January 2008

False Unification of Hungarians in the Schengen area
Dutch Pioneer Inspirations in the Eastern Europe
Fascinated by the Communistic Empire and Moscow
They were told which hotel to stay in
After the collapse of the USSR, he began living in Lvov
Being captured in Abkhazia
First business- a half- litre cognac for a dollar for West Europe
Leftover eaten by those who had no money
No one wanted to buy a panzer microwave
500 visas in a month
Dairy in Žitomir
Gouda Cheese started production in Slovakia in a former bunker
He moved production to Sambir in Ukraine
Innovative ecological fertilizer Condit
Rescue from Holland
He believes only in Jesus´ Kingdom on Earth
Hunter´s manor house Betliar
No Education, No Job
Responsible organization
“I like when I have to think while working”
Hundreds of important cuts
Leather covers for manufacturing of head rests

 

False Unification of Hungarians in the Schengen area
On 20 December 2007, in Esztergom, Pál Csáky, a compromised leader of Slovak Hungarians, celebrated the entrance of Slovakia and Hungary into the Schengen area together with compromised Viktor Orbán, a leader of Fidesz and the former Hungarian prime minister. This town with thirty thousand inhabitants is famous for its basilica. In 1882, its construction was initiated and later supervised by Slovak archbishop Alexander Rudny. “We will finish the era when a Hungarian was separated from a Hungarian by a real border. It will grow together what belongs together. However, no borders do not mean unification of the nation. Spiritual unification is needed, too. We must not let our “ specific Hungarian civilization” melt in the sea of nations we are being surrounded by,” Viktor Orbán also said.

He pronounced these words in a town situated on the border, the town that is separated from Slovak Štúrovo only by the river Danube and connected by the bridge Maria Valeria. They misused rich history of the town that is connected with Celts, Romans and Slav, to be more precise, old Slovaks. A watch castle of Esztergom used to be one of the most important centres of Nitra Principality and Great Moravia. After old Hungarians had arrived, St. Stephan, the first Hungarian King, was crowned there in the year 1000. And in the same year, Esztergom became the seat of the archbishop and some Slovak Roman- Catholic dioceses belonged to its jurisdiction until 1937. Esztergom used to be a seat of Hungarian rulers until the end of the 12th century and they assimilated with original Slovak inhabitants and their aristocracy. After liberation from Turkish occupation, it became one of the main centres of Slovak intellectuals and personalities of national importance.
If we wanted to use rhetoric of nationalists and chauvinists, we could have also said: Mr Csáky and Mr Orbán are dreaming about unification of an ethic group that was created by later and violent processes that are called Hungarization. Moreover, we might state that “specific Hungarian civilization” spread and protected violently and economically and was the reason for many rebellions and uprisings from the side of Slovaks, Romanians, Serbs, Croatians, Ruthenians and other nations in the Hungarian Kingdom mainly in the 19th century. “Hungairan civilization” was also the reason for the fall of the Austro- Hungarian Empire; it was the source of assimilation and persecutions of minorities after 1918 that stayed to live in new Hungary. And why kind of nation actually lives in a border area between Slovakia and Hungary? Slovak, Hungarian? Mixed?
However, another question is appropriate these days: Who declares more to belong to that nation? Slovaks or Hungarians? If you believe the presumption that Schengen area can unify Hungarians spiritually and genetically, then we have to ask what sort of mentality those Hungarians in Hungary and Hungarians in Slovakia have? Do we have to ask what they have in common? Which inheritance of St Stephan crown? Peaceful cohabitation of subjugated nations in the first centuries of his empire that was continuously becoming Latinized and Germanized? Or the Hungarian Kingdom after 1526 when the Kingdom was split and for over 300 years it lost its political independence? Or the Hungarian Kingdom having been awakened by Transylvanian protestant nobles fighting against Catholic Habsburgs in the 17th and 18th centuries and later liberals in the 19th century who required national and political freedom for Hungarians but refused it to the others? Or is it the Hungarian Kingdom from between the years 1867 and 1918 when violent assimilation, cultural and educational policies and forced “bread” emigration of non- Hungarians to the USA culminated?
How is it possible to connect something in spiritual way, when, for many of them the European Union is a new spiritual and political philosophy and not return to monarchies or totalitarian political systems from the years between 1939 and 1945?
Well, let’s focus on another detail. How many times have Mr Csáky and Mr Orbán said something positive about Slavs and especially Slovaks in public? How many examples of developing trust between Slovaks and Hungarians have they shown and presented to Hungary, Slovakia and the European Union? When Germany was being unified after the fall of the Berlin Wall, West and East German politicians often spoke about unification of a nation. However, it has not happened so. Yes, the currency is the same, the area of the state, they share the same political and economic system that on the other hand negatively influenced living standard of East Germans. Germans have not unified mentally. The other way round, at present, Bavarians consider themselves more than Germans and Germany, they feel superior to Prussians, Saxons from East Germany. But on the other hand, having been compared to Hungarian politicians who claim they are focused on nation and country, they do not talk about “specific Bavarian civilization” that could be melted in the Islamic, French or Slavonic sea. Their leaders got wiser and do not want another war. Those Hungarian ones, in Hungary and in Slovakia will have a problem to put up with their own history and learn from it. And what is even worse and more disappointing – they declare themselves to believe in God and Jesus Christ teachings… Well, there is another question arising: When will Hungarians and Slovaks, nations that have been living together and next to each other for centuries, get rid of politicians who want Central European civilization to melt in the sea of Hungarian nationalism and chauvinism?
Róbert Matejovič, editor in chief

Róbert Matejovič, editor in chief

Dutch Pioneer Inspirations in the Eastern Europe
Mr Willen van der Weide left West in 1992 as he thought he had found the sense of his life and entrepreneurship in Ukraine and later in Slovakia. He wanted to experience in person the fall of the Soviet Union, anarchy, and development of democracy, entrepreneurial environment and market economy. He has carried out some production and trade projects that have improved quality of human life.

Based on official statistics, 80 Dutch families live in Slovakia and 150 entrepreneurial subjects operate here. They were either established or are managed by the citizens of the Dutch Kingdom. Most of them operate in Bratislava and the south regions of the west or central Slovakia. Willibrordus Augustinus van der Weide, a 46- year old man, was one of the firsts who arrived to settle business in Slovakia. It was at the time when thanks to Madeleine Albright, former American Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the USA and West talked about Slovakia as a “black hole on the map of Central Europe”. He comes from the Friesland town of Bolsvard in the north of Holland and since 1996, he has been living in a small town of Strážske (5 000 inhabitants) in the east of Slovakia. As a co-owner and CEO of the company Interfood Ost, s.r.o. he manages the production of unique bio- organic fertilizer Condit, treatment and a source of energy for soil and healthy products that are usually destroyed by chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This Slovak ecological invention has already been patented in 144 countries. Being supported by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Slovak Republic, he will present it at the prestigious exhibition BIOFACH in Norimberg, Germany in February 2008. Over 2500 exhibitors will take part, too.

The life story of this modest entrepreneur who belongs to over 500 thousand minority of Friesland people living on the coast of the North Sea in Holland and to Friesland language (it belongs to the group of West- German North languages), it is a story of a man who under difficult circumstances and tough conditions managed to establish and develop a few firms and businesses but most of all, he built many human bridges between Slovakia and Holland, Slovakia and Ukraine but also between Ukraine and Holland. Over past 25 years, from an unknown businessman and investor, he has become a reputable pioneer of small and medium entrepreneurship in East Europe, a tradesman with wood, a producer of traditional Dutch cheeses (mainly Gouda), a consultant, and a specialist for human and social relations. He survived the splitting of the Soviet Union, collapse of socialistic economy, anarchy, human poverty, hooliganism, birth of capitalism, development of democracy and market economy. He has never been supported by powerful western companies; big banks did not support him, either. Neither the government, nor political parties. He always had to work hard, and from nothing, many times in dangerous situations, just because of his conviction, tenacity and belief in God. He refuses opinions that his life reminds of life of a brave adventurous man. 

Fascinated by the Communistic Empire and Moscow
Willem as all his friends call him came to Slovakia from Ukraine where he settled down in 1992, after the fall of the USSR. This former communistic empire fascinated him since he was 12 when he began dreaming of visiting that country one day. Well, he managed it in 1983. He was 22 and together with his friend, they had travelled 8 000 kilometres to see Moscow and V. I. Lenin Mausoleum. It was the main goal of their journey. “From historical point of view, it was my first journey to East. Despite all negative feelings and antagonism against red or dark colours, we were very inspired. We wanted to visit the country about which he had just read in books and magazines. I remember my friend’s parents wanting to give him money so that he did not have to travel with me and in a car he had just got for his birthday,“ he started describing his memories with a smile in his face and small sparks in his eyes. It was obvious that this blue- eyed and blond- haired Dutch has always been attracted by the life far away from rigid and boring west European environment. “In the mausoleum I asked the guide: How did Russians do the revolution? When had all their passion gone? However, I was disappointed as he did not answer. Moreover, guards carried me away because I began asking when I was standing so close to Lenin.“

