The life of one of the most outstanding Slovaks of the 20th century, Milan Rastislav Štefánik, was celebrated on July 24, a few days after his birthday of July 21, by about 300 people who attended a ceremony held at his burial mound on Bradlo hill in Trencín Region. The astronomer, diplomat, French general, and aviator was born 130 years ago and the people commemorating his life came from all over Slovakia as well as from the Czech Republic and France.
A former schoolteacher who grew up in the vicinity of Štefánik’s burial mound told the ČTK newswire that she remembers passing his grave as a child and always laying bunches of flowers at the site. She added that she learned about Štefánik’s personality from her grandfather who was a legionnaire in Russia who was visited by Štefánik in Siberia. But she said her strongest memory was of a memorial service for Štefánik in 1968 when thousands of people from across Czechoslovakia attended. “I had never seen it like this: there were so many bonfires and it burned so brightly that its shadow hung over nearby Košariská,” the Košariská native in her sixties reminisced to ČTK. She noted that in the period of ‘normalisation’ in the 1970s during the communist oppression and restriction of civic freedoms, Štefánik became an undesirable personality and that the festivities at Bradlo hill started to be held again only after the fall of communism in 1989.
In 2010 Slovaks came from as far as Žilina and Stanislav Ďuroška was one of them. He said he attended in order to educate his son in history and to proudly remind him of a great Slovak personality like Štefánik. Though this was the first time he had come to the burial mound at Bradlo hill he said he had visited similar events before.
The series of commemorative events for 2010 began on July 21 with a march from Priepasné to Bradlo, followed by an amateur photography exhibition with a digital presentation of Štefánik’s photographs and the screenings of documentary films about his life. On July 24, folklore ensembles and popular singer Peter Cmorík performed and a cross-country bicycle race and fencing duels were held.
Several politicians visited Bradlo hill to honour Štefánik, including President Ivan Gašparovič, Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Rober Fico and Defence Minister Ľubomír Galko. Several dozen statues across Slovakia and other countries commemorate Štefánik, one of the co-founders of the first Czechoslovak state. But the largest and most elaborate is the memorial gravesite on Bradlo hill designed by Dušan Jurkovič and made of travertine blocks. It was finished in 1928, reportedly in 280 days, thanks to huge efforts by labourers working on the site.
Štefánik died in an aeroplane crash near Bratislava on May 4, 1919 under unknown circumstances, thus provoking many different theories about the cause of the crash – from pilot failure to technical problems as well as a deliberate attempt to kill Štefánik.
30. Aug 2010 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská