Submission — Ales Tvrdy

Picturesque Sceneries

31. August 2014 — MYP No. 15 »My Homeland« — Text & Photo: Ales Tvrdy

Slovakia, my country of birth…

21 years ago Czechoslovakia was divided into two separate countries – Czech Republic and Slovakia. The latter I call home and it is where I grew up.

It is a country full of contrasts. There is not a single Slovak, who would not be familiar with our greatest pride – High Tatras. Every year this beautiful and often untouched nature fascinates many visitors from all over the world.

Besides this majestic masterpiece that only the nature itself can create, many people overlook the decayed buildings, whose faded fame borders with the tourist trails. These were built here by the comrades of the past regime and many of them are losing their struggle with time. Until when? The mountains are really beautiful but beneath them it seems as if the Slovak nation cowers and waits until they can rise.

The country is full of folk traditions, habits and monuments which stretch back to the far past. Many regions still preserve these folk traditions so that they can be passed from generation to generation. In every region the local people have their own folk costumes with typical patterns and design particular for them. Very popular are also the folk songs and dances and it is not an exception if these are performed on various local or world-wide events.

Halušky (national food), Kofola (non-alcoholic beverage), Horalky (snack) and Slivovica (strong alcoholic drink made of plums) are snacks and drinks which are known by every Slovak. It is not an exception if those who live abroad have them sent from Slovakia.

It seems as if the country with the red communistic past is only dressed into a blue European rich evening robe. More developed west with its centre in the capital Bratislava, whose glitter mirrors on the surface of the river Danube contrasts with the „hunger valleys“ in the central or eastern Slovakia. Until today no one out of the most powerful men in country was able to connect these parts with modern infrastructure. Maybe this would invite the investors and it would lower the gap between the regions. But until now all we have are the campaign promises, which faded just as their slogans on billboards.

The night life of the capital can be compared with the more modern cities of the Western Europe. Stylish clubs or bars lure many foreign tourists. The prices are not very suitable for the locals but the foreigners are just wondering how cheap everything is. Who knows if they would think the same if they had an average monthly income of 800 Euros (and many people have half of it!)

On the streets we can daily see luxurious cars for tens of thousands of euros made by well-known car manufacturers. Beautiful and modern shopping centres are growing one after another. But old vehicles of public transport which belong more to the second-hand shop rather than to the street are driving past them. They transport many local inhabitants or people from other parts of Slovakia who came here for better paid jobs. Often they stop at one of the state hospitals that look like the time stopped. I do not remember the maternal hospital where I was born but I am pretty sure that if I would go there today, it would be pretty much the same.

The complete opposite are the lonely settlements, where the chief shepherds, only loyal to their herd, live solitary and many times not an easy life. However, it is hard to say which lifestyle is easier. Stress and pursue of greater income in a city or a hard work for less money but in a beautiful environment surrounded by beautiful nature.

Many clever and talented people who are world experts at their field were born in Slovakia. Mostly in IT many young people are successful and they are wanted by the biggest world companies. It is shame that they cannot use their talent at home and it is one of the reasons why mostly young people leave the country that raised them and they achieve success somewhere abroad. Well, we cannot blame them. For the salary that they would get here they would barely earn a living and I speak nothing of starting a family.

Sadly also many individuals who live at the expense of the others and they take advantage of the system live here. This reflects on the high unemployment. Perhaps the biggest problem are the Romani people (gipsies). Their settlements can be found all over Slovakia where they live in catastrophic conditions. It is hard to integrate them into society when many of them cannot make it to the fifth grade of the primary school. Often they are illiterate and it is very difficult to find a suitable job for people like this. Well, sometimes even highly educated people only find job which is deeply beneath their level of skills. But they have to live from something.

Slovakia is indeed a beautiful country full of picturesque sceneries, folk customs and traditions. Many nice moments can be experienced there. But the people who live there definitely deserve more. I believe that the other countries whose standards we want to reach, will be the example for us.

They will not just stay the gold foil on the mouth of those who are regularly every four years competing in the political campaigns.