Whose robber is Juraj Jánošík?

A major war has been going on in Central Europe. It has lasted a few centuries now, and it is all about a highwayman. The guy started robbing the rich to give to the poor, as local legends have it, in the 17th century. Execution stopped him when he was 25, in the first half of the second decade of the 18th century. His name was Juraj Jánošík. Many would compare him to Robin Hood.

But the Poles and the Slovaks each claim him as their own national hero, even though the places where he was born used to be part of Hungary.

And, in another mystery, nobody knows today how much of the loot Juraj Jánošík kept to himself as some kind of gratuity for his deeds.

Not that it matters today.

What matters is which of the two peoples has kept Jánošík’s derring-do spirit throughout the centuries.

It seems the race is going to go to Rzeczpospolita Polska, with Slovenská Republika coming in close second.

All about independence

Simple: while the people of Poland have been telling the European Union to go and fly a kite so far as its centralised decision-making is concerned, the Slovaks seem to have given up.

Starting Saturday, October 31, until Sunday, November 1, Slovaks were ordered that all of them had to undergo obligatory tests for what governments, sundry authorities and mainstream media call Covid-19. And, on the first day of testing, the government happily (and proudly) announced that three million of the five million Slovaks had done as ordered, adding that only 1 (count it: one) per cent of those tested were infected.

Confidential detail shared by a person in a position to know revealed the percentage was somewhat lower: one-tenth of one per cent, to be precise.

That’s not all: posters shared by some Slovaks on social media on strictly-imposed condition of anonymity show that some apartment building caretakers have already taken to telling their renters (in writing) that whoever does not bring a negative test certificate for inspection by the end of the day November 1 will be deemed in breach of their rental contract and ordered to leave forthwith. No waiting period. Immediate departure is what the doctor seems to have ordered.

Here’s what Juraj Jánošík would do if he heard the government was going to order nonsense like this: he would go and make sure the government regretted even thinking about such monstrously idiotic decision. And the rest of the people would rise up and make sure that even the local authorities wouldn’t dare make such call.

Here’s what happened in neighbouring Poland: yes, they applied some restrictions on mass gatherings in the spring, and some overly eager officials tried to order the country’s medical personnel to keep their mouths shut about the development.

That earned these officials a sharp rebuke from Poland’s Ombudsman who reminded them of such minor considerations as freedom of speech.

Polish Parliament (Sejm) would adopt a special emergency law, known in the Polish language as specustawa, but it would limit its powers to under six months (180 days), and it would make sure all citizens were free to criticise it and push their Members of Parliament to drop it altogether.

In any case, the Polish authorities, while careful about the potential danger, never dared impose mass tests on their population.

After all, it was Poland that started the labour movement (known as Solidarność, Solidarity in English). A Gdańsk Lenin Shipyard electrician Lech Wałęsa was the leader. This movement effectively killed communism in the former communist countries.

What threats?

All that against the threat of a Soviet military invasion (suggested by none less than the then-Soviet communist party central committee secretary Mikhail Sergeievich Gorbachev) and under the conditions of martial law imposed by then-Poland leader, general Wojciech Jaruzelski. (Then-Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau applauded general Jaruzelski’s decision.)

Poland and Slovakia share a 541-kilometres-long border. And they each want to own the Jánošík legend, too.

Even though facts say that Jánošík was born in what is today’s Slovakia, it seems that his spirit is much more alive north of his native country’s border. Unless and until, that is, his heirs man up and stand up for their rights.

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