Alex, Robert Fico and Dukla

Alex, Robert Fico and Dukla

Today is the 71st anniversary of the KDO (Carpathian Dukla Operations) one of the worst battles of WW2 and also known as the Battle of Dukla (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Dukla_Pass). My town of Svidnik was rebuilt by the Russians after the war to commemorate it. The sheer number of casualties, both dead and wounded, is staggering. This is also a battle within living memory (the bus loads of old people in town today attest to that). Svidnik was utterly destroyed in WW1 during fighting between the Germans and the Russians, and then again in WW2.

As part of a school trip from the Gymnasium, my younger boy Alex went to the Dukla memorial, on the border of Poland and Slovakia, some 15 miles out of town. As this is such a major event for Slovakia, both the Prime Minister and President attended, along with survivors of the battle and the modern military from both Slovakia and Poland. The photo is of Alex at Dukla with the Prime Minister Robert Fico, who’s currently doing a damned good job sticking up for Slovakia’s rights in Europe. Alex doesn’t have a problem with confidence – he just walked right up and asked the PM for a photo.

Alex said he also spoke with an army nurse who’d attended the wounded during the battle. She’d saved 122 lives and was apparently covered in medals. After visiting the Dukla memorial, all parties then headed to the giant Soviet monument in the town.

Forest cabin

Forest cabin

This is a cabin we stayed at last weekend in the forest above Svidnik, East Slovakia. It’s owned by the regional forest office and is situated on Black Mountain. The hill is renowned for the bandits who used to inhabit it centuries ago, and also for the number of German soldiers who died there during the war.

Despite being deep in the forest it was silent, creepily so. Apart from one owl which called for 30 seconds, the rest of the night was without animal or bird activity. It was like a blanket of silence had been thrown over the area. Ordinarily, the forests around here produce a cacophony of sound once darkness falls. Not at that cabin… I was pleased when dawn arrived.

I guess that part of the forest remembers the dead.