I am writing in response to John Hostetler's letter (Criticism of Mečiar-era Slovakia unfair, Letter to the Editor, Vol. 4 No. 29, Nov. 30 - Dec. 6).
Criticism of Mečiar 'unfair'??!! You bet it's fair, and in most cases not caustic enough. Just because many unsophisticated old people were "sucked in" by his free bus rides, free coffee and other free worthless presents along with the emply promise of higher old age pensions, there's no reason to excuse the political and economic rampage which dominated his 'reign'. Astute Slovaks were very aware of the patronage, bribery and stong-arm tactics of the HZDS, and so were cognizant political observers in all democratic and progressive countries, as their reporting reflects.
What follows such a derelict government is the economic chaos which this present parliamentary body must deal with. Anyone who expects a 'rose garden without thorns' during the next four years is an unrealistic dreamer. I value the present coalition because priorities have been set in a calculated way. Amicable foreign and diplomatic efforts to restore Slovakia to a status which will remove the tarnish of the Mečiar era is of prime importance. We need the recognition of the world if we wish to maintain an acceptable economic exchange which alone can create a base for our eventual financial well being, and which will in turn enable us to better our educational, medical, banking, military, civic and social institutions, including old age pensions.
Hostetler mentioned the recent rise in the Slovak standard of living. And certainly, the old Trabants [cars] are gone, as are most of the 'held together by wire' Škodas.
But if Hostetler wants to dabble in our politics, he should point out to the citizens of this country the present unenviable situation in Russia, and show how dangerously close we came to following suit.
Hostetler noticed a rise in the standard of living in this country, without questioning how and why this occured. He did not calculate how many citizens are working at menial jobs in Austria to earn the extra money to make life easier here. He did not take stock of the young children who are dragged to babysitters at 6 am each morning by young mothers who should be at home with their children until they are at least six years of age. Who is paying the price for this seeming rise in living standards? Our babies? Our husbands who are lucky enough to get menial jobs in Austria?
Like Hostetler, I was born in Slovakia and lived most of my life in Canada, where I was a professor in higher education for 30 years and where I also did a stint in politics. I am here now by invitation (to teach English). I love this country and have elected to stay here. I have been granted Slovak citizenship, which I treasure. I feel that I can speak with some authority after six years of evaluating this country as a teacher and observer.
This country does not need 'visitors' to exacerbate our problems, but while I do not like what Hostetler says, I will never question his right to say it.
7. Dec 1998 at 0:00