, including those coming from the progressive part of the political representation, have pledged their support to Klinika. Over 30 Czech writers have expressed their support for Klinika in an open letter, many of them well-known poets and authors of fiction. Despite that, the Autonomous centre has been called upon to evacuate the premises. The collective decided to occupy the space and is now trying to negotiate with the authorities.
It seems obvious that the attack on Klinika, launched by the state authorities, is politically motivated and serves especially those who peddle xenophobic and fascist inclinations and populism. Clearly, Klinika seems bothersome because it stands for a non-market, humanistic and communitarian approach to life. This is one of the reasons why many of us, Czech poets, support the Autonomous centre.
Having worked for a year in order to foster conditions where local culture and refugee help would blossom, the volunteers from Klinika centre were attacked by a fascist commando.
The public officers who now refuse to arrange the legal adjustments necessary for Klinika to keep working not only harm a good cause, but also in fact assist in moving the Czech Republic further to the East, somewhere into the “Putinzone” and in close proximity of attempts at a total control of the society.
This video was shot by Ondřej Mazura at a Klinika event last weekend and shows a reading of poet Adam Borzič in the occupied building.
We at lyrikline and Literaturwerkstatt Berlin (Haus für Poesie) support Klinika and hope they will be able to continue their humanitarian and cultural work for a tolerant society. We wish all the protesters who stand united perseverance and, finally, success!
We ask for your solidarity, for example by spreading the news or signing the petiton (see below).