by, Tomas J. Veteska
by, Tomas J. Veteska
1770 to 1906
by, Martin Horvath
by, Julia Ondrejcekova
Text and Photos by Jacqueline Ruyak
Reprinted here with Permission of
by, Tomas J. Veteska
The Carpathian Connection is honored to have Mr. Tomas J. Veteska as a contributing writer for our website. Mr. Veteska is a distinguished author, patriot, and historian. A former anti-communist underground leader, he fought for the freedom and independence of the Slovak Republic. He has authored hundreds of articles in English and Slovak on various subjects including the problems of present day Eastern Europe. He is the distinguished author of Velkoslovenska risa, a book of Ancient Slovak History (Library of Congress Call No. BR 1050.S 56V48, 1987) and is an expert in his field on Slovak, Czech and Magyar history.
This article is taken from Congressional Record of July 7, 1969 and was published in "Triumph" magazine in July, 1969.
Slovakia, one of the oldest Christian nations of Central Europe, has often been ignored in the West. In literature and the press, the name "Slovak" is often used interchangeably with "Czech." Professor Kurt Glaser, a noted expert on Central Europe and author of the book Czecho-Slovakia, A Critical History, who for long years studied the internal problems of this state, described the confusion well: "More wrong information has been spread concerning Czecho-Slovakia than almost any other country." Mis-statements of facts have not been limited to newspapers and speeches, but have crept into history books and encyclopedias. There is an entire "Czechoslovak legend," originated by Masaryk and Benes during World War I. This was elaborated and propagated over thirty-five years by the government they founded and which, appropriated millions of dollars for public relations. With secret funds the Czecho-Slovak Foreign Office bought reporters and professors, and sometimes entire newspapers.
During World War II, key positions in [the U.S.] Department of State and the Office of War Information were held by adherents of the "legend," which became the basis for United States policy in Central Europe. The fully developed "Czechoslovak Legend" has numerous facets. It includes, among other things, the following propositions, none of which is true: That there is a "Czecho-Slovak nation"; that the Slovak language is a dialect of Czech; that a Czecho-Slovak state existed in the early Middle Ages. Slovaks, who once inhabited the eastern part of Czecho-Slovakia, are an independent nation in terms of language, culture, history, religion, political convictions, folklore, and mentality. Out of a total membership of 1,700,000 in the ruling Communist Party of Czecho-Slovakia, there were only 125,000 Slovaks; the Czechs had a membership of 1,400,000 and the balance was accounted for by the national minorities, largely Ukrainians and Magyars. Proportionately, the Slovaks had the smallest Communist Party behind the Iron Curtain, while the Czechs had the largest. Out of fourteen million inhabitants of the former Czecho-Slovakia, there were five million Slovaks and eight million Czechs; the remaining million was composed of Germans, Magyars, Poles, Ruthenians and Ukrainians.
The arrival of the Slovaks in Central Europe is not precisely recorded in history. The first written report of the Slovaks is found in Greek sources of the year 548. The Slovaks received Christianity from Irish and German missionaries during the 8th century. The first historically known church on the territory of Slovakia was built by the Slovak Prince Pribina in Nitra in the year 830. In those remote days, the territories inhabited by Slovaks were under the jurisdiction of German bishops, who were not only Christianizing the Slovaks, but also Germanizing them. To counteract this, the Slovak ruler Rastislav in the year 863 invited two apostles from Byzantium, the brothers Sts. Cyril and Methodius, to proselytize among his people. They translated Holy Scriptures and the Catholic liturgy into the native language, and thus, Old Slovak became the fourth literary language used in Church liturgy.
SLOVAK CONTRA BARBARIANS
About the year 1000, Slovakia was annexed to Hungary. In the following centuries, Slovakia was a bastion of Christianity against barbarian invasions from the East by Tartars and Kumans. In the 15th century, Catholic Slovakia was often attacked, burned and devastated by the heretical Czech Hussites. During the Turkish occupation of Hungary in the 16th and 17th centuries, Slovakia remained unconquered. In 1848, the Slovaks declared their independence from Hungary, but the revolt was ultimately unsuccessful. During the second half of the 19th century the Magyars went so far as to declare the non-existence of the Slovak nation. They eliminated Slovak national institutions and schools. The intelligentsia were imprisoned or persecuted and its great majority escaped abroad, particularly into the United States. Among the educated, only the clergy remained to stand up for the defense of national and religious rights of the Slovak nation. In those times a priest could also be a doctor, judge, mayor, and teacher.
During World War I, the eminent Slovak scientist, statesman and general, Dr. Milan R. Stefanik, organized a movement to gain independence from Magyar rule. When he found no support among Western European nations, General Stefanik conceived the idea of a temporary alliance with the Czechs in jointly seeking independence from Austria-Hungary. He introduced to the West two little known Czechs, Tomas Masaryk and Eduard Benes. However, there were frequent disputes between Masaryk and Benes on the one side, and Stefanik on the other. Stefanik was an anti-Communist and deeply religious man, while Masaryk and Benes were "free-thinkers" and Marxists. On May 30, 1918 Masaryk signed an agreement with the representatives of the Slovak League of America in Pittsburgh, Pa. This agreement guaranteed the political and cultural autonomy of Slovakia in a new binational Slovak and Czech State, but Stefanik refused to sign it because he believed that the Czechs would not keep their promises. On May 4, 1919, after long years of exile, General Stefanik flew from Italy to Slovakia to mobilize the Slovaks against the Hungarians Communists who had just invaded Slovakia and to warn his compatriots of Czech duplicity.
In the course of his travels the airplane crashed; some have charged it was shot down by secret order of Masaryk and Benes. After the death of Stefanik, the Czechs imposed colonial rule over Slovakia. They dismantled Slovak industry, and transferred it to Bohemia. Thousands of Czechs were placed in key positions in Slovakia. At the same time about 300,000 Slovaks were forced to emigrate abroad. Then began an attack against Catholicism. Crosses were removed from schools, churches were desecrated, and priests ridiculed. Masaryk renewed the Hussite heresy, which he called the "Czechoslovak Church." The slogan of this Church was: "Away from Rome, for Rome must be indicted and sentenced." About three hundred Czech priests and over half a million Czech Catholics joined the new Church, but in Slovakia there were no gains, not even from the ranks of Slovak Lutherans.
This situation lasted until October 6, 1938, when all the Slovak political parties, with the exception of a tiny Communist Party, proclaimed the political autonomy of Slovakia in the framework of Czecho-Slovakia. On March 14, 1939, the Slovak Parliament unanimously proclaimed the independent Slovak Republic, which was recognized by 31 states, including Great Britain, France, the Vatican, Sweden, Switzerland, and even the U.S.S.R. Special Report No. 8 of the Select Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, Eighty-third Congress, second session, stated that the Slovak State "corresponded to the aspirations of the Slovak people for freedom and the principle of self-determination and self-government." During the existence of the Slovak Republic there was not a single political execution in Slovakia. Slovak leaders resisted both Nazi and Communist influence. Independent foreign observers designated this state as an island of peace, prosperity and order within the sea of Nazism. However, in the year 1945, Eduard Benes, with the help of domestic Communists and Soviet guns, recaptured power and renewed the colonial, but now Communist rule over Slovakia.
