TORRINGTON, CONN (SZS) — January 1, 2018 was not only the beginning of a new year: It was also the 25th Anniversary of the Independence Day of the Slovak Republic.
The Day of the Establishment of the Slovak Republic (Deň vzniku Slovenskej republiky) is celebrated on January 1 and marks the day when in 1993 Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.
Czechoslovakia had emerged as a sovereign state at the end of World War 1 in 1918. It was briefly split during World War II, before coming under Soviet rule in 1948. In 1968, it became a federation consisting of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic. Communist rule in Czechoslovakia was brought to an end in 1989 as a result of the Velvet Revolution.
In July 1992, Slovakia declared itself a sovereign state. In November 1992, the federal parliament of Czechoslovakia voted to dissolve the country on December 31, 1992. The following day, on January 1, 1993, the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic officially became separate countries.
In Torrington, Connecticut, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church sponsored the celebration of the event on January 1st. “For some years now, we have annually flown the Slovak flag at the Torrington City Hall during the first week of January. Slovaks in the community are always invited to attend the ceremony,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Drobena, Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Torrington, CT who has organized this event annually since 2006. The sight of a foreign flag being honored by being flown in front of a government building in the United States is a truly rare sight. This year the ceremony included the Right Reverend Wilma Kucharek, Bishop of the Slovak Zion Synod, who offered an opening prayer. Greetings were received from Ladislava Begeç, Slovak Consul General in New York City. Also in attendance was the Slovak Ambassador to the United Nations, His Excellency, the Honorable Michal Mlynar, who delivered greetings on behalf of the Slovak UN delegation, as well as some remarks on the significance of this anniversary.
The assembly sang two Slovak hymns led by the Rev. Michal Mišina of Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church in Manhattan, and the Rev. Thomas S. Drobena of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. The first song was the popular “Hej Slovaci” written in 1834 by the Rev. Samo Tomášik. When Tomášik was visiting Prague and felt appalled by the overwhelming prevalence of German language over the Czech language heard in the streets of Prague, he wrote: “If mother Prague, the pearl of the Western Slavic world, is to be lost in a sea of German, then what awaits my dear homeland of Slovakia? That . . . caused my heart to erupt with a defiant (retort): ‘Hej Slovaks, our Slovak language still lives’.”
The second hymn was by a student Janko Marúška, who wrote it in protest of Ľudovít Štúr’s dismissal from his professorship of Slovak language at the local University. At that time, the Hungarian authorities required Hungarian as the primary language, and wanted to quell any Slovak ethnic identity or activism. On December 31, 1843, because of political unrest, he wrote the hymn “Nad Tatrou sa blýska,” the first stanza of which became part of the national anthem in 1918, joined by the second stanza in 1993.
This observance in Torrington will not be the only observance of this anniversary to take place in the United States: On January 19, 2018 the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the United States, H. E. Peter Kmec will host a reception in Washington D.C. to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Independence Day of the Slovak Republic.