Letter to the Editor: Three cheers for Blava!

To all those people who prefer eastern Slovakia, I tip my hat to you. I enjoyed reading your reasons for a preference of the east.

At the same time, I have to say that I share none of the anecdotal accounts of the terrible "Blaváci" [Bratislava residents] in my four years of living in this most interesting of cities. Well, actually I should say that I don't share in the final verdict of negativity. I have, like many others, run into people who have given me the cold shoulder, not been very helpful, or in one case stuffed paper in the lock of the gate before my front door to let me know he thought I was slamming it too loudly when I came home from the piváreň at early hours. Thank goodness it was already unlocked!

But I have also met wonderful people in the capital who took me into their homes to drink domáca slivovica, escorted me to a doctor when I needed one, and helped me with my continually broken Slovak.

Yes, those Blaváci can be a royal pain in the backside, not unlike some of the people I've met from New York for example. Or perhaps I could chalk it up to the same kind of protective stance some Germanic people take toward newcomers into their fold. The funny thing is that time allows for all kinds of reconciliation. For example, a repetitive "Dobrý deň", a taste of chips and salsa for a little girl, and the gesture of holding the door open at my building when a mother was struggling with heavy groceries suddenly produced a gate with a lock free of stuffed paper, paper I was having a bear of a time getting out!

Many of the initial rough points have given way to less coarse encounters and even an honest interest in where I come from. There are other examples as well. There is a woman at the potraviny near my home who takes time to throw new words out in a joking fashion to see if I can guess what the hell she is saying. I've surprised her a couple of times. And there is the young woman who cuts my hair on occasion and speaks slowly to me so that my vlasy turn out just right. There is even the bitchy number 201 bus driver who had repeatedly taken to closing the door right before I rushed to get on. He always waited until I was almost there. One day he just waited. I have no idea why. The door stayed open until I got on. He smiled when I said thanks.

There is a softening side to those Blaváci, though it might take time and trial and error to find that underbelly. Come to think of it, maybe the softening has been mine. I don't suppose the Blava natives are really any different than the rest of us in that regard. In the end we all have province in accepting or rejecting the outsider.

Phillip Sanchez

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