My First Visit to Slovakia

by Zuska Durisek

I've just returned from my first visit to Slovakia. Getting there was a surprise, and certainly a result of corresponding with many of you. I got on the internet for the first time in February, found Slovak-World, read messages for a while, then ventured to ask if anyone knew where Zadovica was.

Well, not only did I receive the exact location of my ancestral town, but encouragement and stories from people who had travelled there, and offers to help find family.

I think I accepted any help I could get.... Gilvo and his contacts Dusan and Lubo in Slovakia knocked on doors and found relatives, who in turn found more relatives......Helene wrote to me about her Slovak newsletter and tours, which afforded me the ease of travel abroad with a strong support group, both in light of obtaining translators and drivers, and in learning about the country.....Andrew Fabula did a terrific phone book search for my family names, which helped locate people, and will serve as a base for more research.....Vladimir sent video tapes and newsletters which gave me an advance peek at the culture.

The two-week tour with Helene was wonderful. About fifty Americans and a couple Canadians on two buses, with Helene, her mom, two Slovak drivers and two Slovak friends drove through most of the country, stopping for two days near Bratislava, Piestany, Detva, Presov and Stara Lubovna.

Many times our entourage was expanded by interpretors and drivers for people visiting their families, and many times the already busy schedule was adjusted for "off the track" interests.

We saw the big cities and did lots of shopping, visited Archbishop Sokol and enjoyed his charm and hospitality as well as his Blessing and slivovic, lounged in the spa treatments in Piestany, went to Detva folk festival for two days and saw folk dance and traditional costumes, crossed the Low Tatras full of wild flowers and mountain streams, as well as driving beside the High Tatras and their grandeur.

I lost count of the incredible old cities, castles, cathedrals, museums and monuments we visited, and the people we met...making crafts, playing in bands for parties, at weddings, dancing, singing. We had the opportunity to watch a rehearsal of Sarisan, an amazing folk-dance ensemble in Presov.

And meeting my family in Slovakia was such an emotional and heart-warming experience that I'm already planning another trip on my own just to spend time to get to know them better.

One picture stands out in my mind. We had driven past an abandoned collective farm in a valley, then up a winding mountain through a virgin forest in the low Tatras. As we reached the crest, there was a farm in a wide highland meadow where sunlight poured down on a man cutting hay with a scythe. Such a powerful image... I think that's were my soul jumped off the bus. Gotta go back and get it soon.....

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Zuzka Durisek

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