History buffs and people of Slovakian descent will gather in the Twin Cities next weekend to recognize the 75th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising.
The little-known uprising took place at the end of World War II and is a critical part of Slovak history, said John Palka, an organizer of the upcoming event. The anti-Nazi uprising involved about 60,000 soldiers, in addition to civilian support. Though the military effort was largely unsuccessful, he said it inspired a resistance against Slovakia's own fascist government.
"This is a World War II event that is absolutely central to Slovak history, but it's very little known in this country. So we're taking trouble to explain what the event was and why it is important," Palka said.
The 75th Anniversary Slovak National Uprising Memorial Weekend will be held Aug. 24-25 in Mendota Heights and St. Paul. The weekend's activities include a film screening, historical analysis from international scholars and storytelling.
"We have a number of personal stories from people who either themselves or their families were engaged in the uprising in one way or another," Palka said. His family, too, was involved in underground efforts that planned the uprising.
For Kevin Hurbanis, president of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI), the memorial weekend serves as a way to learn more about the place and people he is connected to.
"My grandparents immigrated from present-day Slovakia almost a hundred years ago, and I have been fortunate to connect with present-day family there," Hurbanis said. "The history of war and communism is their reality, and when I visit, knowing more about this history helps give a deeper insight to what they have persevered through."
At the time of the Slovak National Uprising, CGSI First Vice President Mark Dillon's father, Francis J. Dillon, served in a U.S. Army Air Corps unit arming fighter planes in Italy. Dillon is new to the Twin Cities, but the Slovak presence in the region is not.
"You will find that across Minnesota there is a combination of folks who are third- and fourth-generation Slovaks as well as more recent first-generation immigrants," Dillon said.
Some came to the Twin Cities in the aftermath of World War II as refugees following the Communist takeover, Dillon said.
Memorial weekend event organizers also hope to draw those without Slovak heritage but with an interest in the history and culture.
"We're inviting area people who have a more general interest in World War II," Palka said. "Sometimes they're veterans, or their dad or their mom served in one way or another, and they just feel a connection to that part of history."
All are welcome to engage in the conversation, Dillon said.
"The conference honors the memory of all who served during that time, especially those men and women in Slovakia who had the courage to stand up to evil and hate against great odds," Dillon said.
The reception and film screening on Aug. 24 are free, but registration is required for the conference on Aug. 25. The fee to attend ranges from $10 to $25. More information is available online at bit.ly/2KDcI6h.