Around Slovakia

Slovak hostage freed
Cuddling crocodile
Lenin statue homeless
Angels stolen from church
Precious paintings revealed
Thief takes Sk962,000 in bills
Strawberries in November

Slovak hostage freed

KIDNAPPED student Miriam Jevíková returned home November 26.
Jevíková, 28, had been held by an unnamed group in the north Caucasus, Russia, since June. She flew from Moscow into Bratislava airport, where she avoided reporters and Foreign Ministry officials, saying she was in a bad mental state.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Tomaga told reporters that Jevíková was communicating exclusively in Russian.
A graduate of Prague's Charles University, Jevíková was working for a Czech aid organisation in Chechnya when she was seized by kidnappers during a trip to the neighbouring Russian state of Ingushetia.
The kidnappers, who remain unidentified, demanded a ransom of $1 million (Sk30 million).
Russian security forces are credited with rescuing Jevíková on November 23. No ransom was paid.
"I had no news about my daughter since May. Now I am happy," Jevíková's mother Mária Jevíková said, according to the newspaper Pravda.
"Please come back and I will never, ever let you go anywhere," she said, addressing her daughter. "I understand, however, that she chose her profession. She always wanted to help people in need."
After arriving in Bratislava, Jevíková met briefly with Tomago. He said she looked healthy, but was "in a mental state that reflects the fact she was held against her will for six months," the SME daily newspaper wrote.

CUDDLING a cute croc; what could be a better gift for Christmas?
photo: SME - Jana Beňová

Cuddling crocodile

THE VIVARIUM at Nitra's Agricultural University has a new animal for research and observation: a five-year-old crocodile that is gaining a reputation for being remarkably cuddly.
The crocodile, from the tropical American genus caiman, likes to eat out of zookeepers' hands. His favourite food is chicken hearts.
A private pet owner from Banská Bystrica donated the crocodile to the university, according to the newspaper SME. Vivarium head Jaroslav Pokorádi said he could not believe his eyes when the owner walked in with the animal in her arms.
"We used to have four caiman crocodiles in the vivarium," he said. "One broke one steel bar after another.
"Usually when a caiman [American tropical] crocodile does not like something, it hisses, drags its tail and bares its teeth. They have been known to attack people, to tear through arms and smash bones," he said.
The new crocodile, however, is docile. The vivarium plans to find it a mate. But first, its sex must be determined through x-rays.

Lenin statue homeless

A FIVE-TONNE statue of Vladimir Lenin is making the rounds in Nitra as officials haggle over where it belongs.
The statue was recently moved to the new grounds of the city's maintenance service. The statue had been left at the maintenance service's old building when the service moved, but the building's new owner demanded the statue move too, the daily newspaper SME wrote.
"We have been looking for a place for the statue for a long time," Dagmar Bojdová, from Nitra town hall, said. "Some people think it should be melted down. But we never received such a proposal in writing. And I personally think that it shouldn't be destroyed. It's part of our past. It should be preserved for future generations."
While authorities search for an appropriate place, the Lenin statue stands in a yard next to trash containers and piles of garbage.
"When the statue was in the square, there wasn't as much interest as now," Ladislav Meszároš, of the maintenance service, said. "People come here and take pictures of it. It's a local attraction."

Angels stolen from church

A THIEF took four angel sculptures and six 18th-century wooden chandeliers from a church in Sása, a central Slovak village near Zvolen.
The thief broke into the church sometime between November 18 and 20, according to a regional police spokeswoman. The stolen items were part of a valuable altar registered with the Regional Sights Institute and worth an estimated Sk200,000 (€5,000). In addition, the church suffered Sk20,000 (€500) in damage, according to the SME newspaper, when the thief broke down the back door.

Nižný Skálnik
Precious paintings revealed

PAINTINGS dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries have been discovered in a church in Nižný Skálnik, near Rimavská Sobota. They were stumbled upon by workers reconstructing part of the church threatened by underground water, according to the Pravda daily.
"These paintings are another in a line of art discoveries in the Gemer region," Andrea Paučová, of the Regional Sights Institute, said. "Medieval paintings have been found in several local villages."
Reconstruction has been suspended for the time being, and the church has asked the Culture Ministry for money to examine the paintings.
"It is important that an expert determines the extent of the paintings," Paučová said. "A restoration proposal will be prepared based on the results."
Several hundreds of thousands of crowns will likely be required for restoration. The images in the paintings remain unclear, but Paučová thinks they are probably biblical icons.

Thief takes Sk962,000 in bills

POLICE are after a thief who stole Sk962,000 (€24,000) in various currencies from an administrative building at MR Štefánik Street in Zvolen.
The thief took the money between the afternoon of November 23 and the following morning, according to the TASR news agency, from an office strongbox shared by three companies. The thief broke down a door leading to an accounting department and the fireproof box, police said.

Strawberries in November

FRESH STRAWBERRIES are growing in Košice, eastern Slovakia, despite freezing morning temperatures.
One local family, the Pribilinecs, could not believe their eyes when they found ripe strawberries in their garden, Nový Čas wrote.
"It's rather unusual in this weather," said Oto Tokár of the Košice association of gardeners.
Tokár said the Rujana variety of strawberry, which the Pribilinec family grows, typically stop bearing fruit once frost strikes in early November.

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