The needs of strangers
I have been reading your newspaper online for some time now, since it is my plan to visit my father's family in Slovakia soon, and possibly relocate there for good.
I read your article "Beggars fight bum reputation"[By Martina Pisárová, Vol. 6 No. 8, Feb. 28-Mar. 5] with interest, among others. The plight of poor Rasťo [a beggar] and others like him moves me to tears, as I reflect on how much pain he must have gone through and must still be enduring. I don't know what I'd do or if I could take this much pain if something like Rasťo's experience happened to me. Life has taught me to be wary of pronouncing hasty judgement against people like beggars, no matter what their circumstances are.
I would like to share something I saw a few days ago here in my native country. I was momentarily looking out on the street from the balcony of my office, and saw on the opposite sidewalk a young man, possibly not more than 20 years old, with the dirty and unkempt look of a homeless youth, dressed in rags, barefoot, scrawny from the days of hunger he must have gone through. As he walked past my balcony, there was a little puddle of dirty water on the corner of the sidewalk. I saw this boy kneel on the ground right next to the puddle, and place his lips carefully on it to drink, just like an animal would do, without disturbing the mud underneath. When I saw that, and the people that passed to avoid the kid, my heart cried out in despair. If there was something I could have done at that moment to ease the boy's thirst, I would have. I don't care who he was or is. No man should have to sink to such despair to get even a simple drink of water. But we, the people supposedly 'normal', are really the ones at fault more often than not.
Hence, far from avoiding people like Rasťo, I am one of those that would gladly and willingly go up to him and offer something to help. As for those beggars that are supposedly linked to the mafia, let me put it in simple words: Which is easier, to commit a theft in order to eat, or to beg for a plate of food?
And those beggars that resort to 'tricks' to con people into giving I cannot judge. In many cases, it may be either that, or having to stoop on the dirty street to drink from a muddy puddle of water.
Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
Time to address hate crime
How can Slovakia expect to gain entrance to the European Union or NATO with the amount of hate crimes and racism that is going on for such a small country? The government and the police had better start enforcing protection to foreigners or native Slovaks of various colours and religions, or nobody will want to come to Slovakia for a scholarship or visit, nor will Slovakia make the progress as a country that it so desires.
I am Slovak by descent, married to a Slovak national US resident for the past six years, and my interest in these things is very personal. Last summer, when we visited Slovakia, we took our three Native American foster children with us. A gypsy fiddler in Bratislava was rude to them and shooed them away when they stopped to watch him, thinking that these chidren were gypsies and would steal from him (he later related to my husband). It is all because of their skin being a shade darker (which I call beautiful tans)! How horrible to treat children that way!
Farmington, New Mexico
Tiso plaque should be fought
Thank you for your insightful editorial, "Tiso honoured: What the hell's going on up there?" [Vol. 6 No. 8, Feb. 28-Mar. 5] and for arousing hope (even a small one) that there will be an even greater public outcry to this affair. This sorry occasion of bestowing honour upon a convicted war criminal 54 years after his execution indicates a broader failure in Slovak education and society. The young people of the last two generations have not been sufficiently taught the facts (and grave consequences) of those tragic and embarrassing years when fascism and racism reared their ugly heads so prominently, and most people (including the institutional church) chose to look the other way in self preservation. Yet if we really care about a better future for Slovakia, it's now all of our responsibilities to teach and demonstrate a different standard.
Perhaps some of that self-protection was excusable and/or forgiveable back then, given the extreme pressures of life in WW2 Europe. But today, seeing the outcomes of radical nationalism and racism through the eyes of recent history, how can anyone possibly seek to justify such a man as Tiso, whose crimes against humanity were documented and established in a court of law? As the fists of bigotry and skinhead brutality are raised anew, shall we once again just look the other way in apathy, indifference or disillusionment?
The fact that any public institution (and even worse, an organization that supposedly represents Christian values) would in any way support such a commemoration, combined with the recent increase in racial attacks here, shows just how quickly intolerance, ignorance, and prejudice can be reborn when nothing concrete is done to prevent it. The public response to this event will be a good indicator of the moral and ethical directions Slovakia will be taking in the near future.
The hope for the future lies in our willingness to admit, and learn from, our past errors. Evil can only increase when 'good' people do nothing. The silence and non-involvement of many of those who should be the nation's moral and ethical leaders is inexcusable.
I am an American who has chosen to live here because of a genuine love for Slovakia and its people, a love I have felt ever since I first came here seven years ago. I have seen in my own country how spineless politicians and leaders who refuse to take a stand or accept any responsibility for moral and ethical failures have brought us shame and disrepute recently, and have stained our reputation on the world scene.
At this time, when Slovakia is struggling to gain respect and recognition as a nation moving toward a progressive democracy, with a sound environment for business investment, the best possible reaction to this situation is a grass-roots demonstration of protest on March 14 in Žilina. Wouldn't it be great to see a march or rally, stating peacefully, yet in uncompromising terms, that this sort of commemoration is morally wrong and totally inconsistent with the will of the majority of Slovak people?
Tiso in a tough spot
I don't for a minute wish to glorify Tiso's memory, but it's well to avoid sweeping statements about "Slovaks wanting to forget the horrors their country suffered during WW 2." No doubt there were horrors, but to me the statement implies that they were particularly bad in Slovakia.
Actually, precisely because of Tiso's government, non-Jewish Slovaks arguably suffered less horror during WW 2 than any other nation in Europe east of France and Switzerland.Tiso had very little choice about most of what he did, and except for the admittedly reprehensible deportation of Slovak Jews, he did the best for Slovaks that he could in a completely untenable situation.
13. Mar 2000 at 0:00