On December 21, 2023, a student at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic shot and killed 14 people and injured 25. The gunman also died, and was subsequently implicated in several other shootings days earlier. 

This was by far the worst mass shooting in the country’s history. 

Eight of the dead students and many of the injured students were enrolled in the school’s Deaf Studies program. Their professor, known as the Mother of Czech Sign Language, was also shot, and is still recovering from her injuries. 

This incident unfolded just before Christmas in the university’s Faculty of Arts building. The epicenter of the violence was Classroom 423, which is used for nearly all Deaf Studies classes. At the time of the shooting, about 20 first-year students, all hearing, were taking Introduction to Sign Language Linguistics under the guidance of Professor Alena Macurova. 

Black and white photo of a building with a statue in front.

Macurova, 77, founded the Deaf Studies program in 1998, and is its former director. Affectionately known as the Mother of Czech Sign Language, she is a highly respected teacher and staunch ally of the Czech Deaf community. While Macurova survived the shooting and is currently receiving medical attention, eight students did not survive. This has had a devastating impact on their families, the surviving students, the Deaf Studies program, the university, and the country. 

On January 4, a march was held from the main building of Charles University to the Faculty of Arts building to commemorate the victims of the shootings. Afterward, students formed a human chain around the building in a symbolic embrace before lighting a fire at Jan Palach Square as bells in nearby churches rang. 

Charles University, founded in 1348, is the oldest university in Europe. It offers a diverse range of majors, including Deaf Studies. In past years, Charles has welcomed Gallaudet alumni, including Jimmy Challis Gore, ’78.   

As a community, let us stand together in support during this challenging time and keep these individuals in our thoughts. 

Read the Associated Press story on this mass shooting. 

Marie Maslanova, from the Czech Republic, is a graduate student in the Deaf Studies program in the School of Arts and Humanities. She earned her undergraduate degree in Deaf Studies at Charles University. 

Recent News

Stay up to date on all the gallaudet happenings, both stories, and initiatives, we are doing with our Signing community!