Around Slovakia

Well digger
Plane dispute
Altar paintings return home from Italy
Helicopter crashes metres from rescue team
Elderly siblings perish
Masked culprits stage coordinated robbery
Woman dies after turning 80

Well digger

A MAN who has dug tonnes of earth during his life is probably the country's oldest living manual well digger.
Pavel Urbančok, 74, from the western Slovak village of Demandice, near Levice, dug out about 1,000 wells in 30 years of work.
Urbančok said that he has dug wells in many towns and villages across the country. He claims that a hand-dug well is better than one dug with machines.
The former miner said to the Slovak daily Nový Čas that the deepest well he ever dug was 30 metres deep.

Nižný Komárnik
Plane dispute

A UNIQUE, Soviet-made World War II IL-10 jet, also called the Šturmovik (raider), is at the centre of a dispute between two eastern Slovak museums.
The Šturmovik, standing on a concrete pedestal in the Nižný Komárnik village, has been a part of an open-air exposition at the Military Museum in eastern Slovakia's Svidník district.
The jet is now potentially going to be moved to the Košice technical museum, a possibility strongly opposed by the Svidník museum officials, as well as by those who remember the fierce World War II fights.
The Slovak daily SME wrote on January 15 that experts from the Košice museum recently studied the technical possibilities of the jet's transportation.
"As far as I know, the plane will become a part of the Aviation Museum exposition in Košice. I am against this on principle. It is not correct to strengthen one museum to the detriment of another," said Jozef Rodák, head of the Military Museum in Svidník.
"Šturmovik is an inseparable part of our exposition that depicts the [1944] fights [between the retreating Germans and the Soviet Red Army] at the Dukla straight," Rodák said.
But Eugen Labanič, head of the Slovak Technical Museum in Košice, denied the allegations that Šturmovik would be moved to his museum.
"The piece belongs to the Military Historical Institute in Bratislava, which will build its own exposition in Košice of aviation technology and army air defence. We have nothing to do with that but we are willing to reconstruct the plane," Labanič said.
The head of Bratislava's Military Historical Institute, Jozef Bystrický, would not comment on the matter, but he did confirm that a new exposition is planned in Košice.
"I understand that the people in Svidník are outraged by this. I consider the decision to move the jet to be insensitive, especially because this is the 60th anniversary of the Carpathian-Dukla military operation," Bystrický said.
"It was not our initiative. Šturmovik is our exhibit and we will not give it out to any other museum," he said.
According to unofficial information, President Rudolf Schuster, the former mayor of Košice and founder of the city's aviation museum, is behind the jet's potential move.
Jozef Širotňák, head of the president's Košice office, said to SME that it was not important who stood behind the decision to move the plane.
"Above all, this is an effort to save the precious exhibit. This jet, which is a rarity, has been looted and it will soon fall to pieces just like other planes that are in the Svidník museum. Šturmovik inevitably needs to be reconstructed and a true copy of the plane will be put in its place," Širotňák said.

PRECIOUS altar paintings return safely home from their trip.
photo: TASR

Altar paintings return home from Italy

FIVE precious paintings by the medieval Italian artist Narda di Cione have been returned to Bojnice Castle after they were lent to the city of Pisa last September for a grand exposition documenting Pisa's history.
The five paintings by the Florence-born artist are part of a polyptych known as the Bojnice Altar. The paintings were insured for €2 million.
The Bojnice Altar, one of the most celebrated paintings that Nardo ever produced, was originally intended for one of Pisa's cloisters.
The state-run TASR news agency wrote that the altar's exhibition in Pisa helped to promote the Bojnice castle and Slovakia as a whole.
The head of the Bojnice museum, Ján Papco, told TASR that the paintings were transported to the castle in 1995 and that prior to that they were exhibited in Prague, the capital of the former Czechoslovakia, which was divided into two states in 1993.
Papco said that there are several questions that remain unanswered regarding the paintings, including doubts about whether all of them were painted by Nardo.
It is also unclear how they ended up in an art auction and later in an antique shop where, in the 1870s, they were discovered by Bojnice's feudal owner, Count Ján Pálffy. The count, a lover of the arts, bought the precious paintings and installed the altar in one of the castle's chapels. Count Pálffy's tomb is under the installation site.

A CRASHING rescue helicopter managed to avoid bystanders on a Slovak ski slope, leaving all unhurt.
photo: TASR

Helicopter crashes metres from rescue team

A RESCUE helicopter crashed on the slopes of the Donovaly ski centre in central Slovakia on January 16. Miraculously, no one was hurt, despite the fact that a rescue team was waiting only a few metres away with a wounded Hungarian skier, the Slovak daily SME reported.
When landing, the pilot of the Mi-2 helicopter, which belongs to the local safety service Air Transport Europe, hit the slope with the helicopter's back propeller.
Witnesses said that the rescue guards, who were standing with the wounded skier about 20 metres from the crash site, were lucky not to be hit by the broken parts of the helicopter that flew around their heads when the machine crashed.
"They were so lucky. Pieces of the propeller were flying next to their heads. It's a miracle that they weren't killed," Vladimír Vítek, head of the Donovaly Mountain rescue team, said to SME.
The wounded skier was then transported to a hospital in Banská Bystrica in an ambulance.
The aviation office and the police are investigating the accident.

Elderly siblings perish

IN AN unexplained tragedy, two elderly siblings froze to death in their family house.
When Mikušocve Mayor Viktor Buček and other villagers discovered the two bodies, it was determined that Mária P., 74, and her brother Bohumil B., 70, must have been dead for at least three weeks.
People in the village started to suspect that something was wrong after no one had seen either of the siblings for several weeks.
Therefore, on January 13, after deciding to look in the house, villagers broke the lock and entered, the Slovak daily Nový Čas wrote.
"It was a terrible sight. They had been bitten all over by rats," neighbour Ľudmila Borovská said.
"They were lying in the kitchen, with her head pointing towards the door and his the other way around," she said.
According to Trenčín regional police spokeswoman Lenka Bušová, the police had ruled out homicide. "They very likely died of the cold," Bušová said.
Buček said that the two siblings lived in very poor conditions but they refused to move into a local retirement home.
It remains unclear, however, why the brother and his sister did not heat the house, as locals said that wood for the fireplace was piled just outside the house.

Masked culprits stage coordinated robbery

MASKED men holding machine guns simultaneously broke into and robbed three different game rooms in the eastern Slovak city of Košice on January 13.
"They ordered everyone to lie down. Then they broke the slot machines with axes," said a bartender from one of the game rooms, called Delta.
The same scenario took place in the nearby Fontána bar and in another game room situated in the city centre.
Police spokeswoman Oľga Lukáčová said that officers were investigating the case but no one had been arrested or charged.
A similar robbery took place in the city at the end of last year, when masked men destroyed slot machines in several Košice bars and escaped unpunished.

Ratkovská Lehota
Woman dies after turning 80

A SLOVAK woman died in a fire just one day after celebrating her 80th birthday.
The victim, Mária D. from the southern Slovak village of Ratkovská Lehota, died in her house on January 12, the Slovak daily SME wrote.
Her neighbours noticed large clouds of smoke coming out of the house's roof and started to put out the fire while waiting for firemen to arrive. Experts later stated that Mária D. probably caused the fire with a lit candle that she took into the attic of her house.

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