Piešťany still draws, welcomes foreigners

Frequent Middle East visitors make spa town one of Slovakia's most multicultural places, and incidents are few and far between.

A spa is a place where nations can meet.A spa is a place where nations can meet. (Source: Amanda Rivkin)

If Prime Minister Robert Fico truly meant his statement from November 2015 that Slovakia monitors all Muslims in Slovakia, the intelligence service has to have hard time in town of Piešťany during summer. As the spa draws clients from Arab countries looking to escape the heat of home, the streets in town are full of Muslims.

“I remember from my childhood that people from Persian Gulf states were coming here and we never experienced problems with them,” lawyer Roman Kvasnica, Piešťany resident, told The Slovak Spectator. 

The Muslim visitors and local community peacefully coexisted in the town for decades until several recent conflicts occurred. Therefore The Slovak Spectator visited the town to ask locals about life in what turns out to be one of Slovakia's more multicultural places.

Read also:Fico could be prosecuted for anti-Muslim statements Read more 

Broken windows and militia

Ilknur Perde, a Turkish native, has been living in the town for 30 years saying that he considers Slovakia as his own country. On August 17 a 23-year-old drunk man came to his kebab shop in the city centre vulgarly yelling at Perde’s customers to behave. Perde started to argue with him, slapped him twice and police had to detain a drunken man. Later that night someone broke all shop’s windows.

The conflict happened two weeks after local online magazine Pnky.sk published story about adolescent Arabs who threw water on a girl who had rejected them. A rumour spread that mass conflict ensued resulting in injuries, but this was later debunked.

Conspiracy theory websites began to write about Muslims harassing Slovaks in the town implying that this could be picture of all cities if government would accept refugees.

A few days after first incident the Slovak paramilitary organization Slovenskí branci (Slovak Levies), monitored by Interior Ministry because of their ties with extremists, decided to send its patrols to the town. Seeing that there were no conflicts they left a day later.

Slovenskí branci and similar organizations try to increase their popularity among locals by such activities, according to Daniel Milo, who served as an Interior Ministry expert on extremism.

“It is very bad and dangerous when atmosphere is created that there is a need for patrols of some self-claimed law enforcement authorities just because of some rare incidents,” Milo told the Aktuality.sk news webpage.

Read also:Spa towns offer a healing experience Read more 

Watch out for bikes

Pieštany spas started to be popular for Arab foreigners during communist regime. Legends say that it is because of wealthy Arab prince who visited the town and enjoyed local thermal waters so much that he advised his countrymen to go there. Another story is that famous Slovak football coach Karol Borhy who went to Kuwait in the 1960s invited a local football team to Piešťany.

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