I was in Žilina the other day at the opening of the 5th Literature Festival. During a discussion someone asked me how I see the splitting up of Czechoslovakia today. I said I regard the birth of an independent Slovakia as a success story of Czech policies. My joke make the audience smile. But really, it has only just dawned on me. It was definitely the result of Czech policies – and what is wrong with that? Nothing, meaning it is a success story.
Back in 1992, when I first heard talk of the split, it made me very upset. I have always been and always will be a Czechoslovak. And as I saw an anti-Czech mood grow in Slovakia, I knew straight away that it had to happen fast, before we became enemies. In an article for Literární noviny I wrote that we should regard it as the fulfillment of our historical mission. It was in a common state with us that the Slovaks became a confident nation and not only that, because even an idiot can be confident. They have become a well-educated nation with their own culture and their own successes in many areas.
The Czech response to my article was one of approval but also surprise, as it seemed to undermine a sense of Czechoslovak patriotism. Some people in Slovakia were hurt by its tone. I heard an offended Mečiar say on TV: And in this situation Mr Vaculík declares, in an offended manner: Let them go! I tried to understand what it was about my attitude that he objected to: I realized I was ruining his warrior image. There was no reason to fight!
What made it easier for me to adopt this attitude in those days was the fact that the days of borders in Europe were clearly numbered. The separation has benefited both sides. That is how I understood Tatarka’s claim that he was a Czechoslovak. It is and always will be a term describing a cultural and political era. What shall we call ourselves now? What higher entity shall we belong to?
Translation: Julia Sherwood
We are grateful to Ludvík Vaculík for the permission to publish this text in English.