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“They are like brothers here who fell nameless, and therefore all have one name: the unknown soldier.”

For the very first time in its young history, Slovakia has erected a Memorial to the Unknown Soldier earlier this week. 


Why did it take so long?


First of all, Slovakia is a young country that only came into existence in 1993. But more importantly, Slovaks, who call themselves a dove nation, have an uneasy relationship with the idea of war and violence. 


Slovaks spent the majority of their existence (within a state) in the Kingdom of Hungary, including the perilous and conflict-ridden Middle Ages. 


For nearly 1,000 years, they did not wage wars, but merely engaged in the wars of others, mostly when forced. Fighting for noble men and kings who could not be further removed from who they were, what they believed and wanted, was the norm for Slovaks who shed blood and lost their lives for the agendas of others.


Indeed, history also proves that were a number of Slovak-led uprising against the elites, but rebellion or fighting for one’s ideals and rights was not deeply rooted in the people. They also preferred the peaceful way…


Slovaks developed a unique way of coping with those difficult experiences and prolonged periods of instability -  to survive they would have to keep quiet and carry on. Perhaps that is what allowed them to make it all the way to modernity, against all odds.  

WW1 and WW2 presented a big dilemma to the peaceful Slovaks.

In WW1, they had to enlist into the Austro-Hungarian Army, where there was no Slovak in sight in a leadership role, and where the entire military was dominated by purely Austrian and Hungarian interests. What is more, Slovaks would find themselves face to face with other Slovaks on battlefields – like those who deserted the imperial Hungary army and joined the Czechoslovak legions. Or, even those Slovaks who came over to Europe from the US and Canada to fight against the monarchy.

After the war, there was not much time to heal war wounds as – Czechoslovakia needed every man, woman and child to build up the new republic. But only two decades later, its existence would be wiped from the map of Europe.

As Czechoslovakia was dissolved due to the Munich Agreement, the Czech lands were absorbed by Germany and Slovakia became a Nazi satellite state. Once again, those Slovaks who engaged in any fighting would have to do so for a foreign agenda – this time Hitler’s.

The most glorious moment of modern Slovak history was the eruption of the Slovak National Uprising, a rare instance of Slovaks truly having enough and taking up arms. The uprising was the second largest open rebellion against fascism in Europe.

It was not long after peace treaties were signed ending WW2, that Czechoslovakia was restored but also quickly fell under the influence of the Soviet Union. This time it was Moscow and not Berlin, that would ‘oversee’ Slovakia’s internal matters.

And again, the nation did not have an opportunity to build pride or trust in its national army, that was once again a puppet of another state. If anything, Slovaks grew to resent men in military uniforms. The system did not foster the sense of courage or rebellion in people taking a stand for what is right. The Communist Party wanted an apathetic citizenry that was easy to control, not an empowered nation that is prepared to protect Slovakia.

Flashforward to the 21st century.

Modern Slovakia does not dedicate much time to fostering national pride in Slovak soldiers and officers, heroes and heroines across history who serve and protect the society, but also whom historically dared to fight for what they believed was right. Role models are absent in the society, especially the one’s in a military uniform. 


The education system and popular culture do not celebrate examples of military might or the bravery of Slovaks, even though there certainly are heroes worthy of that.


Let us mention one such great Slovak hero - Jozef Gabcik, one of the two key men in Operation Anthropoid that resulted in the assignation of Hitler’s right hand and changed the course of WW2 . There was also General Jan Golian who led the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazis. 

These are some of the reasons why it took nearly 30 years for Slovakia to erect its first ever monument to the fallen unknow soldier, a sacred marker that should not be missing in any advanced democracy.

After all, all nations were built on the destinies of those who were prepared to fight and die for them.

The names of most of these brave men are forgotten to history, but their courage lives, for it has earned us the privilege to have a free country. The same applies to Slovakia. Which is why it is with great pride that we announce to you that - the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier, was unveiled in Bratislava this week. In the presence of Prime Minister Eduard Heger, and the highest representatives of government, including key ministers and war veterans.

The monument itself stands on the grave of an unidentified warrior, who died in the ferocious Battle of the Dukla pass in WW2. From now, this monument will be a reminder of those who fell defending the values on which Slovakia is built.

Finally, we have a place to lay wreaths, candles and words of gratitude for those who fought and died for us. The monument is a tangible reminder of the many unsung heroes and heroines of Slovakia.

The event also marks the beginning of nurturing a healthy appreciation, respect and gratitude to Slovakia’s men and women in uniform.

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