War Veterans Remembered

The Lutheran Elementary School students used art to thank war veterans for their service. They did so to commemorate Veterans Day which is annually observed all over the world on November 11.

The symbol of the red poppy flower, which became associated with this day, was used for the first time in a poem by a Canadian doctor John McCrae who had fought in Flanders (Belgium) during WWI. Even though McCrae served as a brigade surgeon, he could not reconcile himself to seeing his patients suffer. Writing poetry became a remedy to his pain. In one of his poems, McCrae described bright red poppies which grew on the places where the fallen soldiers had been buried. Afterwards the red poppy flower quickly became a universally recognised symbol of war veterans. Nowadays people of different backgrounds and nationalities who want to remember those fallen in war conflicts wear a poppy on November 11.

Jozef Sopoliga, the Lutheran Elementary School headmaster, said: “Due to the pandemic situation, Veterans day could not be properly commemorated. Neither public commemorations, nor church services or personal meetings with war veterans were allowed. But we did want to remember these precious people and show them our thanks. Hence our students used art to do so.” Our school, cooperating with the Slovak Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters, identified a number of former soldiers to whom students´ works were sent. The leader of the local branch of the Slovak Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters, Jozef Petráš, said: “At the moment, our highest priority remains to protect health of our veterans. This is crucial so that they can continue bearing testimony to atrocities they witnessed. We realise that it must be difficult for them to celebrate this day home alone. Therefore we very much appreciate the initiative of the Lutheran Elementary School and its students to reach out to these brave people by a means of art. I want to thank them all for all they did.”

It is estimated that currently there are approximately 100 living men and women in Slovakia who participated in the fights of WWII. One of them is Mr. Ondrej Kučera who was born in Sklabiňa, a small village near Martin. He received one of the artworks created by our students. When Mr. Kučera was fifteen years old, he was taken a prisoner of war to Germany. He survived the bombing of Dresden in 1945. Mr. Kučera is one of the last survivors who witnessed the cruellest atrocity in Turiec region. This was the execution of 48 people who were shot dead near Martin by a German commando on Oct 3, 1944.

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