BRATISLAVA residents band together to beautify city.
photo: Courtesy of Omnipublic
Now in its fourth year, the 'Green City' project has switched from using out-of-town students to involving Bratislava residents on a volunteer basis. The campaign was opened on July 13 and will last until August 4 in Bratislava's Old Town, one of the city's five administrative units.
As in other years, the city has not said how much money is being spent on the environmental facelift.
The courtyard of a house on Heydukova Street was one of the places chosen for revitalisation. "It was in a catastrophic state, it looked like a junkyard," said Martina Bodnárová, 36, who lives in the house with her family.
Bodnárová spoke with some nostalgia of the site, now a concrete square but once a grassy courtyard with a fountain in the middle. She expressed gratitude that the organisers had supported the renewal.
"I was greatly surprised at the generous approach and the result will be very beautiful," she said.
Bodnárová's house was selected for renovation on the basis of an application she submitted to the Old Town council's environment department. Experts at the council approved 47 out of 62 public requests they received for aid, with most projects consisting of planting trees, flowers, grass and bushes in areas of the capital city judged to be dilapidated.
Besides getting free materials, successful applicants receive professional advice and hands-on aid, while an architect helps out during the planning stages and counselors, graduates of a university environment faculty in Banská Štiavnica, assist in the work.
Despite the many professional assistants, organisers stress the importance of local civic participation. "This project is unique in Slovakia because it has successfully brought this message to life," said Old Town Mayor Andrej Ďurkovský at a press conference July 11, adding he hoped Oldtowners would take advantage of the opportunity offered.
In the past, he said, Green City work had been done by volunteer students, although "we did see people coming spontaneously to help improve their surroundings."
This year the organisers expect around 200 local inhabitants to participate. Most work will be done on the weekends to ensure a high turnout.
"Just look at how many people are taking part," says Bodnárová, pointing to a group of around 10 neighbours busy arranging flower pots and planting small trees and bushes.
"Sometimes you get something started, people are glad to see the change and it just snowballs," she said adding that she hoped this would be only the first step towards a longer-term community involvement.
Philip Morris Slovakia, the event's sponsor, shares this hope, according to their corporate affairs manager Miroslav Sedlák: "Our company's sponsorship philosophy is not driven only by impersonal institutions, but also by the values of people who feel part of the community in which they live and work."
Locals involved in the Green City project, on the other hand, said they had mixed feelings about the project's being fed by money from a cigarette producer.
Bodnárová said she hadn't known a cigarette producer financed the event.
"I had no idea and it somewhat irritates me. I would be glad if cigarette companies were not allowed to have any form of promotion," she said, adding with a laugh that the locals would not tell anyone where they got the money.