Project “Unsung Heroes” in the Fight against Communism

Lutheran Elementary students participated in the project “Unsung Heroes” for the sixth time in 2014. They answered an invitation issued by the Institute of National Remembrance, the civic association “Unsung Heroes,” and the Confederation of Political Prisoners of Slovakia. These three organizations try to find people who “swam upstream against the current and paid a high price for it” during the communist regime. To date, this project has uncovered the stories of over a hundred unknown heroes in the fight against communism.

The project “Unsung Heroes” and the related formal student conference called “Unsung Heroes in the Struggle against Communism” took place for the sixth year in Slovakia. Students from Lutheran Academy have participated in this project for five of those six years, and each year they have achieved valuable awards in the competition. This year’s effort to map out the life of another unknown hero was not left unnoticed. Students successfully defended their project and won first place with their paper about a young prisoner, John Alexander Sitár. Sitár was imprisoned during the communist era and considered among the “most dangerous people” because he was openly against communist rule.

Lutheran Academy became involved in the “Unsung Heroes” project so that students would become aware of those who had experienced the horrors of communist totalitarianism. In their first year in the project, students won second place with their paper about the First Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Slovakia. Another year, students placed in the top ten with their paper on a Lutheran Bishop in Zilina. This paper was followed by a treatment of the life story of the first woman Lutheran pastor, Darinka Bancíková. Last year’s hero was the discreet commander William Žingor. That paper won the rare silver prize. This year’s unknown hero, John Alexander Sitár, was an open protestor against the lies and manipulation of the communist regime.

J.A. Sitár was 19 years old and wanted to study Lutheran theology, but his plan was thwarted by the communistregime. For his open opposition to communism, he was sentenced to 16 years of forced labor in the uranium mines in Jáchymov (Czech Repubic). After his release, Sitár worked as a laborer on the railroad in Vrútky (close to Martin). Later, he became a development engineer. He was never in a political party and he learned to speak four languages. Most of his life he worked as a translator of specialized literature. After his difficult, early-life experiences, J.A. Sitár lived an honest, full, creative life, dying on May 27, 2006, at the age of 83.

On the recent 25th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (SNU), our high school students honored and expressed gratitude to the many Slovak “Unsung Heroes.” They drew particular attention to local heroes, members of the anti-fascist resistance, by inviting these individuals to an assembly held in their honor. Students of the Lutheran Academy in Martin then honored these living heroes symbolically as they listened attentively to the testimonies of these national heroes. We were very pleased when the author of the “Unsung Heroes” project, Frantisek Neupauer, expressed his satisfaction and gratitude that “the students have been able to identify people whose attitudes and activities contributed to re-establishing freedom in our country.”

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