In 1945 all Catholic institutions, associations and schools became institutions of the State. The Catholic press was severely restricted. Slovak newspapers from America were banned. From 1945 until 1949 fully 10% of the Slovak population were imprisoned. In 1945, the Czech Catholic clergy issued a tragic Memorandum "Under the protection of the brotherly Russian nation a happy future is being opened to Slavs," in which they praised the Red Army and Stalin. This Memorandum was signed by, among others, the late Cardinal Beran and two representatives of the Czech Catholic Party, members of the Benes Government, Msgr. Sramek and Msgr. Hala. Msgr. Sramek was quoted in the press as having said that "it is necessary for Russia to take over permanently the management of European policy." At the time of these declarations, two Slovak Catholic bishops and 170 Slovak priests were arrested.
SLOVAK CONTRA COMMUNISTS
In the 1946 elections held in Czecho-Slovakia, the Slovak nation, of which one third was disenfranchised, cast its votes in absolute majority against Communism. The elections were secret and free, even in spite of the fact that only such political parties were allowed to exist as were approved by Prague. Slovak Catholics (85% of the population) were not allowed by the Czech government to form their own party, so they concluded an agreement with the Democratic Party, as a result of which that party obtained 62 percent of all Slovak votes.
During the same election, 56% of the Czechs cast their votes for the Communist bloc. Thus the Czech nation, on a national scale, ratified the Stalin-Benes pact of 1943. After the 1946 elections, the Catholics in Slovakia began to organize themselves and to demand their political rights. But in September of 1947, Moscow and Prague agreed that the Slovak Democratic Party should be eliminated. Under the pretext of having discovered a conspiracy against the national government, Prague decided to liquidate the Party. Several deputies of the Catholic wing of the Party were imprisoned, as were several thousand Slovak patriots.
By November of 1947, after considerable parliamentary maneuvering, the Democratic Party was relegated to minority status in the government of Slovakia, and by February, 1948, the Czech Communists were able to consolidate their hold over the entire country into a full-scale Communist dictatorship. In August and September of 1949 Slovakia experienced a wave of anti-Communist revolts, caused by the mass arrest of Catholic priests. In hundreds of Slovak villages the peasants resisted the military might of the Red forces. In 1950 four Slovak Catholic bishops were arrested and the Greek Catholic Church, with 305,000 faithful, was formally suppressed and forcibly merged with the Orthodox Church and subordinated to the Patriarchate of Moscow. As a result of this, a Slovak Underground Church was born, with hundreds of secret priests and nine secret bishops. Also, in 1950 the government at Prague purged the Slovak Communist Party. Several members were sentenced to death and many more to long years in prison. In the meantime, Archbishop Beran was confined to a castle outside of Prague, and many Czech bishops and priests were imprisoned. As a result of such measures, the faith began to erode among the Czech people; the majority of Czech children went un-baptized.
Yet, in Slovakia, where the Faith could not be professed publicly, baptisms, weddings and confessions were administered by secret priests and confirmations by secret bishops. Even at this time of most bitter persecution, 98% of all children born in Slovakia were still being baptized. From the year 1945 up to 1963 Slovakia was ruled by a most oppressive regime. A change came about only after the discrediting of Stalin, during 1963, when Slovak intellectuals and journalists demanded the de-Stalinization of Slovakia. These were the actions that were responsible for the rise of Alexander Dubcek. The arrests stopped, criticism of the government and of the Party was allowed and the Slovaks gained more and more power. This process culminated in January, 1968, when the combined Slovak-Moravian forces succeeded in the removal of Czech Stalinists within the Communist Party. In May of 1968, Slovakia witnessed one of the greatest political manifestations in its history.
Over 150,000 Slovaks gathered at the foot of the Stefanik Monument, where they demanded free elections, their own statehood, and a full democratization of Slovakia. Shortly thereafter, the suppressed Greek Catholic Church was freed from subordination to Moscow’s Patriarchate. Priests and bishops were openly allowed, and the Moscow trained Orthodox priests were suspended and even recalled from the parishes. The Church as such began to re-emerge as a force in public life. It was the progress of such reforms as these, and not simply the "liberalization of Communism," that was interrupted when the occupational armies of the Warsaw Pact marched into Czecho-Slovakia in 1968. From the Christian and anti-Communist point of view, the fate of Catholic Slovakia was the deep tragedy of that invasion.
by, Tomas J. Veteska
The Slovaks were the first nation in Central Europe to establish an independent state. Samo, their first king, ruled the territory of the Slovaks from 624 to 665 A.D. The Slovaks created the Great Moravian Empire in the ninth century. The name "Great Moravian Empire" comes from the name of the Morava river which is settled on both banks by Slovaks. The territory of Slovakia, ruled by Slovak Kings, formed the core of the Great Moravian Empire to which belonged parts of today's Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. The Czechs' first recorded ruler, Margrave Borivoj I was conquered by Slovak King Svatopluk in 889. The Czechs were under the rule of the Slovaks for five years. After King Svatopluk's death, the Czechs went to Ragensburg and asked for protectorate status from the Frankish rulers. For a thousand years the Czechs were under German, Polish and Hungarian rulers. The Slovaks became Christian in the eighth century. The Slovak ruler, Pribina, built the first Christian Church in Slovakia, in Nitra, in 830. Pribina's son, Kocel, built 38 churches in Pannonia, present day Hungary. The vast majority of the Slovak nation are still loyal to the Roman Catholic church.
In 863 Slovak King Rastislav invited two Apostles from Byzantium, St. Cyril and St. Metodius. They brought to the Slovaks the translation of the scriptures and Liturgy in their own language. Thus the language of the Slovaks (Old Slovak) became the fourth literary language used in Church Liturgy. This marked the beginning of Christianity among the Slavs. In the beginning of the 10th Century the Slovak Kingdom was destroyed by an alliance of Germans, Magyars and Czechs. In the year 1000 Slovakia was annexed to Hungary. Unlike Hungary, Slovakia was not conquered by Eastern invaders. She remained a bulwark of Christianity for the West. In 1848, Slovakia declared her independence from Hungary. Vienna, which at first was not opposed to the revolt, finally refused to accept the Slovak demands.
During World War I, the eminent Slovak scientist, general and statesman. Dr. Milan Stefanik, organized a movement to gain freedom for Slovakia from Magyar rule. When he found little interest in the West to oppose Hungary, General Stefanik conceived the idea of a temporary alliance with the Czechs in jointly seeking independence from Austria. He introduced two little known Czechs, T. C. Masaryk and Eduard Benes, to the outstanding French leaders and other important Allied statesmen. However, these two Czech leaders intrigued against Dr. Stefanik and against freedom for Slovakia.
On May 30, 1918, Masaryk signed an agreement with representatives of the Slovak League of America in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This agreement allegedly guaranteed political and cultural autonomy to Slovakia in a new dual-national Slovak and Czech State, but Dr. Stefanik refused to sign the agreement because he foresaw that the Czechs would not keep their promises. On May 4, 1919, General Stefanik flew from Italy to Slovakia on an important mission. He intended to mobilize the Slovaks to fight the Hungarian Communists who had just invaded Slovakia and, at the same time, warn his compatriots of the Czech duplicity. As his airplane flew over Bratislava however, it was shot down by the secret order of Masaryk and Benes. They both feared that Stefanik would declare the independence of Slovakia and thus end their dream of a Czech colonial rule over the Slovaks.
