The election was not, unfortunately, the only big news event on March 10 in Slovakia. On the same day a huge fire engulfed one of the country’s best-preserved medieval castles, Krásna Hôrka, near Rožňava in eastern Slovakia. The fire struck the hill-top castle’s wooden roof, which was almost completely destroyed in a blaze visible from many kilometres away.
Investigations so far suggest that the fire originated at the foot of the castle hill, where two boys, aged 11 and 12, had been trying to light cigarettes. It seems they inadvertently set fire to nearby dry grass, which in turn set alight brush on the hill. Firemen told the TASR newswire that from there strong winds helped the fire spread to the castle roof. On Sunday, the wind again fanned the smouldering timbers, starting another fire to which firefighters had to be called. Overall the fire destroyed the recently reconstructed upper Gothic palace, almost all the castle roof, and some of the museum exhibits and furnishings inside the castle. It also ravaged the bell-tower, where it melted three bells.
Apart from an insurance payout that should cover the bulk of the necessary repair work, several fund-raising activities have already begun: the castle’s owner, the Slovak National Museum (SNM), opened a special account from which all contributions will go towards renovation; and the LINAJE foundation of civic activists and fans of the castle founded a community profile on Facebook and also opened an account to collect money for Krásna Hôrka.
Košice Self-Governing Region (KSK) said it will help in two ways: it has offered room for the displaced exhibits in its own museums, and its spokesperson Zuzana Bobriková told TASR that KSK would donate resources from the Terra Incognita / Krajina nespoznaná grant scheme. On a visit to the site Culture Minister Daniel Krajcer said that although the damage was considerable, the ministry hopes to re-open the castle and museum in September, the SITA newswire reported.
The Nový Čas tabloid appeared to scotch speculation that the Roma youths who are alleged to have started the fire were from a nearby Roma settlement when it reported that they in fact live in the village of Krásnohorské Podhradie. It quoted their school headmaster, Ladislav Mikula, as praising their characters. However, the boys’ families have stopped communicating with the media and locals, and some members were reported to have fled the village. In a sign that extremists are looking to exploit the fire to fan ethnic tension, extreme nationalist activist Marian Kotleba and his Ľudová Strana – Naše Slovensko / People’s Party – Our Slovakia party announced that it would hold a rally on the weekend of March 17-18 in Krásnohorské Podhradie to, in his words, “stop Roma from destroying our past”, as quoted by TASR.
19. Mar 2012 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská