All countries struggle with a dark past, they all have “baggage” as Rick Steves so well put in his book Travel as a Political Act. But it’s how we move forward that defines us. We can’t be held responsible for the choices and actions of our distant relatives, but we are acutely responsible for our own decisions. And it’s these current decisions that collectively guide the path of our own country.
I was born and raised in America – the land of freedom and dreams coming true. But as my own country was faltering and struggling to hold true to its foundational values, I found my dreams finally coming true the moment I left. I wandered my way to my new home – the Slovak Republic. If you’re looking at baggage, this country certainly has it. With a long history of struggling for independence, it fell claim to false promises by occupying countries until rebellion took hold and shed light on the resilient and courageous spirit at the heart of every Slovak.
It was 1944 and the country had recently become an independent nation. Pride at this opportunity flooded the hearts and minds of the people clouding their vision to notice the perilous strings that were attached to the German Nazi occupation. A group of determined Slovaks realized this was not the way they wanted their country to build its foundation of sovereignty- poisoned with another culture’s corrupt views. As policies became enacted and the truth of what was happening became clearer, this small group of rebels started spreading across the nation. Quietly they drew the attention of the Allies who decided to join their fight in hopes of helping uproot another country overtaken by Nazi rule.
On August 29th the plans turned to actions as the rebellion battle began. It lasted for several months, involved numerous supporting countries, and inspired a nation. The casualties were not small but then neither was the number of people who took up arms for this cause. The Nazi stronghold was shaken by this unsuspecting fight on soil they deemed concurred. They poured in troops from Germany and ultimately ended the rebellion fight. Despite the loss, Slovaks never forgot this act of resistance – even in the face of overwhelming oppression.
Years later, the nation is independent once again – yet forever fighting both internal and external forces that seek to take away their freedom. They are not a people to relax in the comfort of finally attaining their goals, but instead, sleep with their eyes wide open searching for any that may take that away. Pride and resilience run deep in the hearts and minds of Slovaks and every day they are learning how they want to define their children’s future and actively trying to create that. They know too well how easy it is to fall for the false promises of golden halls and that in reality, we have to actively create the life we want.
This is a culture that is well aware of its baggage but doesn’t let that hold them back. Instead, it is used to fuel their strength. As someone who has always believed this in my personal life, I am eternally grateful that all my hard work and resilience has landed me in a country that believes the same.