More sticker problems at border
In response to your article ["Visa rules making for border complications" by Chris Togneri, Vol. 7 No. 7, February 19 - 25], I can relate to this story, having experienced a similar situation not once but twice while living in Slovakia. I too was not informed of the new sticker policy (like many other foreigners), and subsequently had to pay my way back into the country. The first occasion happened when I travelled to Vienna with a friend to do some cross-border shopping.
Leaving Slovakia and entering Austria was no problem at all, there was no mention of my papers not being complete. It wasn't until I tried to re-enter Slovakia that I was told that my passport was not in order, that I was not going to be allowed back in, and was turned away from the border.
We then decided to try another border connecting the two countries. When we finally got to the Slovak police window, the officer informed me again that my papers were not in order. My friend argued and reasoned with the police officer for some time before finally we pulled our car out of the line of traffic to a parking space at the side. I asked what was going on, and my friend quickly reported that the officer had said, "if your friend wants to come into Slovakia, he can either buy me a bottle of whiskey, or go back to Vienna". Luckily, there is a small buffet located conveniently on the border, and I bought the whiskey.
The second incident was the same, except I did not have to travel to two borders. This time, the guard only wanted me to place 500 Slovak crowns ($10) into my passport for him, which he proceeded to place into his wallet. Hmm... should I have asked for a receipt?
Westerners are thieves as well
I wonder exactly how the theft of the 7-tonne machine from VSŽ was effected? ["Firms stung by employee pilfering" by Peter Barecz, Vol. 7 No. 8, February 26 - March 4] If, as your description implies, somebody actually spirited something heavier than a London bus through the factory gate, then am I alone in feeling some sneaking admiration?
An oft-told story in British military circles concerns an armoured division officer who, in peacetime conditions, found himself short of two of the tanks for which he was responsible. His mind wonderfully concentrated by how this would ruin his career, he resolved on sending two signals: the first was "Regret to advise the loss of two containers", followed a day or two later by "Correction to my last. For 'containers' read 'tanks'".
The story runs that he had been promoted and posted elsewhere well before the real substance of the signals had been digested.
The popularity of the story witnesses to the view that in the West, too, dishonesty towards the large bureaucratic employer tends to be defined by what you can get away with. And if that employer is perceived to be corrupt, then theft is perceived as a duty rather than a sin. As the doggerel ran after one of the British land reform acts, "The Law is hard on man or woman/ who steals the goose from off the Common/ But lets the greater villain loose/ who steals the Common from the goose".
Small comfort for the new owners of VSŽ, perhaps, but at least cold comfort for Slovaks in general to realise that they're no different from the rest of us.
Imprisoned dissidents irked by Communist leader
In response to your article ["Communist Jača says dissidents happier in jail" by Lucia Nicholsonová, Vol. 7 No. 8, February 26 - March 4], my Mom was imprisoned in September, 1954, because as a teenager she had been a member of a Catholic youth group. My brother was 10 months old at the time of her imprisonment. She was lucky because originally she had been prosecuted for treason, but they couldn't prove it. She spent only three months in prisons at Pankrac in Prague with other Slovaks who were allowed no contact with their families.
Her uncle, who was a Greek Catholic priest in eastern Slovakia, was imprisoned for more than 10 years, and served in the uranium mines in Jachymov. His family with 5 children was resettled in Bohemia, and after being released he couldn't find a reasonable job to support them.
For me, Communism was not a joke. Nor was it for many other people who suffered under this regime. I think that your readers would like to read stories about people who suffered just because of their beliefs.
Longmont, Colorado, US
More security needed on Bratislava streets
I have visited Slovakia several times, at first for business, then regularly for pleasure as the country's nature captivates you. But on my last visit to Slovakia, I was mugged while walking down a street in Bratislava. I was hurt quite badly during the incident, and luckily for me, I was helped by a storekeeper nearby. He called for the police, but they never showed up.
Afterwards, we stopped by at the police station and were told to file a report, that if they found something, they would contact me.
I was humiliated. I will not return to Slovakia. It's a shame that such a beautiful country lacks the proper security for visitors. If more were done, I would still be visiting Slovakia from time to time.
Minister slammed again for tax cops idea
In regards to your article ["Minister's calls for new tax cops slammed by colleagues" by Peter Barecz, Vol. 7 No. 7, February 19 - 25], one point to make is that when you lower taxation more people pay it; thus revenues actually go up. This was noticed by the OECD as well as several governments in Europe. Having had 10 years to learn from the European mistake of high taxation, instead Slovakia is thinking of recruiting more civil servants - thus increasing taxation and creating another bureaucratic empire. Sad.
5. Mar 2001 at 0:00