Documentary shows civilians training for war

The Slovak Levies says that they are neutral, but they are training with the Russians and want to enter politics.

Slovak Levies during training.Slovak Levies during training. (Source: Facebook)

A group of boys from the paramilitary organisation Slovenskí Branci (Slovak Levies) are pretending to patrol in the town of Gabčíkovo. They go along the border with Hungary. While travelling by car they can see a large number of refugees crossing the border.

“What are you doing? They even dare to scream,” says Peter Švrček, the head of the group, commenting on a small child crying in the crowd.

“Dirty people, they are worse than gypsies,” says his fellow soldier. “I should take my machine gun,” he said later when they stepped out of the car.

This is one of the most powerful scenes from the new documentary When the War Comes, by the Czech director Jan Gebert.

“It could be said that they are quite normal, well-behaved and mostly intelligent people,” Gebert told the Sme daily. “They don’t behave in accordance to our stereotypical views.”

The film follows Švrček's development from his secondary-level school leaving examination to the present, when he is openly talking about entering politics. At the same time, he portrays some practices of the Levies and their relationship to Russia.

A few years ago the public had impression that the levies are right-wing extremists but it is not exactly the right picture, according to analysts.

In the forests they practice shooting, military tactics, field orientation, man-to-man fighting, and so on. They describe themselves as a militia ready to help fellow citizens in crisis situations.

Although they do not officially have the characteristics of an extremist organization and there are not many extremists among their ranks, they still present a security risk, says Daniel Milo, an extremism expert in the Globsec organisation.

“Their statements show that this is not a group that would be a loyal to the state in the event of a conflict,” Milo told The Slovak Spectator. “At the same time they are armed and relatively well trained.”

Praising Tiso was a mistake

The Slovak Levies originated as an informal group without registration in 2012. Švrček initially cooperated with the far-right Slovak Revival Movement (SHO), which adores the totalitarian Slovak state created during World War II.

“We do first-aid courses, hiking, we practice in forests, we do tactical training and self-defence courses,” said then 16-year-old Švrček in 2012, when the levies laid a wreath at the statue of Slovak state president Jozef Tiso.

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