On July 3, 1952 Congressman Daniel Flood, on the floor of the Congress, presented testimony of Colonel Stephen Bonsal, who represented President Wilson at the Peace Conference in Paris after World War II. Stephen Bonsal had the following to say about the developments preceding the formation of Czecho-Slovakia in 1918: "When General Stefanik reached Paris, coming from Siberia early in 1919, he was frankly skeptical as to the value of the agreements that had been made some weeks before, between the Czech and Slovak committees that had, under the presidency of Dr. Masaryk, negotiated for some days in 1918 in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. In these negotiations it was provided that a federation be formed between the two nations with equal rights and responsibilities."
It should be noted that there was at this time a strong feeling in practically all the delegates to the peace conference against what were called "splinter states," that would, it was thought, lead to the Balkanization of Eastern Europe. Finally after much pressure had been exerted, particularly by the American delegation, General Stefanik agreed to the plan, although he admitted he had many misgivings. However, if the arrangement was regarded as a "trial marriage" from which the Slovaks could withdraw if their fears were realized, he would go along. Two months later, when General Stefanik came back from Italy, he informed our delegation that already his worst fears had been realized, that the people in Prague were treating the Slovaks not as an equal nation in the Federation, but as a colony or tribe that had to be ruled sternly and educated. Both President Wilson and Colonel House were greatly disturbed over the development. At the time they were hotly engaged with the other powers, particularly with the French and British, who were opposing the reservations to the Covenant, which a majority of the United States Senate insisted upon before they would consider ratification.
In the emergency President Wilson talked very frankly with General Stefanik:
"I must concentrate on the Covenant, for unless we secure it, there will be no tribunal before which we can bring for rectification any mistakes or any inequalities in the treaty, that may be revealed when it is put into practice. I ask you not to insist upon these changes or upon this chance now; such insistence would complicate a situation which is already quite difficult. On the other hand I give you my word that when the League convenes in November, I will bring your grievances before it, and I have no doubt they will be promptly remedied and a better settlement arrived at."
Of course the President made this statement and gave this promise in good faith. At the time he had not the slightest idea that the Senate would reject both the treaty and the Covenant, or that when the League assembled, the United States would not be a member.
"In conclusion I would say that the "trial marriage" was entered into only at the insistence of the American delegation, and that the Slovaks received the promise that the manner in which a "federated" Czecho-Slovakia was being organized, would be carefully examined, and all in-equalities of treatment corrected at the first meeting of the League of Nations. I hope that Slovaks will have their day in court and that the promises that were made in Paris under the sponsorship of President Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House, will some day be fulfilled." (Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session, 3 July 1952.)
With General Stefanik eliminated, the Czechs disregarded their promises and began a strict colonial rule. This rule lasted until March 14, 1939, when the Slovak parliament proclaimed Slovakia an independent. The Slovak Republic was recognized by 31 nations, including Great Britain, France, Poland, Sweden, the Vatican, Switzerland, and even by the Soviet Union. The Special Report No. 8 of the Select Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, Eighty-Third Congress, Second Session, stated that the Slovak State "corresponded to the aspirations of the Slovak people for freedom and the principle of self-determination and self-government." Slovakia did its best to resist both Nazi and Communist influence but in 1945, Benes and a clique of fellow-travelers and Communists were brought back to power with the aid of Russian bayonets. They promptly restored Czech colonial rule in Slovakia and destroyed the Slovak Republic. Over 35,000 Slovaks, including the Slovak President, Msgr. Jozef Tiso, were murdered. 45,000 Slovaks were deported to the USSR and more than 114,000 Slovaks were imprisoned by the Czech police. Slovak Catholic, Protestant and Jewish schools, organizations and institutions were liquidated. Catholic periodicals, churches and private property were confiscated.
In May, 1946, the Czechs sent three Czech divisions to Slovakia to vote for the Communists, one-third of the Slovak population was disenfranchised, and yet, despite many Czech provocations, seventy percent of the Slovak voters cast their ballots against the Communists.
In the same election the Czechs gave fifty-six percent of their votes to the Communists and the ultra-left Socialists who merged with the Communist Party shortly after the election. The Slovak people of the free world were always struggling for the freedom and independence of their Motherland. They insisted that Slovakia be set free, not only from Soviet Colonialism but also from Czech control. Their wish came true on January 1st 1993, when Slovakia for the second time in history became officially independent.
1770 to 1906
by, Martin Horvath
The Slovak Republic is young compared to other nations in Europe. The accomplishments of this new republic have a long and glorious past. Those of Slovak heritage have contributed to many aspects of the arts during past centuries even though they had no country to call their own. Literary and artistic masterpieces abound and there is no part of the arts that Slovaks have not contributed to as a heritage. For over one thousand years history has been part of the Slovak experience and this is prevalent in literary masterpieces. While there have been works from the period of the Great Moravian period onwards, the greatest amount of Slovak Literature appeared between the periods of 1770 through our present day. This essay will try to encapsulate the time frame of approximately 1770 though the years up to 1906. Prior to 1770, many works of Slovak literature were combined with those of Czech origins. One item to consider in reviewing literature is the fact that prior to the eighteenth century many works written by Slovaks were not written in the Slovak language, and therefore, it becomes difficult to determine the literature of this period, if no author is stated, was written by a Slovak or not. Subsequent conquests of Slovak territory by Hungarians stifled any form of independent Slovak literary projects. This is not to say that they did not appear though. It was difficult for Slovaks under the Hungarian government to strive for independence and, to retain their language and customs. The Slovak language was spoken as a means of communication but literary works were more regulated by the authorities. In 1843 the Slovak language was officially codified and this was of benefit to those Slovak authors who wished to write for the benefit of the Slovak people exclusively. During this period the primary languages which were taught at school or, by church clergy were Hungarian, German, Latin (for the benefit of the clergy) and Czech. It is to the credit of those Slovak authors who strove to break this chain and offer works in the Slovak language.
Starting with the period after codification of the Slovak language, an important figure appeared who would help to shape Slovak literature. L’udovit Stur was born in 1815 and came to Bratislava in 1829 to accomplish his studies at the Lutheran Lyceum. He was well accomplished in German and Hungarian but, finding he was not interested in theology he withdrew from the Lyceum and secured employment. His various works to this point, especially poetry, had caught the eye of Samo Chalupka and he was asked to consider relocating again to Bratislava to join the Czecho-Slovak Literary Circle. Upon joining this group he became very active with his writing. During 1836 a meeting was held of the Literary Circle where they pledged their lives to the cultural advancement of their people. Stur was truly a Renaissance man, he was devoted to literature but also researched philosophy, linguistics, politics and journalism. He traveled many miles giving lectures in as many towns as possible. Unfortunately during the 1837 period the Hungarian government began to tighten their restrictions and reinforced the policy of Magyarization. The Czecho-Slovak Literary Circle was banned and Stur decided to complete his education and traveled to Germany. Stur continued to write poetry and even had his works published in a Prague magazine Kvety (Flowers). After completing his education, Stur strongly opposed the enforcements of the Hungarian government. He was a main organizer of a group which tried to stop the Hungarian governments policy of Magyarization. Stur went so far as to write the emperor in 1842. Being a Lutheran, it is suspected this could have been one of many reasons for the rejection of his letter. From this juncture, Stur realized that he would have to go directly for endorsement to Slovaks themselves who, were mainly Roman Catholic.
