These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Kalište: Keeping the memory alive

By James Thomson

    The remains of the village of Kalište, razed on March 18, 1945, and now part of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising.
 The remains of the village of Kalište, razed on March 18, 1945, and now part of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising.
 Photos by James Thomson

The Slovak National Uprising - its Slovak initials, SNP, can be found on many streets, squares and other public places around the country - took place in 1944.

As well as its main site in Banská Bystrica, the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising is the custodian of an exhibition dedicated to Slovakia's Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

It also manages the remains of Kalište. The village is the only one of 102 across Slovakia destroyed in reprisals by the Germans and their local proxies in 1944 and 1945 which was not rebuilt.

Kalište, though not far by car from Banská Bystrica, is remote, 924 metres above sea level in the hills north-east of the town. It was an ideal place for partisans who had taken part in the Slovak National Uprising to seek supplies and occasionally shelter in the winter of 1944-5.

At 4am on March 18, 1945, Nazi German troops arrived. The villagers were shot as they emerged from their houses and the village was then burned to the ground. Five days later the area was liberated by the advancing Soviet Army.

Only two houses now remain; stone foundations mark the sites of the other 36. The museum has erected information boards around the site. But only two deal with the massacre. Deputy director Roman Hradecký explains that the rest - and indeed the whole site - are intended to celebrate the lives of the people who lived here rather than just dwell on their fate.

Historians from the museum have researched recipes for the local food, the songs sung here and found photographs of the villagers to illustrate the displays. Hradecký says that what emerged most strongly from the research was the role played by women.

Kalište's main trade was burning wood for charcoal; as a result, the men were away for long periods in the surrounding forest, and it was left to the women to run the village, bring up the children and haul supplies by foot up the back-breaking road from the valley below.

In 2008 the museum established what it calls a 'Garden of Life' on the site, with a tree planted for every other Slovak village which suffered Kalište's fate, and with details of each presented next to it.

It is an atmospheric place, in a beautiful setting, and well worth a visit.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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