Charity honours Slovak first lady
THE FIRST lady of Slovakia, Silvia Gašparovičová, has been given an international award by an NGO that raises awareness of the plight of underprivileged children.
Time4sharing.org, a move-ment that empowers under-privileged children through the sharing of quality time, has presented Gašparovičová with the Goodwill Ambassador Award for 2005-2006 for her support in two events that took place in Slovakia, Time4sharing.org's coordinator for Central Europe, Petra Reisová, informed The Slovak Spectator.
Time4sharing.org has orga-nized over 100 special functions for over 10,000 underprivileged children in its five-year history.
The charitable movement recognizes extraordinary people in commu-nities where volunteers are active, and in the case of 2005, the philanthropic committee unani-mously nominated Gašparovičová.
"She has shown caring not only through Time4sharing.org, but in so many other educational projects for underprivileged children in her country and her activity with her own foundation," said Vivian Boulos Tolan, President of Time4sharing.org.
Former recipients of this award include Timothy Shriver, nephew of former US President John F Kennedy, for his work with Time4sharing.org and the Special Olympics in the Middle East, of which he is worldwide president.
The most recent Time4sharing.org project to which Gašparovičová gave her support was Lonely Toys for Hopeful Hearts which called on the public at large to donate toys, books and DVDs to children's homes nationwide.
At the reception Gašpa-rovičová, a mother of two, pledged to lend in her support to Time4sharing.org in 2006.
"One of the projects discussed was Computers4Kids, to be launched in the spring of 2006 in Slovakia, encouraging local companies to donate any new or used computers to homes for underprivileged children, and to offer computer skills to these kids who deserve a fair chance in life," said Reisová.
Last conscripts leave army
THE LAST 214 soldiers serving compulsory military service left the Slovak army shortly before Christmas, the TASR news agency wrote. The army will now be fully professional.
The ceremonial farewell to the last conscripts took place with Defence Minister Juraj Liška and Chief of Staff Ľubomír Bulík at a base in the Bratislava district of Vajnory.
"With regards to Slovakia's needs, I'm really glad that the country will have professional armed forces," Liška said.
The Slovak military is already 95.5-percent professionalized, with almost 16,000 staff serving in the army. By the end of next year the army should have 20,000 soldiers, said Armed Forces spokesperson Milan Vanga.
The end of compulsory military service and the start of the fully professional army is legislatively defined in three laws - the bill for military preparedness, alternative service in times of war, and an amendment to the bill on assigning state security during times of war and conflict and special situations, which will come into effect as of January 1, 2006.
A local branch of the global pacifist group Food for Bombs welcomed the abolition of compulsory military service in Slovakia and expressed public gratitude to the country's defence minister.
Food for Bombs praised the minister "for stopping the disgraceful conscription in spite of pressure from the military brass".
For the pacifist group, the day of the abolition of compulsory military service was a celebration of freedom and anti-militarism for all young Slovaks, no longer forced to enlist in the armed forces.
Hanukkah celebrated in capital
People came to Rybné Square in Bratislava on December 27 to celebrate the traditional Jewish holiday of Hanukkah - the Festival of Lights. Each year the Jewish community remembers the victory of the Maacabes over the Syrians from two centuries ago by lighting the candles of a large menorah - an eight-armed candleholder. Bratislava native Jack Martin Händler (in the picture), a renowned musician and conductor, was one to light the candles.
photo: SITA - Ján Lörincz
The third Hanukkah candle was lit at the ceremony. This is the way the Jewish community annually celebrates the Jews' victory over the Hellenist Syrians in ancient times, the TASR news agency wrote.
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, also referred to as The Festival of Lights, which is celebrated each year for a period of eight days and nights, began this year on the night of Sunday December 25 and lasted until January 2.
In 2005, the beginning of the festival happened to fall on Christmas Day, due to a leap year in the Jewish calendar.
At the start of Hanukkah, Jews light the first candle in a special candleholder called a "menorah" or "hanukkiah". This is the most important Hanukkah ritual. An extra candle is added and lit every night.
The word "hanukkah" means "dedication", and the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' victory over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 B.C. At that time, the Greek King of Syria, Antiochus, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship the Greek gods.
Many Jews consider Hanukkah the most beautiful and joyful Jewish holiday.
Castle shows miners' Christmas
ORIGINAL miners' nativity scenes, painted models of salaš (hill-farm), "bottles of patience", model mines, religious paintings and toys with Christmas motifs are displayed at an exhibition at the Old Castle in the central Slovak town of Banská Štiavnica.
All these items are considered to be essential elements of a "real miners' Christmas", wrote the TASR news agency.
In the past, Banská Štiavnica, a UNESCO world-heritage site, was among the most famous mining centres in Europe. In the 18th century, around 20 tonnes of silver and half a tonne of gold were extracted from the surrounding hills every year.
The most attractive exhibits are probably the 30 wooden, paper, textile and ceramic nativity scenes with some figures modelled on real miners from the area around Banská Štiavnica and nearby Banská Hodruša. The oldest of these scenes date from the 19th century. The exhibition literature states that the miners not only used the nativity scenes, but also made some of them themselves. Most of the figures, however, were made by local wood-carver Ján Šulc, who died in the 1970s. Another notable feature of the exhibition are the "bottles of patience". These contain miniature figures positioned to represent various Christmas scenes. The exhibition includes the oldest such bottle in Slovakia, made in the 18th century.
The Miners' Christmas can be viewed at the Banská Štiavnica's Starý Zámok (Old Castle) until the end of January.