It is to the credit of Stur that he realized the need to overcome religious doctrinal differences in the name of heritage and cultural expansion. On February 14, 1843 the first meeting of Catholic Youth took place to discuss the future of Slovak literature and, to use a Central Slovak dialect. After these meetings situations took a life of their own and rapidly advanced. In approximately 1844 the first book ever written in the new standardized Slovak, Nitra, was published. Contributions to this book would include future masters of Slovak literature, Andrej Sladkovic, Janko Kral, Jan Kalinciak and Janko Matuska. In 1843, even though he was totally enveloped with many aspects of writing and research, he did make time to publish a leaflet, in German, titled "Complaints of Slovaks of Hungary against the Illegal Actions of Hungarians. In 1846 Nauka reci slovenskej (Slovak grammar) was published and after three years of argument to obtain a permit, he was allowed to publish a newspaper, Slovenskje Narodnje Novini (Slovak National Newspaper) which was published between 1845 through 1848. It was during his time as editor of this newspaper Stur’s demands for human rights were evidenced. He asked that the old feudal structures which plagued many Slovak villages be disbanded and was adamant that education should be offered in the language of the people. In 1845 another leaflet appeared via Stur’s pen which was the Nineteenth Century and Magyarism. During 1847 Stur was popularly elected to represent the City of Zvolen in the Hungarian Assembly. Stur continued to write and also wrote a good amount of poetry. Spevy a piesne (Songs and Lyrics) and O narodnych pisnich a povestech plemen slovanskych (About the Folk-Songs and Tales of Slavic Tribes), both written in 1853. He also lectured tirelessly and was well versed on many issues and topics. Stur died due to a hunting accident on January 12, 1856 but the ground work which he labored so long to erect would give a good foundation for future authors of Slovak literature and poetry.
After Stur, the man closest to him was Jozef Miloslav Hurban. Hurban was born in 1817 and a review of his numerous literary works shows brilliance, and, even a touch of true genius. Hurban was also Lutheran, the son of a Lutheran pastor, and became one himself. During his time with the Czecho-Slovak Literary Circle Hurban wrote many works. During a visit to Moravia and Bohemia his excellent views of observation and keen sense of wording produced Cesta Slovaka ku bratrum slovanskym na Morave a v Cehach (A Slovak’s journey to his Slavic brothers in Moravia and Bohemia). In 1846 he would add Slovenskje pohladi na vedi, umenia a literaturu (Slovak views on science, arts and literature). His fictional writings included in 1844 Pritomnost’ a obrazy zo zivota tatranskeho (Contemporary pictures from life under the Tatra Mountains) and also another account of his travels in Prechadzka po povazskom svete (A walk along the Vah region). If Hurban lived in our modern day he would most assuredly make his fortune as a travel experiences writer for a major travel firm. His descriptions are so vivid and accurate, one cannot help but think while reading his accounts that the reader is actually seeing the same visions which Hurban describes. Hurban’s most respected work is a satire entitled Od Silvestra do Troch kral’ov (From New Years Eve to Epiphany). This work, written in 1847 is more of a serious social commentary on his times rather than just a satirical novel about a greedy man who marries a lowly maid-servant.
After Stur and Hurban there are hundreds of authors, well known and obscure, who burst upon the literary stage to advance Slovak Literature. Some from the periods up to 1880 were Janko Kral, Andrej Sladkovic, Samo Chalupka, Jan Botto, Jan Kalinciak, Jan Palarik and Jonas Zaborsky. Also, not to be forgot are the individuals who sought all forms of Slovak literature to be compiled and kept for future generations. This task was massive given the time period and lack of ease in obtaining novels, written pamphlets and other forms of literary publications. Three that were most active in this form of work were Jan Francisci-Rimavsky, August H. Skultety and Pavol Dobsinsky. It is to their credit that they undertook this task. Also, they tried to gain as much data on old tales as the oral tradition of passing down stories and adventures was being lost in many areas. Some writers of Slovak literature felt very strong in their views of a Slovak nation and in the Slovak heritage. One author, Svetozar Hurban-Vajansky, the son of Jozef Miloslav Hurban who was mentioned previously, suffered a great deal for his ideas. Vajansky was the editor of Slovenske pohl’ady (published 1881 though 1891) and also Narodne noviny (published 1878 though 1913). He was a lawyer by career but, became dissatisfied with this profession and returned to Turciansky Svaty Martin. Vajansky remained firm in his convictions on behalf of his nation, and his heritage. He strove to see the Slovak heritage accepted and not something to be trampled upon. For his views, he would be arrested no less than three times by the Hungarian government. An interesting work of Vajansky’s is Spod jarma (From under the yoke). This collection of poetry, written in 1884, brought to light the sad events which were causing thousands of his fellow countrymen to immigrate to other lands. In 1890 he published Verse (Verses) which focused this time not only on the mass exodus from his beloved homeland but, upon the various factors that led people to this decision.
A writer and poet who has been hailed as one of the greatest in Slovak literature is Pavol Orszagh-Hviezdoslav. Hviezdoslav was born in 1849 in the very poor village of Orava. From the time of childhood, Hviezdoslav filled his school note books with poems and stories. The village he came from may have been poor but, the scenery is very beautiful. This may have had some effect on his views. The amazing thing about Hviezdoslav is that his notebooks were filled with Hungarian and German language poetry, not Slovak. He was a superior student and learned very swiftly. It would not be until years later that he would turn his thoughts to Slovak literary achievements and not write them in a language other than that of his people. Before he left school, he published Basnicke prviesenky Jozefa Zbranskeho (Poetic spring flowers of Jozef Zbransky) in 1868. These poems, along with touching upon social and national themes, also offered visions of the beauty he saw in his home town. Other poetry of his included Jesenne Zvuky (Autumn sounds) in 1878, Oblaky (Clouds), in 1879 and Krb a vatra (Hearth and camp fire) in 1880. These poems were stunning in their offerings and touched upon various issues which included the various forms of oppression Slovaks had to endure. A work which is most often associated with his name was Hajnikova zena (Gatekeepers Wife) which took until 1886 to finally complete. Other authors and poets during this time were Martin Kukucin, and now, women began to offer their works. Terezia Vansova, Elena Marothy-Soltesova, Ludmila Riznerova-Podjavorinska and Bozena Slancikova-Timrava were a few of the women writers who added their works to Slovak literary masterpieces. One that stands out, Ludmila Riznerova-Podjavorinska, is to be admired. Being born into a large and very poor family, she had no access to a decent education. This did not stop her and she strove to teach herself and learned as much as possible. Basically self-taught, she would go on to be noted as one of Slovakia’s first important woman poets. Her expert vision of village life and all that surrounded it made her works touching and very thought-provoking. In Zena (published in 1909) she explored moralistic views and also, the human condition all in the same thought. Other works by her hand which are influential are Voctroctve (In slavery) published in 1905 and Blud (Evil) published in 1906.
Slovaks & The Magyars A Commentary
by, Julia Ondrejcekova
A couple of months ago I wrote a short article responding to Frank Koszorus's article "Dispelling Illusions", published in the Washington Times. My response dealt with the treatment of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, and appeared on HL* in April this year. Since then, I have come across a lot of interesting material that could offer more light on the issues discussed in the article. That's the reason why I decided to share them with the members and readers of the HL. It is my view that in order to understand the complicated relationship between Slovaks and Hungarians today, it is necessary to understand what happened between, and in, the two nations during their past history. I hope you enjoy reading it. Under the dual-monarchy in Austria-Hungary, the Magyars were constantly closing down the Slovak schools. By so doing, they deprived the Slovak children from receiving education in their mother tongue.
