Rokovanie Vlády, NOVEMBER 2011
It was early summer in 1986 when I first visited Czechoslovakia. Prague in those years had become an empty town without a soul, where – according to a famous Czech writer – only in sex and fantasy freedom was to be found, as the communist regime could not infiltrate these human attributes.
Bratislava radiated something totally different from Prague. Here I noticed a southern temperament, a kind of unconcern, there was life outside on the streets, and not inside, like in Prague. The Slovak language sounded friendly and musically, in comparison to the somewhat monotonous Czech. In the Old Town of Bratislava people sat on the terraces and drank their half liters of beer. Whereas Prague was killed by the suppression of the intellect, the Slovaks in Bratislava did not seem to care about intellectuality, and they were just living their lives. I was almost feeling at home here.
At the beginning of 1990, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, I returned to Bratislava. And I found the same atmosphere still present, people sitting on the terraces drinking their half liters of beer. Today, more than 20 years later, I dare say not much has changed. The scene has changed, buildings, streets, shops, but the people have not changed.
One would say it is not easy to be Slovak, to have no history of kings, battlefields, heroism and bloodshed. But a Slovak should be proud that his ancestors have survived centuries of rule by others. Where other nations would have disappeared, Slovaks have survived by leading their ordinary daily life. And exactly this is their strength, which distinguishes them from other nations: their daily life, in all circumstances.
And having lived in Slovakia for almost 20 years, these are my observations on Slovaks:
- diverse indeed concerning the composition of the population and concerning the different languages, but culturally they all show the same way of living, having shared the same ground for so many centuries; generations are diverse in their knowledge of life, but at the same time – as if this knowledge has not influenced them much – they continue their daily way of living as their urge to survive.
- inventive indeed, as they have known and still know very well how to adapt to circumstances, but not by coming out, but by isolating themselves from the outside; inventive in their adaptation to global trends, at the same time still preserving their own character but participating outwardly mostly, in their appearance only, as it is important how one looks, not how one is
- dynamic indeed, by stubbornly leading their lives, never giving up, with eating and drinking as their basic needs for survival, and with the goal to become happy, an aim that of course can never be reached, as a result of which they feel disillusioned, but their stubbornness keeps them going
- distinctive indeed, their hospitality being a true characteristic, but their openness is superficial, not truly, not in their minds. It is this lack of coming out, of accepting ones true being, which refrains them from finding and developing their originality which will then distinct them from others.
Slovaks are a very strong nation. I sometimes think by myself, if one day the atom bomb falls, the only nation to survive, by continuing their daily life as if nothing has happened, are the Slovaks.
Having lived in Slovakia for almost 20 years, and promoting this country for the past 6 years, I have asked myself how Slovaks may use their above mentioned characteristics in order to be better known to the outside world.
First of all it is important to accept oneself as one is, one’s uniqueness, and not to fear this acceptance to be unique. And secondly one should learn from others, and not copy. Copying leads to the loss of one’s own identity.
One could blame socialism for destroying the witnesses of Slovak history, like castles, palaces, original village houses of wood or clay, old fashioned, stylish hotels, charming town centers etc. But nowadays Slovaks are to blame themselves for continuing in doing what socialism did.
Thirdly it is important to invest in tourism – which offers an enormous and stable revenue for many countries once it has been established there – and support those who meet the two basic requirements mentioned above from where to develop. Necessary is the support of small, local projects that are characteristic and typical for this country, the so-called ‘couleur locale’. It is these projects that consist of the four elements which are so typical for Slovakia: they are dynamic, diverse, distinctive and inventive.
And to bear in mind that most foreigners come to visit a country in order to get to know that country, and not only to experience what can be had and done in other countries as well. Those small, local projects may be galleries, family pensions, campsites, renovation of historical buildings and sites, like mills, war cemeteries, palaces, synagogues. And to support the preserve of nature, as such nature as Slovakia has, is not to be found in any other country of Europe.
For example, the High Tatras may become the largest skiing center of Slovakia, it will never be able to compete with skiing centers in Austria or France. But the High Tatras as a unique natural reserve will assure a constant flow of visitors, as there is so little nature left in Europe. Moreover, nature is sustainable, skiing is not, as it needs cold winters.
Those mentioned small projects, in combination with nature, will make Slovakia an unforgettable experience, known to the rest of the world, and in the end it will give self-confidence to Slovaks.
Self acceptance of one’s uniqueness, learning from others, invest in those people and projects that meet these requirements in order to promote Slovakia abroad. Once that circle is made, it cannot be broken.
Abram Muller 2011
Text: Abram Muller, Holanďan, podnikateľ v oblasti cestovného ruchu, žijúci v Bratislave
Prvý krát som navštívil Československo začiatkom leta 1986. Praha bola v tých rokoch prázdnym mestom bez duše, kde (podľa známeho českého spisovateľa) slobodu ľudia nachádzali iba v sexe a fantázii – v jediných oblastiach, do ktorých komunistický režim nevedel preniknúť.
Bratislava vyžarovala niečo úplne iné ako Praha. Zachytil som tu južanský temperament, istú bezstarostnosť, život sa žil aj na otvorenom priestore v uliciach a nielen vo vnútri, ako v Prahe. V porovnaní s trocha monotónnou češtinou znela slovenčina priateľsky a muzikálne. V Starom meste sedeli ľudia na terasách a popíjali pivo. Kým Praha bola paralyzovaná potlačením intelektu, Slovákov v Bratislave to akoby netrápilo a ďalej si žili svoje životy. Cítil som sa tu takmer ako doma.
Do Bratislavy som sa vrátil začiatkom roka 1990 po páde Železnej opony. A našiel som tu tú istú atmosféru, ľudí sediacich na terasách popíjajúcich svoje pivo. Z tohto pohľadu si trúfam povedať, že ani dnes, po viac ako 20 rokoch sa veľa nezmenilo. Zmenila sa scéna, budovy, ulice, obchody, ale ľudia ostali tí istí. Môže sa zdať, že byť Slovákom nie je ľahké – chýba mu história kráľov, slávnych bojov, heroizmu a prelievania krvi. Ale Slovák môže byť hrdý na to, že jeho predkovia prežili stáročia nadvlády iných. Tam, kde by iné národy zanikli, Slováci prežili vďaka tomu, že žili svoje obyčajné každodenné životy.
Po dvadsiatich rokoch strávených na Slovensku vidím, že Slováci sú zároveň veľmi rozmanití i rovnakí. Každá generácia si nesie svoje poznanie života, ale jedno ich po stáročia spája a zároveň odlišuje od ostatných národov – vytrvalo žiť svoj každodenný život za akýchkoľvek okolností.
Občas sa zamýšľam nad tým, že ak jedného dňa padne atómová bomba, jediný národ, ktorý prežije, pokračujúc vo svojich každodenných životoch, ako keby sa nič nestalo, budú Slováci.