Around Slovakia

Antifascists gather peacefully as skinheads watch
Historic town redoes its face
Petition against planned jail
Fewer visitors explore Slovak caves

Antifascists gather peacefully as skinheads watch

On February 6, 50 antifascists gathered in Prievidza, a town in central Slovakia, and were peacefully observed by 20 skinheads from the window of a restaurant on Prievidza's main square. High school and university students from Bratislava, Trenčín and Prievidza were protesting against fascism, shouting anti-fascist and anti-racist slogans. "We are protesting against the growing tide of fascism in this country," said Marek, an 18-year old university student from Bratislava, referring to a number of racially-motivated murders that have occurred in the past three years. "Already two people in Slovakia are dead because of the actions of neo-fascist youths. We want to wake people up and not let them remain ignorant of this problem." In February, 1997 a similar gathering in Prievidza was suppressed by the police, but this time, police were closely watching the skinheads. Romanies did not take part in the demonstration, which demonstrators said probably helped avoid conflict.

Historic town redoes its face

The historic central Slovak mining town of Banská Štiavnica received a grant of 80,000 British pounds (4.6 million Sk) from the British Headly Trust Fund in the second week of February to reconstruct two buildings in the town's center. "This is the second time we were able to secure finances for reconstruction," said Juraj Pančula, the director of the Association of Banská Štiavnica '91. "One house needs to have its facade reconstructed, and the other needs to have its 17th-century interior wall paintings repaired." The reconstruction had already been planned before 1989, but due to lack of funds was postponed until now.

Petition against planned jail

The Ministry of Justice's plan to build a jail in an abandoned tobacco factory in the downtown area of Rimavská Sobota caused a great uproar among inhabitants. A group of citizens launched a petition on February 13 to challenge the plan. The jail proposes to employ up to 200 people from the region. The petition claims that the jail will have a negative impact on the development of the town and the region, which are both plagued with serious social and economic problems, with unemployment close to 25 percent. "If the state really wanted to help the region, as it often declares, it could have set up some light production in this building," said Daniel Brezina, member of the petition committee. He argued that even though the jail would give jobs to 200 people, it would not bring any economic profit to the city. The petition aims to collect enough signatures before the end of March to force a referendum on the issue.

Fewer visitors explore Slovak caves

Slovakia's famous caves, the Ochtiná Cave in the Gemer region, the Domica Cave with its beautifully colored limestone formations, the Dobšiná Ice Cave plus another ten caves are all facing a decreasing number of visitors every year. According to Jozef Hlaváč, Director of the Association of Slovak Caves, about 567,000 tourists visited the 13 caves in 1997, well under the site capacity of 780,000 visitors per year. "We estimate that due to last summer's floods, we lost about 20,000 visitors," Hlaváč said. "The biggest loss is the ever-decreasing number of visitors from abroad." Hlaváč said the greatest flaws pointed out by visitors were the lack of restaurants in the vicinity of the caves and the bad state of public facilities, which make visits inconvenient for families.

Compiled by Andrea Lörinczová from press reports.

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