Here are some examples:
In 1874, three Slovak special high schools (so called gymnasia) were closed by Magyars on the grounds that they were Pan-Slav Dens of evil which would eventually destroy Magyar culture. All three were founded from the donations of the Slovaks.
Also, in 1874, the most sublime of Slovak culture institutions, Matica Slovenska, was closed down, on the charges that it was taking part in political activity, and that it had managed its property carelessly. Despite the fact that Matica's property belonged to the Slovaks, Magyars confiscated its library, money, and all its museum collections. When Polit, a Serbian Deputy protested to Tizsa (then the Magyar prime minister) that Matica belonged to the Slovak people and not Magyars, Tisza replied: " There is no Slovak nation." Work cited: Gilbert L. Oddo, Slovakia and Its People, Robert Speller & Sons, Publishers, New York, 1960.
THE MASSACRE OF SLOVAKS IN THE VILLAGE OF CERNOVA
Cernova is a small village in Slovakia where in 1907, as many as 16 Slovaks were shot to death, only because the village community wanted their church to be consecrated by the Slovak priest Andrej Hlinka. However, the Magyar bishop designated a Magyar priest to do so, which was rejected by the village community. This horrible event was published in a October 29, 1907 article in one of the most prominent dailies in the world "The London Times." The article reads: "A sad occurrence is reported from Hungary at Csernova, a suburb of the Slovak town of Roszahegy, 11 Slovak peasants were yesterday shot dead, and 16, of whom five have since died, severely wounded by the Hungarian gendarmes for resisting an attempt to consecrate by force a new parish church against the will of the inhabitants. The magistrate, without warning, ordered the gendarmes to use their weapons. Four volleys were fired at close quarters, 11 peasants being killed outright, including two women and a girl." One of the woman, as reported in the book "Slovak-Magyar Relations" by Marko, Martinicky was pregnant.
The Magyars used violence against the Slovaks through the entire 20th century. It should be noted that the Slovaks, during the course of 50 years, were occupied by the Magyars as many as five times. The occupations occurred as follows: in 1919 by Bela Kun, in 1938-annexation of Southern Slovakia and in 1939-invasion of Eastern Slovakia- both times by Mikolas Horthy, in 1944-during the so called National Slovak Uprising, and finally, in 1968-during the invasion of the former Czecho-Slovakia by the Warsaw Pact Armies. A substantial evidence does exists that in March 1939 Horthy decided to invade and take over the rest of Slovakia. The following is a telegram sent by Horthy to Hitler, revealing Horthy's plan to overtake Slovakia:
"Your Excellency-my sincere thanks, I can hardly tell you how happy I am because this (Danube) Head Water Region-I dislike using big words of vital importance to the life of Hungary. In spite of the fact that our recruits have only been serving five weeks, we are going into this affair with eager enthusiasm. The dispositions have already been made. On Thursday, the sixteenth of this month, a frontier incident will take place which will be followed by the big blow on Saturday. I shall never forget this proof of friendship, and Your Excellency may rely on my unshakable gratitude at all times. Your devoted friend-Horthy." Source: Gilbert L. Oddo, Slovakia an Its People, New York, 1960, page 248. In their attempts to denationalize the Slovaks, the Magyars used Slovak children to achieve this goal. Gilbert L. Oddo describes the painful episode of the kidnaping of Slovak children in his book (Slovakia and Its People) on page 145: "But the most hideous example to denationalize the Slovaks concerns the forced removal of Slovak children from their families into pure Magyar districts. It began in 1874 and took periodically for 18 years until the Magyars could not longer ignore the violent outrage of protest. Only then was this brutal program halted."
Another source, a book called Slovak-Magyar Relations written by Augustin Marko and Pavol Martinicky, describes the forced collections of the Slovak children as follows: "Among the repressive measures was collection of orphans and children who were forcibly separated from their Slovak parents and taken to the Lower Land (present day Hungary) to be distributed among the wealthier farmers and others to serve there and for the purposes of Magyarization. The number of displaced children is estimated at 60,000" (Augustin Marko, Pavol Martinicky, Slovak-Magyar Relations, history and present day in figures. Slovak Society for Protection of Democracy and Humanity, Bratislava, 1995.)
Treatment of the Jewish People in Slovakia and Hungary during World War II
In her reply to my article back in April, Cecilia L. Fabos-Becker claims that the extreme nationalism and dominant ethnocentrism was not unique to Hungary only. She suggested that I look at the Slavic pogroms against Jews in Russia and Poland and try to come up with an explanation for that. Furthermore, she suggested that considering all that was being done by the first world nations at the same time, Hungary may qualify for national sainthood for its comparative restraint. If Hungary qualifies for national sainthood, then Slovakia must have achieved one already. Especially, when considering the treatment of the Jews in Slovakia, during the war time period (1939-45), under the presidency of Mr. Tiso. Also, it is very important to be aware of the fact that Slovakia, when comparing with other countries, such as the Czech Republic (which began deportations of the Jews in October 1939), only began deporting the Slovak Jews as late as March 1942. Kurt Glasser in his book Czecho-Slovakia, A Critical History, has this to say about the treatment of the Jews by the Slovak President Tiso during the war: "At his (Pr. Tiso) initiative , the Slovak Assembly met and passed the constitutional law of May 15, 1942, which although ostensibly a mandate for the deportation of Jews from Slovakia, actually reduced the shipments to a mere trickle. The new law confirmed all the exceptions previously granted by the president and the ministers, and created a new general exceptions for Jews baptized before March 14, 1939." When learning that the Jews deported from Slovakia to Poland were being murdered, President Tiso immediately ordered to stop any further shipments of Jews from Slovakia. A well known Jewish historian Gerald Reintlinger, in his book The Final Solution, on page 385, called the revolt of President Tiso against mass liquidation of Slovak Jews in 1942 "the first outright failure of the final solution" (Source: Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution. London: Vallentine Mitchell,1953.)
When the Slovak government became suspicious about the treatment of the Jews deported from Slovakia to Poland, it began pressing the Germans for a permission to visit the concentration camps (or so called resettlement centers-as referred to by Germans). Of course the Germans couldn't grant that, because the deported Jews already had been killed. Also, it has to be noted that the Slovak government started to transport the families of the previously deported Jews to Poland only after they were given personal assurances by the German officials that the deported Jews would be treated humanely. (Glaser, Czecho-Slovakia A Critical History, p. 62). What were the true intentions of President Tiso when considering the treatment of the Jews in Slovakia proves the following excerpt from the book called Eichman in Jerulazem written by Hannah Arendt. It reads: "In December, 1943, Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer came to Bratislava to see Father Tiso himself; he had been sent by Hitler and his orders specified that he should tell Tiso "to come down to earth." Tiso promised to put between sixteen and eighteen thousand unconverted Jews in concentration camps and to establish a special camp for about ten thousand baptized Jews, but he did not agree to deportations. In June, 1944, Veesenmayer, now Reich plenipotentiary in Hungary, appeared again, and demanded that the remaining Jews in the country be included in the Hungarian operations. Tiso refused again." (Revised and Enlarged Edition, Eichman in Jerusalem.)
Following statistics reveal the number of the Magyars living in Slovakia, and the number of the Slovaks living in Hungary, after 1918, and WWII. The excerpts are quoted directly from Marko, Martinicky's book "Slovak-Magyar Relations". The book reads: "The results of the Magyar nationality policies in Slovakia stand in great contrast with the results of nationality policies enforced upon the Slovaks in Hungary.
