I was very disappointed by the Guest Column, "Two types of Slovaks divide country," by Viliam Schichman (Vol. 3, No 24, December 18, 1997 - January 14, 1998). Although there is not enough space in your newspaper to respond properly, immediately after reading the column, I felt it would be inexcusable not to take exception. I read with great relief the letter "Categorizing Slovaks is absurd, misleads readers" in Letter To Editor (vol. 4, No. 1, January 15 - 28, 1998), feeling that the author relieved me of the need to write. I am quite satisfied with how Michal Zoldy expressed his views on this nonsense - attempting to categorize citizens in Slovakia. His background - Magyar, German, Austrian and Czech - proves that his argument is impartial and has merit. Still, I felt it neccessary to add some views and facts from my part of the country, to provide a point of view straight from the people and not from the mouth of some intellectual.
I am from Spiš, so based on Schichman's categorization, I would be a "second class citizen." I would like to strongly emphasize that during my long experiences in the Central and Western portions of Slovakia, I never came accross one case where I was treated as "less Slovak", and furthermore, I never noticed even a single instance where anyone else from any part of Slovakia was treated in such a way.
Because I grew up in the Spiš region, in a country in the "eastern bloc," I did not have the opportunity to explore the West. I did travel in Czechoslovakia and other "eastern" countries, and was rather surprised when I discovered that just a few kilometers from the ancient Slovak city of Nitra were villages in which people spoke Magyar. Even though I could not communicate with them, I found them all around good, polite people, living as fellow citizens.
Though as citizens we should try to get along, it seems reasonable that everyone who lives in Slovakia should, for his own sake as well as that of our beautiful country, be able to communicate on a reasonable level in the country's main language, which in our case is Slovak, in Hungary Hungarian, in Great Britain English, etc.
After the velvet revolution, I expected nothing but absolutely friendly relationships among all of the countries of Central Europe emerging from a common past. I simply could not believe my ears when I started to hear of controversy between Hungarians and Slovaks, or between Czechs and Slovaks. Is this what we needed? Why do we need tensions on either side of the Danube, or between the western and eastern territories of the previous Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, or between any other ethnic or language groups within present-day Slovakia? How could any of this happen when there was such a beautiful friendship between us all in my lifetime, a real brotherhood in this beautiful part of the world, in the very heart of Europe?
Given the hellish suffering and misery that we have seen in the former Yugoslavia, do we dare aggravate these tensions any further? Does anyone want to push our friendly brotherly relations between Slovak and Magyar compatriots even 1/100th of a percent toward the hatred and rivalry which led to the destruction of Yugoslavia?
I am greatly satisfied that Czechs and Slovaks are finally overcoming nostalgic feelings and temporary misunderstandings and are starting to accept the rightfulness of creating two independent republics. If one looks a century back and follows the incredible suffering and struggle of small nations in their long and hard journey toward independence, one will respect Slovakia's hard-won accomplishment. Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia are truly independent European nations for the first time in their histories. Even more importantly, a real sense of cooperation and brotherhood is being rebuilt between Czechs and Slovaks as between two nations that have always been close friends.
I very much appreciate The Slovak Spectator as one of the best newspapers helping me to follow Slovakia's evolution. My one concern is that this excellent newspaper reaches only a limited number of Slovak citizens due to the fact that it is in the English language.
26. Mar 1998 at 0:00