They were told which hotel to stay in
“Our journey lasted for three weeks. However, we were allowed to stay in the Soviet Union just for 12 days. We travelled across Germany, Austria and former Czechoslovakia. We had been waiting for soviet visa for 10 months. When we got it, our Czechoslovak visa had run out,“ he laughs. “We had to apply again. We visited Uzghorod, Lvov, Rovno, Kiev and Oryol. But we were followed and supervised everywhere we went. Soviets always showed us where to stay, in which hotel and even a room. That is why we felt so safe there. We had some problems while travelling but we enjoyed it anyway. It was all so interesting. We saw what we had not known before. No idea. It was a great experience. As well as “miserable” borders and custom controls. In Vyšné Nemecké, we met a German who fought at Stalingrad. He, as an enemy from defeated Germany was travelling to Volgograd in his Mercedes to visit places where he fought. We could not believe it.“
When he was returning home, not only his family but also Dutch Intelligence were waiting for him. They were also curious to hear his experiences and opinions. “I just told them what I had seen and experienced. What else should I have said?”
From then to 1989, he visited Poland, former East Germany (NDR) and Czechoslovakia for a few times. But the Soviet Union attracted him most. After its collapse, he was searching for the possibility to settle down there. He decided to go for Ukraine. “It has always been my inspiration. I wanted to go there, I wanted to experience in person the economic collapse and anarchy. I have always said that it used to be another Columbia at the time.”
After the collapse of the USSR, he began living in Lvov
When Willem lived in Holland, he worked as a construction budget creator and a technician. His father worked in hospital, and his mother was a housewife. He has four brothers. One of them is a priest, second is a psychologist, and third is a director of a sport centre in Den Helder and the fourth one runs his own business that provides services on roads.
He moved to Ukraine when he was 31 years old. After declaration of independence in 1991, the country went through a very difficult period of economic crisis and criminality rate rose enormously. He chose Lvov with eight thousand inhabitants to be his new home. His friends whom he met in Ukraine invited him to stay there. Later, he rented a three- room flat in the city centre for 80 dollars a month. His start was very simple. He had his own car available and capital- 5000 German marks. In Ternopole, together with his friends, he established Dutch- Ukrainian company Septima dealing with export of oak wood to West Europe mainly to Holland, Germany and Spain. The company still exists and is successful.
“When I arrived, it was very difficult and dangerous to run your own business and do anything as a foreigner. Especially, first two years. It was dangerous to walk along streets or to drive a car. You could be killed any time for any reason. If you left your car in the street longer than 30 minutes, it could be stolen. It was not safe to have any money on you. It was like in a western movie. Drivers had hand grenades and guns, simply Wild West. The Bible reads about the end of the system in the world, my friends and I believed that was used to be in Ukraine at that time could not have been worse. Despite that I went there and did not want to come back home.”
Being captured in Abkhazia
First he wanted to settle a few business activities in Lvov, Žitomir, Ternopol and in Caucasus that would help people to survive tough times. As he came from the west, many people visited him and begged for help. They needed food, clothes, shoes, work. “So I worked there as a social worker. I had no time to sleep or relax. I also travelled to Murmansk (North Russia), Dagestan and Georgia. At the end of the year 1992, I visited Caucasus region and when I was on my way back from Georgia to Russia, I had to cross Abkhazia; I was arrested by Abkhazian Muslim soldiers. As there was a war between Abkhazia and Georgia, their commander thought I was a spy from NATO. At that time, they considered all NATO soldiers weak and coward, so I was given a condition. I had to take part in a special training. Every morning I had to run six kilometres, and then swim 1500 meters in cold and deep river. After I had been able to do that, the commander praised me, told be I was a “real man” and released me after seven days. I could continue in my journey.”
First business- a half- litre cognac for a dollar for West Europe
After very tough beginnings of his new life in Ukraine, he managed to use a few contacts and mediated first businesses so that I was able to survive. Well, I did my first successful business with selling Georgian cognac via Turkey to Europe. He sold a half- litre bottle of seven- year old cognac for a dollar each. He succeeded to sell 60 000 bottles…
“Establishing a firm between the years 1992 and 1993 could be compared to a journey to Mars. No one knew how to do it. There was no base to trade and run a business honestly. Notaries did not know what to do, there were no laws. It was much better not to have your own company. The government implemented 93 taxes that were strictly followed and controlled. Another law passed in 1993 prohibited to use and have any dollars on you. If one broke the law and was caught, he / she could have been imprisoned even for ten years. Dollars could be used just as foreign currency. Nobody was interested in the fact that “kupon- karbovanec” (predecessor of hrivnas) had no value. When we were beginning, one dollar cost ten “kupon- carbons”. In 1994, it was even 150 000 and I was carrying a suitcase with billions in it. I felt like an African businessman. However, we needed dollars, stable currency.“