The Number of Slovaks in Hungary After 1918
According to the 1920 Hungarian official statistics data, 399,170 citizens spoke the Slovak language, but actually much more Slovaks lived in Hungary at that time.
The Number of Slovaks in Hungary After World War II
The issue of the number of Slovaks in Hungary (after WW II) was raised at the Paris Peace Conference in 1946. J. Gyongyosi, Hungarian Prime Minister, stated that based on Hungarian statistics only 70,000 Slovaks lived in Hungary. V.Clementis, leader of the Czechoslovak delegation. stated that the Czechoslovak Repatriation Committee reported about 450,000 Slovaks during their several-month stay in Hungary. The official figure published by the Committee totaled 473,552 Slovaks of which 73,273 moved to Slovakia within the framework of the inhabitants exchange, hence, 400,279 Slovaks stayed in Hungary after repatriation. The last census in Hungary was conducted in 1990. Despite almost a total lack of intense solicitation of the nationally-minded Slovaks, only 10,459 citizens identified with their Slovak nationality (as few as 12,745 citizens stated Slovak to be their mother tongue, i.e. by 2,286 more). This state is an outcome of the nationality policies of all the Hungarian governments without exception, an outcome of intimidation and concern about social and existential consequences individuals were faced with in the event of claiming Slovak nationality.
The Slovaks in Hungary are largely referred to as Magyars that happen to speak Slovak rather than citizens of Slovak nationality. They have almost completely lost their Slovak identity. The representatives of Hungarian governments and the Magyar minority in Slovakia justify the diminishing number of Slovaks in Hungary by their diffusion. However, many Slovaks lived in Hungary close to the border (up to Budapest and its environs). It should be noted that in former Yugoslavia, in Vojvodina, 63,941 citizens claimed Slovak nationality in the last census, 36,000 in Croatia, and 20,672 in Rumania, although these countries are much farther away from Slovakia and Hungary and despite the fact that initially, the number of Slovaks in these countries was much lower than in Hungary. In Vojvodina, the Slovaks have their schools, a grammar school and the same holds for Rumania (38 schools in which only history and geography are taught in the Rumanian language). Ironically, in Hungary where the number of Slovaks was much higher, they did not have any schools with Slovak as the language of instruction except for a limited period of time after 1918 and 1945.These facts indicate that the cause of an almost total extinction of the Slovaks in Hungary was forcible assimilation organized and managed by all the Hungarian governments.
The Number of Magyars in Slovakia in 1918-1938
In the 1921 census conducted in the C.S.R, 637,183 citizens claiming Magyar nationality were reported in Slovakia and in 1930, they totaled 585,434. The representatives of the Magyar minority in Slovakia state in their claims filed with international organizations including the Council of Europe and various pamphlets disseminated abroad that about a million Magyars stayed in Slovakia after the downfall of Historic Hungary in 1920 which is a false statement.
The Number of Magyars in Slovakia after World War II
In the 1961 census, 518,782 citizens claiming Magyar nationality were reported in Slovakia. In 1991, this figure increased to 567,296, which is an increase by 48,514 citizens, i.e. 9.35 per cent. Also, a high number of Romany (the Gypsies) claim Magyar nationality. These citizens live largely in nationally commingled areas in great concentrations. It is estimated that about 150,000 Gypsies have claimed Magyar nationality. J. Szitkey, Romany leader, estimated and published in press that some 200,000 Gypsies claimed Magyar nationality in the most recent census. As many as 567,296 Magyars have been reported in Slovakia despite the fact that: a lot of citizens of the Magyar nationality perished in World War II on the battlefields in the Soviet Union; in 1946-1948, 74,407 citizens resettled in Hungary within and outside the framework of the inhabitants exchange and out of the number of citizens that moved to the Czech lands, 20,069 stayed there voluntarily; out of 35,000 Jews who never returned from concentration camps to Slovakia part claimed Magyar nationality and thousands of citizens of Magyar nationality were displaced to the Soviet Union when the front swept across the country; a lower birth rate is reported in the Magyar population than in the Slovak population. In Hungary, the number of population between the last two censuses has dropped by 336,000. Slovakia is the only country in the world, and Hungary is no exception, in which the number of Magyar population continues to grow.
*Hungarian Discussion List
Slovakia's Greek Catholics
Text and Photos by Jacqueline Ruyak
Reprinted here with Permission of
(Presov’s St. John the Baptist Cathedral needs extensive renovation.)
Like many Eastern European towns, Presov, Slovakia, is dominated by its main square lined with trees and bordered with gaily painted 18th-century buildings. With its diverse population of Slovaks, Hungarians, Romani (Gypsies), Ruthenians (Carpatho-Rusyns) and Ukrainians, Presov remains a backwater. But perhaps because it is a university town, the city is surprisingly lively and cheerful with a proud cultural history.
Certainly the Greek Catholics of Presov [the term “Greek Catholic” was coined in the 18th century by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria] have reason for cheer these days. The ordination of the Rev. Jan Hirka as bishop in February 1990 has given them a public ecclesiastical leader for the first time in over 40 years.
Like Ukraine’s Greek Catholics, Slovakia’s Greek Catholics were forcibly united with the Orthodox Church two years after the communists’ came to power in 1948. Bishops Paul Gojdic and Basil Hopko were imprisoned as were many priests; others were banished to western Slovakia.
Suddenly the Orthodox Church, which in 1950 had only 18 churches in eastern Slovakia, found itself possessing many buildings but few priests; the Orthodox had to train new clergy in special six-week courses. Most Greek Catholics, however, attended Roman Catholic liturgies.
In 1968 Alexander Dubcek, first secretary of the Communist Party, instituted a number of reforms. Parishes were ordered to vote whether to remain Orthodox or become part of the restored Greek Catholic Church. Soon after the Warsaw Pact’s troops ended the Prague Spring in late 1968, many parishes were forced to hold two services to accommodate both Greek Catholics and Orthodox.
(Bishop Jan Hirka, Presov Slovakia)
In October 1992 Bishop Hirka was finally able to move into his official residence, situated on the southern end of Presov’s main square, just down the street from the Greek Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Speaking late last year in a simple but handsome reception room at his official residence, the bishop noted that the former occupants totally wrecked the residence when they had to return it in 1991.
“With the help of our laity, it was restored between May and October 1992. The Orthodox Church has been told to return 52 churches to us, but until now we haven’t asked for the rectories, which of course also belonged to us. And our people bore the burden of this restoration.”
During our conversation, Bishop Hirka again and again praised the faith and fortitude of the laity. In a country known for its religious strength, the Greek Catholics of eastern Slovakia are regarded as particularly devout.
Throughout its history, the fate of the Greek Catholic Church has been linked to the political fortunes of eastern Slovakia. Some historians claim that eastern Slovakia’s Christians always remained loyal to the pope, says Mikulas Hucko, former secretary to Bishop Hirka. Others believe the Greek Catholic Church dates back to the Act of Union in 1646 in the city of Uzhgorod (now in western Ukraine). Several Ukrainian Catholic eparchies (dioceses) also claim Uzhgorod as the site of their union with the bishop of Rome.
(Like their Eastern European counterparts, Slovakian women were the pillars of the church. Now they are passing on their faith to the confused but enthusiastic youth.)
