Today, 10 November 2016, in Uzhorod a memorial for Milan Rastislav Shtefanik was presented, one of the main initiators of establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic, considered by Slovaks to be the founder of Slovakia.
The person of General Shtefanik is like a well-designed hero of a tragedy. Together with people such as Masarik, Benesh, he struggled for foundation of Czechoslovakia after abolition of monarchy. They succeeded in this, however, Shtefanik, the first minister of Czechoslovakia’s war, did not make it to enjoy to the full neither his position, nor the state that he dreamed about so much. Several months after Czechoslovakia’s foundation, when returning home on a plane, in Ivanka by the Danube near Bratislava, he dies in a crash.
The memorial in Uzhorod caused a lot of controversy. Its initiator was the General Consulate of Slovak Republic in Uzhorod. Clearly, the consulate wanted in this way to commemorate the person that is considered in Slovakia to have been one of the most important persons in the recent Slovakia’s history – considered to be one of the founders of their country. They wanted to promote him. On the other hand, there were those who did not support the idea of Shtefanik being the person to commemorate. A person who has nothing to do with the former Subcarpathian Rus’, today’s Zakarpattia Oblast in Ukraine. In contrast to other politicians of Czechoslovak Republic, he not only never entered the territory of Subcarpathians, he did not also, because of his sudden death, form the country in which Rusyns were a state-forming nation, as well. He contributed to establishment of state, but Rusyns’ territories officially reunioned with it only on 8 May 1919, four days after his death, and the final decision was made only on 10 September by signing a peace treaty. All the same, Shtefanik is in Uzhrod from today. Actually, for the first time.
Personally, I do not mind the memorial there. Shtefanik is really an important figure for Slovaks, concerning the recent history. Thanks to him, Slovakia exists today as a separate, independent country. I am only sorry about two issues.
Firstly, I am sorry that neither the consulate, nor the whole Slovak society think in a broader context. If it was like that, it would not have to be Shtefanik to stand there in Uzhorod today. Slovakia has the right to promote their countrymen abroad, but the countrymen have to be Slovaks. Non-Slovaks remain forgotten. If it was not like that, apart from the initiative of the countryman’s memorial in Uzhorod, the consulate could have chosen Antonij Beskid who was born on the territory of today’s Slovakia, who was a deputy in a Hungarian parliament, who like Dobrianskyj, not only cared for the rights of Rusyn in the parliament, but also Slovaks; who had the opportunity to be a governor of the Ruska Kraina that belonged to Hungary, he wanted to join the Presovian and Subcarpathian Rus’ to the country thanks to which also Slovakia exists today. And who, which must not be forgotten, was a governor of the Subcarpathian Rus’ later on. It means that by his activity, he is strongly connected to Uzhorod where his office stood, today I think there is a building of some bank. Unfortunately, he had one weakness. He was Rusyn and that is why the consulate will not even think to promote him. Probably, it would have been the best decision, though. There would have been probably more protests against such a memorial from the side of Ukrainians, though.
Secondly, I am sorry about us. During the last meeting with Tibor Miklosh Popovich, when he was giving a speech in Presov on Antonij Beskid, I heard from him that we respect some of our countrymen little, that Beskid should have the same memorial as Duchnovich in the Presov region or Subcarpathians. I agree with him, I think that not only Beskid, also Zhatkovich and many others that acted in favour of the I Czechoslovak Republic, who contributed to the fact that we are a state-forming nation. It is a big deal. There are nations who have not done this so far.
We always focus only on Duchnovics, Pavlovichs, Dobrianskys, which is good because they should be commemorated, but it is as if we suffered from some kind of anamnesis that would draw our attention to Duchnovic’s prehistory and would not let us to remember that there were other people after him who also greatly contributed to our nation. We are becoming forgotten, ourselves, in the XIXth c. and the people of the XXth c. are somewhat forgotten by us.
We do not commemorate the people who gave us our nation as we should. We should build memorials to those people with our own hands and, just as we remember about our activists of the XIXth c., we should remember about these people and their followers. Let us not be a nation that behaves as there was no recent history, as if canned somewhere in the past. Let us show that, as other nations, we have also been developing, we have been living and our people are the evidence for that. Let us be proud of that. And let us leave traces of the pride. A memorial for Beskid or Zhatkovich would be such a trace. Our ancestors acted in this way and other nations will not do it instead of us.
Photography source: Wikipedia.
(The article was written as a commentary for “Tickets, please” by lem.fm Lemko radio)
ARTICLE WRITTEN ACCORDING TO PRESOVIAN STANDARDS OF RUSYN LANGUAGE