History is part of the story – Bratislava

When on the road, one encounter often leads to another. A week ago we were at the Against Hate Speech Online event by AEGEE-Katowice, where we met Lencka, one of the participants and a member of AEGEE-Bratislava. We started talking about Europe on Track, she asked if we were coming to Slovakia, and before long, she invited us to stay a night at her parents’ place in Bratislava.

One week later, having passed through the south of Poland, Czech Republic, and Austria, we are almost halfway in our journey from Brussels to Istanbul. We only covered some 60km from our previous stop in Wien, but until 1989 these were two very different worlds. The first, capitalist world in the West and the second, communist world in the East, separated by the Iron Curtain.

Today, Wien and Bratislava are two vibrant capitals just 1 hour by regional train from each other. But history has the uncanny habit of leaving its mark in societies and people’s minds. So we decide to take the opportunity of a history lesson with one of the students volunteering at the local city-tour operator. During the 2-hour tour in the freezing cold, we learn about the succession of rulers over the region, and that the Velvet Revolution actually started at the Law faculty here in Bratislava.

That history is part of today’s story, also shows in our interviews here. For Janos (21, Economics), the evolution towards a more unified Europe is not one he welcomes. “Slovakia was all the time ruled by a bigger country. Now we finally have our own state, and all the rules are coming from the EU, which are very strict, and we don’t even know the people in the European parliament that are making them.”

But still, different people draw their own, different conclusions from the same history. “We are [a] small [country] and we have no other choice than to be one union, to stand between the US, Russia, and China”, says Lencka, pointing out the positive side of having a stronger union. So the debate remains open, in favour or against a strong union. What is your own opinion?