IN SLOVAKIA, the Grim Reaper has a female colleague. And this year Zubatá, “Mrs. Toothy”, has visited the country only too often.
In February, twelve people died near the village of Polomka, after a bus full of people got stuck at a railway-crossing.
In July, the wind blew down a large tent at Pohoda, the country’s largest music festival, killing one person and seriously injuring others.
Twenty miners have now died in Handlová. All this in a country which has in recent years mostly managed to stay clear of tragedy.
No Slovak soldiers have died in the fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Although numerous people have lost their lives on various foreign missions since the fall of communism, these have always been from non-combat injuries.
The army also stayed in their barracks during the Soviet invasion of August 1968, so the last time the Slovak military saw any real fighting was during World War II.
Nonetheless, one of the nation’s great catastrophes involves men in uniform – 42 soldiers returning from a mission in Kosovo died in 2006, when their plane crashed near the Slovak-Hungarian border. The only other large plane crash in Slovakia happened in 1976, when a Czechoslovak Airlines plane flying from Prague fell into Bratislava’s Zlaté Piesky lake, killing 70 passengers and 9 crew members.
There are no earthquakes, volcanoes or hurricanes. Natural disasters are therefore limited to fires and floods. There were no casualties in 2005, when a large portion of the High Tatras burned down.
However, the waters take lives nearly every year. The largest tragedy came in July 1998, when more than 50 people died in the eastern Slovak village of Jarovnice.
Thanks to its zero importance, Slovakia hasn’t experienced even the threat of a terrorist attack, and there have been no high school shootings.
A mix of international irrelevance, mild climate, peaceful nature, and luck, has made Slovakia a safe country. Hopefully, this will not change, and tragedy won’t show its teeth again anytime soon.