During the 18th century, many Slovaks fled their homes and migrated south to Vojvodina, a region in what is now Serbia. History reports that these people took only four things when they emigrated: a teacher, a pastor, the King James Version of their Bible, and Tranoscius, a hymnbook. This year, their story attracted the attention of students at the Lutheran Academy.
Part of the Lutheran Academy’s comprehensive educational program includes regular participation in social projects. For their social project during the Easter season, students turned their attention to Slovaks living in Vojvodina, a region in the northern part of the Republic of Serbia (the former Yugoslavia). It is estimated that nearly 3 percent of the world’s Slovak population lives in Vojvodina.
Their migration had its origins in a 300-year struggle between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. In 1683, in what history claims was the turning-point in this warfare, the Austrian Habsburgs defeated the Ottoman Turks in Vienna. The Habsburgs recovered much territory, extending the Austrian border as far south as Vojvodina.
Over the next 112 years, the region saw thirteen battles and, as a result, Vojvodina became nearly a ghost town. After vanquishing the Turks, the Habsburgs began repopulating the area, with the first wave of immigrants consisting chiefly of Slovak Lutherans. Slovaks have lived in Vojvodina ever since that time; today they represent the third most populous nationality in the region.
To better understand the situation and needs of Vojvodina Slovaks, the Academy welcomed three Slovak teachers from Vojvodina. To a rapt audience, these distinguished guests described the life of Slovaks in Vojvodina. Students learned of the challenges immigrants face in preserving their culture and traditions as “foreigners” in another land, operating Slovak schools, worshiping in Slovak, eating Slovak cuisine, and observing Slovak customs.
The Lutheran Academy pledged help for Slovaks living in Vojvodina. Vojvodina resident Ana Kisova, a Slovak teacher, expressed joy over this cooperation, saying that Slovaks living abroad need help “for encouraging their nationality and [remaining] steadfast in their traditions.” Her colleague Anna Silerova stated the desire to identify new opportunities for Vojvodina Slovaks to deepen their identity. “The number of Slovaks in Vojvodina decreases, so every day we strive to ensure that our language and culture endure.”
“Vojvodina is still our home,” she added.
During the presentation, Lutheran Academy students asked questions about the peaceful coexistence of Slovaks and Serbs in Serbia, the rights of ethnic minorities, and living conditions for Slovaks in Vojvodina. They actively participated in several activities throughout the Lenten season designed to help the Slovaks of Vojvodina. For example, they held a charity sale of student products and food, with the proceeds from this event donated to their welfare.
The project was highlighted by a visit in late March from the Student Choir of Báčsky Petrovec in Vojvodina, who performed for the Academy.
During social project for Vojvodina, Lutheran Academy students collected 550 euro. The funds were used to purchase a data projector for their partner school, an elementary school in Backy Petrovec. They presented this gift on the 270th anniversary of the arrival of Slovaks to this part of the world.
Previous Lutheran Academy social projects have centered on a broad array of needs worldwide: for children in Ukraine, Somali refugees, children and youth in Uganda, victims of abuse in Slovakia, and building a school in Afghanistan. It is hoped that, by exposing them to the needs of others, our students will develop empathy for people worldwide.
|CCE’s Lutheran Academy helps students grow both academically and spiritually, anchors them in Christian values, and prepares them for lives of service to others. To learn how you can support the ministry of the Lutheran Academy, please contact Tomáš Gulán at firstname.lastname@example.org.