Last weekend Slovakia and its neighbouring countries commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising, which took place during the Second World War. The commemorations serve as a bitter reminder of the atrocities committed during the Second World War, and should discourage from such conduct.
The Slovak National Uprising started on 29 August 1944 in defence against the German occupation and the Nazi-led puppet government. Partisan groups formed by Russian renegades and young Slovak men had been leading guerrilla warfare in the mountains since 1941. If caught by the Gestapo, they were tortured and executed. Hitler’s failure at Stalingrad and the following Russian offensive indicated that Germany would not hold out for much longer. Slovakia wanted to take the chance and join the allied forces. It was in this context that in 1944, the Slovak government in exile in London decided to rise against the Nazi regime which controlled Slovakia. Rudolf Golian was appointed the chief of the army, which joined the Red Army in the east of Slovakia. Guerrilla fighters helped by sabotaging German plans, blowing up bridges and spying. The cruellest fights took place in the Dukla mountain pass and around Banska Bystrica in central Slovakia (whole villages were annihilated by the Nazis – the revenge on guerrillas). The Slovak National Uprising was successful and resulted in the liberation of Slovakia in May 1945. Up to 20,000 people lost their lives fighting in the uprising.
To commemorate this significant event in the history of Slovakia, last weekend (29 – 31 August), swarms of people attended events organised in Banska Bystrica – the centre of the Slovak National Uprising – and laid wreaths to the graves of the unknown heroes. The local museum and also a Russian tank in Kalna nad Hronom (pictured here) helped remind visitors of the bravery of the soldiers who lost their lives in the uprising. But conflict and guerrilla warfare continue to ravage the world. Although there is no direct war, the current state of affairs is the modern form of war. Armed with nuclear weapons, nations know that a direct attack would annihilate mankind, and their consciousness keeps them from pushing the red button. Instead, the modern warfare has a holding pattern of espionage, filtration, terrorist attacks and drone raids. People live in constant uncertainty, which is often worse than war.
Angela Merkel and Barack Obama agreed that the violence spreading from Russia must end, after satellite images showed thousands of Russian soldiers deployed in Ukraine. In the lead up to WWII, Great Britain and France did not want to irritate the sleeping German snake, and therefore they tolerated its steps towards the annexation of many countries, including Slovakia. Today, tougher sanctions should show Russians they have crossed the line; however, the West is afraid that this might result in an energy crisis, due to Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas. There is political deadlock, but some politicians do not even hesitate to call it by its right name. Tweets from Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt prove it.
Moreover, symbols from WWII are revived thanks to
groups in Ukraine, such as Azov, Donbas and the ultra right Pravy Sektor
who fight against the pro-Russian rebels in the east of Ukraine. Their symbols - Tridents,
swastikas and eagles are similar to those of Nazi organizations.
Ironically, while Slovakia commemorates the 70th anniversary of the historical event that took place during WWII, history still lives on. It is hard to compare the current situation to what people went through back in 1944. At the time, people did not have immediate access to information from across the world, and the ferocious fighting was an unfamiliar experience that remained etched in the consciousness of the nation. Nowadays, the media reports gruesome atrocities on a daily basis, and people seem to have got used to it. This might blunt their awareness of the seriousness of the current situation. The ceremonies honour the heroes, but it might happen that shortly we will need much more heroes.