Like their Ukrainian counterparts, the Greek Catholics of Slovakia are liturgically and spiritually Orthodox, yet loyal to the pope. Married clergy, celibate monks and bishops, veneration of icons and the use of Church Slavonic in the liturgy illustrate this church’s Orthodox heritage.
After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, there were about 310,000 Greek Catholics in Czechoslovakia, a multi-ethnic republic made up of Czechs, Bohemians, Moravians and Slovaks. Now, there are about 250,000 Greek Catholics in newly independent Slovakia. There are also several thousand in what is now the Czech Republic; a result of the postwar resettlement of poor eastern Slovaks whose villages had been destroyed in the war. Many were resettled by the communists in the German-speaking border region of Sudetenland, whose German-speaking population was forcibly expelled after the war.
Bishop Hirka, a short, cherubic man whose face readily creases into a smile, sees many benefits in the suffering endured by his people under communism:
“God allowed people to be tempted but not abandoned. The laity suffered a lot,but because of them the church is still alive…that’s why it’s in good shape today.
“I worked as an electrician under the communists. During that time and my time in prison, I learned much from ordinary people and that’s why as a bishop I’m now able to give them advice…I appreciate their wisdom.”
He cited an experience while administrator of the eparchy, a post he filled before becoming bishop. Encouraged to cooperate with the Orthodox, he asked the laity what to do. They advised him to accept the clergy as people but not to accept Orthodoxy as his religion.
“Inside ordinary people,” said Bishop Hirka, “are faith and wisdom and truth. I tried to make communists see that they were trying to manufacture the truth when in fact the truth is to be found inside ordinary people. It can’t be made.”
In 1990, the Slovak National Parliament enacted a law that all former Greek Catholic churches were to be restored. Often churches had been used by both Greek Catholics and Orthodox; thus restitution was to be negotiated.
“Wrangling over issues of church property,” says Mikulas Hucko, “reflects badly on Christianity and has laid the church open to charges in the media of greed. Such things confuse people. Communist policy sowed the seeds of this discord and that diabolical policy is now bearing fruit.”
Restitution continues, with the Orthodox Church now promised compensation for returning churches to the Greek Catholics. However, a few churches have been handed over minus their icons or pews; or, as with the bishop’s residence, damaged or defaced.
(Greek Catholic seminarians exit Presov’s cathedral after liturgy.)
A cause for cheer is the seminary, which is next door to Bishop Hirka’s residence. After 1968 only one seminary, for both Greek and Roman Catholics, was permitted in Slovakia. Often the number of Greek Catholic seminarians was limited to four per year. Now there is a need for young priests who are able to do pastoral work. Many of the 167 priests currently engaged in pastoral work are elderly; eight are over 80.
There are 105 seminarians enrolled in the Presov seminary and Bishop Hirka anticipates that within three years the number will suffice to meet the demand for priests. In addition, 220 lay people are studying theology at the seminary in order to teach in school.
Bishop Hirka listed making pilgrimages among the duties of a priest, which indicates how important such rites are among Greek Catholics. The most popular pilgrimage, held in August near the village of Lutina, attracts some 100,000 faithful a year.
Another popular site is the village of Litmanova where on 1 August 1989 two girls aged 10 and 12 claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary. She warned them against materialism and consumerism. Since the first apparition the girls, both of whom have passed a battery of psychological tests, continue to have the same vision on the first Sunday of each month. Their case, which is under scrutiny by church officials, has attracted much attention and is said to have brought converts to the church.
Without minimizing the girls’ experience, Mikulas Hucko cautions against relying on visions rather than holy scripture. But he agrees that materialism and an indifference to church matters are some of the biggest tests now facing the church. New Age groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other proselytizers are active, filling a need, Hucko fears, not being met by the church. And with Slovakia’s separation from the Czechs have come greater economic and political uncertainty. How newly independent Slovakia will handle its problems is not yet clear.
Bishop Hirka, a self-confessed optimist, said that he is confident the laity will continue to help one another survive; and he hopes they avoid becoming slaves to secularism or materialism. However materialism may be a much more slippery and multiheaded adversary than communism.
Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa
The Dobsnska Ice Cave is part of the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst. Close to the mining town of Dobsina (established in 1326) it is part of the National Park Reserve “Slovak Paradise.” This ice cave is truly a wonder of nature. The cave is approximately one mile from the Hnilec River and was officially listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000. The ice cave has a long and interesting history. It has been compared to the caves in the Austrian Alps (Eisriesenwelt and Dachstein-Rieseneishohle) and the cave in the Romanian Bihor Mountain range (Scarisoana.) The Ice Cave is part of the Stratena caves and was formed in the mid-Triassic period. The fault lines contain limestone and the various sections of the cave were formed by rocks formed during different eras of time.
The ice cave was discovered on June 15, 1870. A royal mining engineer, Eugen Ruffinyi was performing work in the area with Andrej Mega. He was told of the entrance by local villagers. Exploration began and after a year, the cave was opened to the public for viewing. In 1887 electric lighting was installed; it was first electrically lit cave in Europe. The cave became very popular in summer due to its cool temperatures and excellent acoustics. In 1890 a concert was held in honor of Archduke Karl Ludwig Von Hapsburg. In 1893, facilities were constructed so that summer ice skating could be undertaken by visitors. Approximately 80% of the cave’s known area is covered with ice. The ice volume is approximately 77 miles thick and this makes lists the cave as one of the most important in the entire world. The entrance to the cave faces North and it results in swift cooling during winter. The interior of the cave is well insulated from the outside and the average temperature inside of the cave is maintained at approximately 32 degrees. Many studies have been performed during the past two centuries. It is estimated the age of the ice cave is approximately 250,000 years old.
The cave is open to the general public during the months from May 15th to September 30th each year. During its period of operation, many from Slovakia and all over Europe have come to visit. Some famous visitors to the Dobsnska Ice Cave have been Prince August von Sachsen Gotha and his wife, Princess Clementine of Boubon-Orleans (1892), the Bulgarian Czar Ferdinand I (1890), the polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1900) and Ferdinand de Lesseps, the constructor of the Suez Canal.
The cave is divided into various sections, some of which are the Great and Small Hall, Ruffiny’s Corridor and the Ground Floor hall. The spaces in the cave vary from top to bottom and in some parts the volume is almost entirely filled with ice. The cave has been very popular with visitors. Beginning in 1946, figure skating was permitted all year round. The famous Czechoslovak figure skater Karol Divin trained here on a regular basis. During the period of 1953 to 1954 the ice cave was closed for general repairs. The walking paths were reconstructed and the electric wiring was updated. There are no mechanical means of transportation in the ice cave; the only way to view the entire cave from its entrance to exit is by walking.
To view the entire cave takes approximately one hour depending upon how fast the guide and visitors are walking. There are many beautiful examples of nature to be seen in this cave such as ice waterfalls, ice stalagmites and columns of shining ice. These shapes have been perfected into various forms due to centuries of aging. Many sections of the cave have colored lighting focused on the ice; this makes for an impressive viewing experience and adds to the magnificent beauty of the ice cave. Not only ice is found in the cave but it is a wintering place for bats. Among the species found in the cave are the Whiskered Bat, Brandt’s Bat and 12 other species. Most important are the Pond Bat and Matterers Bat, they are among the rarest of species of bat in Europe.
