EPISODE 327 JANUARY 1, 1993: BREAK UP OF CZECHOSLOVAKIA INTO CZECH AND SLOVAK REPUBLICS
EPISODE 327 JAN. 1, 1993 THE YEAR CZECHOSLOVAKIA DISAPPEARED…CEASED TO EXIST
May 1, 2021
A STARTLING AND UNFORGETTABLE MARCH HOLIDAY WEEK….1993
“Mom and dad, why don’t you fly over here on the March School break?”
“Is it safe?”
“We read that Czechoslovakia is splitting…sounds like Civil War.”
“No danger…the split is not violent.”
“What will happen to you?”
“Nothing, I will still be teaching English in Bratislava for $125 a month”
“Are you still sleeping the jail?”
“No…sharing an apartment in an Ex-Soviet building…only difference beween Canada
and Slovakia that I see around here is that nobody smiles much..except the students…they
smile a lot…
“Super….How would you like to be guest teacher for a day in a Slovak High School?
“Love to, Kevine…We are coming…sounds exciting.”
“Good. I will rent a Skoda…no one will know you are tourists.”
(now that was a laugh…Marjorie wore her bright pink coat…No one else did.)
ON JANUARY 1, 1993 CZECHOSLOVAKIA SPLIT INTO TWO STATES…THE CZECH AND SLOVAK
Czechs and Slovaks did not really want to split There were tensions between the two
groups. Many Slovaks resented the Czech dominance and general affluence. But the
resentment was not the kind that would lead to civil war. Then why did the countries split?
That was what they asked each other. The answer in simplified form is that the two political
leaders … a Czech and a Slovak.arranged the split even though it seemed to be against the
HOW DID OUR SON KEVIN BECOME AN ENGLISH TEACHER IN A SLOVAK HIGH SCHOOL?
He needed a job. Kevin had jus graduated as a Canadian high school teacher but there were
no jobs in Canada. At least he could not find a job. But I am not sure he looked very hard.
He was ready to venture into the world. Wanted to do something different. Then he heard that
the American School (an international school) was hiring teachers for the Slovak school system.
The wages were $125 a month…between $4 and $5 a day. Money was not the incentive for Kevin.
Adventure was what he wanted. Young and full of piss and vinegar as they say.
Eastern Europe was in a bit of turmoil. The Berlin Wall had been pulled down. The Soviet
Union had collapsed. Many of the Soviet Republics were looking to the West…to the United
States…for leadership. The English language was seen as the key to fitting into the new
Kevin was an English teacher. Certified. What a wonderful chance to be part of
something bigger than himself. He applied for a job…was accepted…and took off almost
immediately for the new Slovak Republic which promised him free accommodation but did not
mention the room would be in a former jail. He travelled blind along with a bunch of American
newly certified teachers.
Then in March 1993, Marjorie and I joined Kevin for a wonderful winter week in a
place we had never heard of…the brand new Slovak Republic. Kevin picked us up
in Vienna and drove us to Bratislava. We passed a large Slovak nuclear Reactor that the
Austrians felt was in danger of melt down. That put a little extra tension into the visit.
The Austrians feared this Slovak nuclear reactor was not safe. No provision for the
retention of radioactive water in a containment pool was one of the reasons…I think.
It was years later
that another Soviet reactor became world famous at a glance called Chernobbyl.
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE IN THE NEW SLOVAK REPUBLIC?
COMPLICATED. Best answer I can put forward. Life was grim for many. Some Slovaks were happy. Some Slovaks were unhappy.
“Best not to smile when riding
the Busses, Dad. Most Slovaks are having a tough time right now. Not much to smile about. Many still believe
that Marxism could have provided a Worker’s paradise. Problems happened when Joseph Stalin and Russian communism not took
hold of Eastern Europe. “
“Seems the bullets of World War II have pock-marked some of the buildings.”
“That war …1939 to 1945 …is still part of the Slovak consciousness.”
Why was this sign on this bridge in English?
We went to church on Sunday and could not help to see the huge ruin of a burned our synagogue next door to the Roman Catholic cathedral.
That was chilling. I wondered why the ghostly hulk was left standing. Perhaps a symbol of the Soviet victory of Nazi fascism. But I am
not sure why? Then there was a bridge with a memorial place engraved in English…also a reminder of World war II.
Behind this overgrown scrub forest was a burned out synagogue as seen below.
A reminder of the anti semitic terror that swept through eastern Europe in the 1940’s
TEACHING HISTORY IN A SLOVAK HIGH SCHOOL
“We have a guest today,” announced the principal as we wedged ourselves into the packed classroom.
“Welcome,” And all the students…senior students in Grade 12…all of them immediately stood
up and welcomed Marjorie and me with bug smiles. That courtesy does not happen in Canada.
I do not remember what I taught on that cold March morning in 1993. What I do remember, however, were the
warm smiles … the joy the students seemed to feel … the hope they shared, hope that the West would change
their world. The need to speak English.
Take a look at their faces. They were 17 and 18 in 1993. Today they would be 45 and 46 with teen age children of their
own. A really nice bunch of very typical high school students whose skills in English were very good. Hopefully they can still smile the way they did in 1993.
Elementary school students
AT the back of the room, left to right, Marjorie Skeoch, VP, Kevin Skeoch, School Principal
Principal of the Slovak High School in 1993
We had quite a few adventures in our week. Perhaps the most humourous was when
Marjorie got mugged by a group of five or six older women. Likely Roma. They surrounded her outside a Slovak coffee shop
where she lined up to go to a washroom. Public WC’s were hard to find.
wile Kevin and i were paying the bill. Suddenly, Kev, yelled. “Mom is getting robbed out there.”
And sure enough the women were all around her in the line up which they used as cover. Pushing…while looking
away….distracting Marjorie while one woman slipped her hand into Marjorie’s purse and grabbed her wallet. Only it was not
her wallet. It was her glass case. The women took off as Kevin arrived hollering like a stuck pig. So the mugging turned into
an adventure where no one got hurt…and five women were sharing an empty glass case. Another group of gypsy women
encircled me at the same time so Kev used back to save me. I was in no danger…wallet tied down.
NEXT EPISODE ON SLOVAKIA WILL BE AMUSING IN PLACES…STARTLING IN OTHERS.