Unknown vandals spray-painted “Roma lives matter” on Slovak politician Andrej Hlinka’s memorial in the Ružinov district in Bratislava in what appears to be another attack amid a wave of statue defacements occurring across the West amid Black Lives Matter protests and riots.
The inscription on Hlinka’s memorial, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement, also included a picture of a crossed-out swastika.
Hlinka (1864-1938) was a Slovak Catholic priest and politician, founder and leader of Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party. During World War II, he became almost a cult figure even though he was already dead by the time the war broke out.
Martin Chren, the mayor of the Ružinov district, condemned the act, questioning what the vandals wanted to express by defacing the memorial. He further pointed out that there are people who take advantage of the Black Lives Matter movement to damage statues and memorials.
According to Chren, for any society to become confident, it must learn to perceive its history comprehensively, which includes both the good and the bad.
Hlinka remains a controversial figure for some people because of the Hlinka Guards were named after him, which consisted of military units operating during World War II. The united participated in the transport of Jews to concentration camps. Hlinka himself had nothing to do with them as he had already died in 1938, right before Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and the authoritarian Slovak Republic was established. Pro-Nazi Slovaks simply used his name for their government’s paramilitary units.
For most Slovaks, Hlinka is a significant personality in Slovak history and any the association of Hlinka with Nazism is seen illogical by most Slovak historians.
Besides, according to historian Jan Rychlík, people working with Hlinka opposed the Germany’s National Socialism.
The importance of Hlinka’s legacy illustrates an excerpt in Slovak National Biography from 1991, stating that he was “one of the most significant personalities in modern Slovak history, a nationalistic Christian politician and representative of Slovak autonomic efforts.”
Title image: Spray-painted memorial of Andrej Hlinka in Bratislava (Pavel Kapusta)