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‘Lost City’ project to start in 2013

PARTS OF the historical centre of Bratislava demolished under fascism and communism will be brought back to life under a new, tram-based initiative.

PARTS OF the historical centre of Bratislava demolished under fascism and communism will be brought back to life under a new, tram-based initiative.

The Lost City (Stratené mesto) project is being led by the Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia (ILCHAM), with the support of local politicians. Its aim is to refresh the historical memories of residents and visitors and to revive the old districts of the Slovak capital that used to stand under Bratislava Castle. Predominantly Jewish, they were systematically destroyed during Slovakia’s periods under totalitarian rule during the 20th century, and to this day only their ruins remain.

The idea is to make “a tour of historical memory” where “a tram of historical memory” will circle; instead of windows, it will have large LCD screens showing the virtual story of the Lost City, and specifically the destroyed districts of Zuckermandel, Vydrica, Rybné námestie (Fishermen’s Square) and the Jewish ghetto.

Passengers will be able to watch the story that led to first the emptying and then the demolition of historically significant streets and squares in the downtown area. At Rybné námestie, the demolished Neolog synagogue, built in 1893 just next to St Martin’s Cathedral and torn down in the 1960s, will be reconstructed as a 60-percent-scale model.

“We have not been able to rebuild the whole city anew, we could just do it virtually,” Miloš Žiak of ILCHAM told the TASR newswire.

The full name of the project is Lost City (Stratené mesto) Bratislava Pozsony Pressburg. The latter two are the names by which Bratislava was known in the 20th century by Hungarians and Germans respectively.

To present the project to the public, a concert was organised on September 25 with the Slovak Pressburger Klezmer Band playing the opening gig. The band played klezmer, Jewish music that originated in central Europe, and performed mainly in Yiddish. Next, Piešťany rabbi Zev Stiefel sang a mixture of songs, some of them traditional, with one song including lyrics in Hebrew, English and Slovak.

A film by Zuzana Piussi about the lost districts around the castle was screened. The climax of the concert came with The Klezmatics, a US band which started playing klezmer decades ago and which “helped spread it and bring it back to the region where it originated”, Miro Lago, clarinettist of the Pressburger Klezmer Band, told TASR. The Klezmatics won a Grammy award for Best World Music Album in 2006.

Entrance to the concert was free and took place at a parking lot under castle hill, at a site where some of the destroyed areas once stood.

The next day, the project continued with a conference among what was dubbed the informed public, including City Mayor Milan Ftáčnik, Old Town Mayor Tatiana Rosová, Deputy Prime Minister for Ethnic Minorities Rudolf Chmel, Israeli Ambassador to Slovakia Alexander Ben-Zvi, historians, architects and intellectuals.

Divided into three parts, the conference compared historical Bratislava with its current form, discussed future visions and possibilities, and included an exhibition, Podhradie in the Architect’s Vision 1942-2009, conference co-organiser Ladislav Snopko told the SITA newswire.


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