FOR YEARS, the city of Banská Štiavnica was connected with the valley of the Hron River via a narrow-gauge railway built in the 19th century. The small train that operated the line was called the “Štiavnica Anča”, which, by the first half of the 20th century, had earned a reputation for being quite slow.
It was clear even prior to World War II that the railway could not meet the demands of modern transport and that a new one had to be built. The communists seized the opportunity and in 1948-49 they initiated the project known as the Trať Mládeže, or the Railway of the Young. Despite the fact that the new regime saw the construction mainly as a form of self-promotion and propaganda, young volunteers worked on the line with enthusiasm. After the difficult war years, they felt they were participating in something valuable, while also contributing to the reconstruction of their homeland.
Of course, young people were attracted to the Youth Railway also by the desire for adventure. For prospective university students, the participation ensured accommodation at a school dormitory in Bratislava.
Work conditions were difficult. Workers were housed in simple wooden bungalows, forced to sleep on hard bunk-beds covered only by one blanket, and served bland and simple food. The only material reward they received was a blue shirt, the uniform of the Communist Youth. In spite of this, many volunteers signed on eagerly, and not only Slovaks, but also foreigners. For example, people from Algeria, Norway, France, Great Britain and Canada are mentioned.
This country-building enthusiasm is reflected in this postcard by painter Sergei Protopopov, published exclusively to promote the project. The image at the bottom right corner may be the bridge pylon over the Hron, and a map of the line runs through the centre, showing the stations along the way. The postcard is dominated by two enthusiastic volunteers in blue Communist Youth shirts.
12. Aug 2013 at 0:00 | By Branislav Chovan