In Slovakia, the best lack all conviction
I am responding to your article about the latest racial beating ["Beating leaves victims silent," By Martina Pisárová, Vol. 6 No. 11, Mar. 20-26]. It is very sad to hear stories like this, but it is not the only case. Things like this have been happening so often, be it in Old Town or in other parts. The saddest fact is that the officials here in Slovakia do not seem to realize the problem their society has. A painful point is that when such cases are reported to the police, all they have to say is that he or she was not wounded but has just suffered bruises. The people committing these racial attacks are not punished or not punished enough, so other gang members think it's OK to continue with their activities, because if they are caught, which is most unlikely, they can get away with it.
Normal Slovaks see foreigners being attacked and all they do is walk by, offering no help. I have lived in West Africa for most of my life, and never heard any racial slogans or witnessed any racial activities, so it is very sad to come to Slovakia, a part of Europe which claims to be a civilized society, to see all of this taking place.
What the Slovaks don't seem to realize is that all these negative events reflect on the whole society and not just on a part of it.
I think a part of the blame falls on the Slovak media, which is not doing enough to touch on the matter, but rather is keeping its voices low. A civilized country should have civilized inhabitants and civilized rules and regulations, which I don't think is the case in Slovakia. So someone, please, define the word "civilized" to me, because I don't seem to understand modern day civilization or, better put, Slovak civilization. My sincere regrets for such a letter, but those are the painful facts.
Getting over the shock of returning to Slovakia
My wife and I really enjoyed the article on "Culture Shock" by Renata Stoll and Lucia Nicholsonová ["Marrying a foreigner takes patience," Vol. 6 No. 10, Mar. 13-19]. It reminded us of some of our own culture shocks when we first visited Slovakia in 1968. Even though we are both Slovaks, we grew up in North America and also had to become "acclimatized" to our ancient homeland. Our biggest shocks were Slovakia's public toilets. Mercifully, they are now much improved.
However, we still don't understand why most Slovaks do not use screens on their windows to keep out the flies. Are screens expensive in Slovakia?
We look forward to reading more such articles as "Culture Shock." Congratulations to the two Slovak wives for a job well-done!
Chair in Slovak History,
Good riddance to vrátniks
Your recent front page article about Slovak doorkeepers being relics of the past (by Peter Barecz, Vol. 6 No. 8, Feb. 28 - Mar. 5) made me stand up and shout "Amen!"
My Slovak cousin and I have had a few negative experiences interacting with these vrátnici (doorkeepers). The most recent event occured in January. As an American with Slovak-born parents, I have never sought advice from any of the American or British groups here during my eight visits to Slovakia. In January I decided to seek advice at the Foreigners Counselling Commercial Service on Grösslingová ulica.
My cousin waited outside while I tried to gain entry to the building by talking to the elderly male vrátnik at the Grösslingova office building. I first tried speaking in English, but he didn't understand.
Next I uttered my best attempt at requesting entry using my limited Slovak vocabulary. That didn't work either. Since I had neither the exact name of the Commercial Service, nor the name of anyone employed there, nor any of the office phone numbers, I was, as we say in the US, s.o.l. (ie I didn't gain entry).
That frail little man had demonstrated more authority to me than the two armed US government employees who monitor visits to the government offices in the Federal Building back home in Cleveland, Ohio.
Slovakia ripe for National Geographic
I am a staff photojournalist from a daily paper (175,000 circ) in southern California. I am enjoying your website very much. You are an excellent source of information from the newly formed Slovak Republic.
I am thinking it is time for National Geographic to do a package on your young nation and its struggle to establish itself in the world order separate from the Czech Republic and former Eastern Bloc influences. You are a good source of information for my proposal.
A picture is worth a thousand words. You need a staff photographer in your office!
27. Mar 2000 at 0:00