Blessed Zdenka Schelingova
Cecilia Schelingova was born on December 24, 1916 in Kriva na Orave, former Austro-Hungarian Empire, present day Kriva, Northeastern Slovakia. The next day, she was baptized at the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Joseph and received the name Cecilia. Her were parents Pavol and Zuzana (nee Panikova) and she was one of ten children. A sensitive and religious child, Cecilia attended local elementary schools and was raised in a devout Catholic home. During 1920, the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross came to Kriva na Orave. These Sisters had come from Ingenbohl, Switzerland to serve as teachers for the children of the village and to provide care for sick and disabled residents.
Cecilia was moved by the example of these sisters and their Franciscan life. Their Order focuses on teaching children, staffing health clinics and care of the sick and those who are marginalized. After much prayer and reflection, she decided to enter this order. She expressed her desire to her parents and during 1931 at the age of 15, she travelled with her mother to the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross Motherhouse in Podunajske Biskupice. Upon arrival, she requested permission to enter the convent. Taking her age into account, the Mother Superior first instructed Cecilia to attend nursing school with a focus in radiology. When her studies were completed, she formally entered the convent on January 30, 1937. Cecilia made her first profession or vows and was given the name “Zdenka” which translated means Sidonia. Sister Zdenka wrote “I want to do God’s will without paying attention to myself, my comfort or my rest.” This principle would guide, and strengthen, Sister Zdenka in ways she could never have imagined. She was sent to a hospital in Humenne to serve as a nurse. In 1942, she was assigned to a hospital in Bratislava to work in the radiology department. During her time at the hospital she earned the love and respect of patients and doctors alike. However, dark clouds were enveloping all of Europe as World War II continued to escalate.
After the war, another terrible event took place. In February of 1948 the communists took over the territory of Slovakia. The media was controlled by the government, the Catholic Church was suppressed and all industry and private property was nationalized. During 1950, convents and monasteries were closed. During her service at the hospital a priest, Father Stefan Kostial, was admitted. She leaned the reason for a guard at his door was the regime accused the priest of being a Vatican spy. As soon as he recovered, it was said he would be transported to Siberia. Without hesitation, Sister Zdenka received the grace of great courage. She purposely placed sleeping pills into the guard’s tea. Once asleep, she warned the priest and helped him to escape from the hospital. After he was safely away, she went into the hospital chapel and prayed “Jesus, I offer my life for his, save him!”
On February 29, 1952 three more priests and a number of seminarians were at the hospital. She tried once more to save them but was discovered. Sister Zdenka was about to experience her own personal Calvary. Arrested, she was brutally interrogated. When this did not produce the desired results, she was tortured by the state police. Time and again she was kicked and beaten. The result of these beatings would leave her permanently mutilated. They also tried to suffocate her but, at the last moment would stop. After these torture sessions she was left in her prison cell. With nothing but a cold cement floor, she used her shoes to prop up her head. Brought to trial at the Palace of Justice in Bratislava on June 17, 1952, her crime was listed as the attempted escape of six Roman Catholic priests. She was accused of being “Enemy Number One of the peoples’ democracy” and was given a sentence of 12 years in prison. Sister Zdenka was placed in a political prison in Rimavska Sobota. The conditions were deplorable. There was no heat and the smell of mildew was everywhere, the prisoners were underfed and illness was rampant. Interrogations were part of the daily routine and only in prayer did Sister Zdenka find strength. Upon learning Sister Zdenka’s fate, her mother and brother decided they had to visit. Informed they could come to the prison, it was forbidden to show any sign of affection or emotion to the prisoner.
After almost two years of this existence, Sister Zdenka was transferred to a Prague hospital to have a cancerous tumor removed. A political prisoner in the same hospital, Helena Korda, took it upon herself to help Sister Zdenka. She would later recount how beautiful sister’s eyes were but that they were filled with much suffering. Ms. Korda later commented that Sister Zdenka would speak of her village and how she would like to see her mother again. One day a guard curtly came to tell Sister Zdenka you are being taken to Brno! Ms. Korda was heartbroken that Sister Zdenka would be taken away. At this time, a curious statement was made by Sister Zdenka. She told Ms. Korda “We must not cry, you will be freed, while as for me, it’s over. I have a feeling one day you will come to my tomb and leave white roses there.” This statement became fact in 1960 when Helena Korda was suddenly freed from prison. She went to Sister Zdenka’s grave and did leave a large bouquet of white roses in her memory.
Sister Zdenka was taken to the prison in Brno and then, relocated to a harsher prison in Pardubice in Bohemia. There, in solitary confinement, she was again subjected to terrible conditions. Her health began to deteriorate but she prayed day and night. When it became apparent that her health was failing rapidly, a decision was made. The regime did not like priests or religious sisters dying in prison, they felt this would give the church martyrs the people would honor. She was determined to be “incurable” which was the state pretext to release her on April 15, 1955. Sister Zdenka travelled to to Bratislava and introduced herself to the Superior of the convent at a public hospital. The superior feared reprisals and further police surveillance. Sister realized these heartaches were God’s will and she accepted them.
Finally, a friend came and took her to Trnava. Sadly, her freedom was not long. One week later, she became critically ill and was taken to a hospital. A diagnosis of cancer in both lungs was made. Her friend, Apolonia, visited every day and was amazed at her peaceful continence in the face of such physical suffering. Finally, with her life coming to its conclusion, she prayed “At the end, when my soul is before you and for the first time and I see Your majesty, have mercy on me.” She received the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church and at dawn on Sunday, July 31, 1955, Sister Zdenka stepped gently into paradise. Her body was taken and interred in the cemetery in Podunajske-Biskupice in the section reserved for the Sisters of the Holy Cross. She was 39 years old.
Many years after her death, on April 6, 1970, the Slovak Socialist Republic’s Court of Justice rescinded the sentence of high treason on the basis it was not justified. After reading a full account of her imprisonment, the President of the Senate who signed the order expunging Sister Zdenka’s sentence converted to the Catholic faith. On July 7, 2003 a decree of martyrdom was issued by Saint Pope John Paul II and on September 14, 2003, Sister Zdenka was beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II in Bratislava, Slovakia. This, however, is not the end of Blessed Zdenka’s story. An alleged miracle attributed to her intercession in Denver, Colorado ended in a Mass at the John Paul II Center campus at the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary. Archbishop Samuel Aquila was the main celebrant of the closing Mass. The conclusion was the ceremonial sealing of a 695 page document chronicling the collection of testimonies, medical records and evidence. This investigation may lead to the eventual canonization of Blessed Zdenka. Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross Order came from Slovakia and Switzerland to attend the closing Mass. Father Ludovit Pokojny, the postulator for this cause, delivered the documents to Rome. Marge Van Lierde, the niece of Blessed Zdenka, who resides in Virginia attended the Holy Cross Sisters Centennial Celebration in 2012. She stated regarding “the investigative process of the Cause for Canonization of my aunt, a Sister of Mercy of the Holy Cross told me, “If God wants it, it will happen.” She concluded her comments with “my heart continues to be filled with hope that “God wants it.”
Prayer for Beatification of Blessed Zdenka
Our Father, you presented Blessed Zdenka with light and power of the Holy Spirit and gave her grace to live a true Christian and religious life up to martyrdom following the example of Jesus Christ. Please give us the grace which we ask from you through her intercession, in hope that Church will soon add her to your saints. Give as well that she would become an ideal of a convincing Christian life and a great esteem towards the Sacrament of Ordination for people of our times. Through Christ, our
Blessed Zdenka Pray For Us!