Benkova: European Nations Should Protect Their Own Languages

(Stock photo by TASR)

Trencianske Teplice, September 23 (TASR) – Despite the current fashionable trend of posing as very European, individual nations shouldn’t forget their own languages and protect them instead, said Viera Benkova, a poet with Slovak roots from Backi Petrovac in Serbia, at a two-day Congress of Slovak Writers in Trencianske Teplice (Trencin region) on Friday.

“If we don’t protect our language, the river might lead us into the European torrent, but what and who will we be then? Imagine that we, Slovaks, have been living in the Lower Lands [of Serbia] for 270 years. There are nations that want to suppress others. However, this isn’t the case in Backi Petrovac, Serbia where I live. Quite the contrary – we’ve learnt some of their epic style, while they’ve borrowed something of our Slovak lyrical style,” said the poet, who writes both in Slovak and Serbian.

According to her, some 20,000-30,000 Slovaks went to Vojvodina and other parts of Serbia from the northern regions of the-then Kingdom of Hungary, i.e. Slovakia, because a “beautiful and bountiful land” that needed to be cultivated in the Lower Lands was left fallow after the expulsion of the Turks. These Slovaks still haven’t forgotten their mother language, handing it down from one generation to the next. Local Slovak writers and a Slovak grammar school in Backi Petrovac, founded in 1919, have contributed towards this, said Benkova.

“The war and political disputes have meant that Serbian Slovaks are now returning to Slovakia for better salaries. Not infrequently they have inferior jobs, but they still earn more than the €200 per month they’d be getting in Serbia. Meanwhile, Slovaks are leaving for Ireland to earn even more. The whole of Europe is moving. We’re paying our debt by sending our sons to universities. They graduate in Slovakia and then find employment,” said the Slovak poet from Serbia.

Slovak writers in Serbia have seen a tangible boost in support in recent years. “They [Slovaks from Slovakia] were slapping us on our back earlier, calling us countrymen, but this wasn’t enough … The Office for Slovaks Living Abroad at the Slovak Foreign and European Affairs Ministry provides grants for our literary and publishing activities and our magazines. Meanwhile, Matica Slovenska in Serbia, via its funds, also supports our publishing activities,” added Benkova.