“The memorial ceremony in front of Comenius University in Bratislava continued on 22 and 23 January 1969. The students were on a guard of honour. The university walls were covered with new posters and statements full of suspicious comments on the current political representation and its alleged ivory-towered policy. They were requesting the free flow of information, new parliamentary elections, and the announcement of the date of the 14th Congress of the Czech Communist Party.”
From the report of Czechoslovak Ministry of the Interior on Jan Palach’s suicide, 25 January 1969
The strongest Slovak response to the self-immolation of Jan Palach came from local students. They were gathering in front of the main building of Comenius University in Bratislava for a couple of days to pay tribute to Jan Palach – they formed a guard of honour, organized a petition for meeting his demands, and some of them even went on a hunger strike. The tense atmosphere in Bratislava was recorded by director Dušan Trančík in a documentary called Tryzna. Students of other Slovak universities behaved in a similar way.
Nevertheless, the representatives of the Slovak Communist Party adopted a very negative attitude to Jan Palach’s act. The local government had a similar attitude. Its official statement from 20 January 1969 may have not been so strong, but it was made absolutely clear. It says that “this movement has been supported by extreme political powers taking advantage of youthful sentimentality”. Both local government and party representatives tried to keep memorial ceremonies on university grounds, and therefore, they authorized very few public processions, manifestations, and masses.
Libuše Palachová received many Slovak condolences not only from various organizations but also from individuals. She also received contributions for her son’s memorial. Taking their cue from Czech colleagues, Slovak actors postponed or cancelled all theatrical performances on the day of Jan Palach’s funeral. The funeral itself was attended by a number of Slovaks; for instance, students from Zvolen (a town in central Slovakia) dispatched a special bus to get there. Despite the ban on public events, around four thousand people attended a funeral ceremony held on 25 January 1969 in Bratislava.
Slovak security units participated in the investigation into Jan Palach’s suicide. Among other things, they were checking on the past of Eva Bednáriková, a Slovak student who visited Jan Palach in the hospital at his request. Official documents describing three self-immolation attempts in Slovakia during the second half of January 1969 have been preserved in local archives. However, all three young men suffered from mental problems, and one of them had a criminal history. Their acts, therefore, produced hardly any reaction. Very little information is known about the case of Michal Leučík, who set himself on fire on 11 April 1969 in Košice.