In a dining car he had to pay five dollars for a porn film otherwise he would be thrown out
Having experienced declining system and having lived in collapse were the most inspiring periods in his life. “It was similar to Mexico a hundred years ago. For example, when I wanted to travel by train (Lvov- Kiev- Moscow- Archangelsk). I had to pay the waiter in a dining car. When I asked why, he answered that I would be watching a porn film while eating. The atmosphere similar to that in Mexico in 1870. People made money anyhow, just to get by. If I had not paid, I would have been kicked out. Or having seen someone drinking home- made vodka from plastic Coca-Cola bottle (a litre). I had never seen so many drink people before. As well as mental collapse of people who did not know what would be the next day like.”
What did he see and experience? Let me mention at least bankruptcy of huge state companies, hyper- inflation between the years 1994 and 1996, ruined people who had heir savings in rubbles in banks, total corruption of Kravchuk and Kuchma´s government, at the police and at the borders, offers of former KGB agents to protect new companies, miserable moral life, people panicking and unable to understand a new situation.
“Some time in December 1994, I was travelling from Kiev to Moscow by train. At the time a border between Ukraine and Russia was being formed. It was freezing cold outside, minus 28 degrees and a strong wind was blowing. I had never felt so cold. I was travelling in first class, it was warm and I was reading a book. I was thinking how it was possible that there was no problem, so far. When the train stopped at the border, Russian custom officer asked be to get off. As my documents were all right, I asked why. I told him it was cold outside and train would continue in its journey soon. I did not want to get off but he pushed me out. He took me to his the office. Meanwhile the train went away. When I asked his colleague what I was there, he answered “ Wait a minute”. And then I got a terrible shock again. A policeman and a black man from Ghana stood next to me. Poor black boy had no gloves or hat, and he was shaking cold. And I understood why I was there, why I had to get off the train. They needed an interpreter . A man from Ghana had been robbed, and his ticket and documents had been stolen. He needed to get to the embassy in Moscow. When I finished my work I asked the policeman where my train was. “Don´t worry, it arrives in two hours. “However, I had to buy a new ticket for 45 dollars for the first class and took my new black friend with me. But the compartment was not heated, there was no coal. I had to wear my hat, gloves and coat. “
Leftover eaten by those who had no money
Ukraine had a very bad infrastructure and was going thorough energetic crisis- lack of fuel, oil and electricity. People were dying because of poverty, hunger and criminality. “The worst situation was in Odessa and Lvov when at least ten people died every day. Lvov was controlled by 40 various groups. Everything had collapsed, the state did not protect anyone, and nobody could help you. The whole town was dark, total horror. Only candles were burning in the rooms. When I threw out some leftovers into the bin, others picked them up and ate them because they had no money to buy it.“
While he was talking, I remembered my first visit in Ukraine and Carpathian area in spring 1992 when Ukraine opened its border to citizens from other states. The road from Vyšné Nemecké to Uzghorod was rimmed by people begging for anything- clothes, money, shoes, food… In Uzghorod you could not buy anything in the city centre, the shops were empty. There were shop assistants only; perhaps they were for sale like girls in a nearby hotel Uzghorod where pimps sold them for a dollar. It is hard to believe it, even now, after fifteen years.
No one wanted to buy a panzer microwave
Willem has also tried the post of a paid, manager- employee. In 1993, he worked for 200 dollars a month as a sales manager for the firm Lorta Impex, Ltd, a former military plant in Lvov, that used to employ 20 000 people. A Chief Executive Officer asked him to help with export of microwaves. “I said yes, we agreed on six months. I was doing my best but it was impossible because one microwave was a meter long and weighed 60 kilograms including a massive panzer. It was a huge heavy giant- not for sale, no one wanted it.“ He commuted to work every day. The firm was 45 kilometres far from my flat. As my car had “C” sign and a special number, everybody knew he was a foreigner. Policemen would stop him even three times a day, always wanting some change and always finding a reason to fine him. “Once I paid a fine because my tires were of a different profile. Three wheels had Michelin tires, one tire was Matador. Who cared that other cars had no profile… I had to pay a fine. One year, I paid 250 fines, either in kind or cash. Surely, I was a candidate for Guinness Book.“
It was shocking and sad to see how Lorta went bankrupt because its managers and employees knew nothing about running a private business. What they knew was planned economy; they had no idea what to do and who to produce for when the plant changed its production to civil one. They did know what marketing was. When people went on strike, they came into the office as they thought he did it on purpose and made the company bankrupt because he came from the west.
“They were searching and looking for anything, we changed trade policy, and we had to survive. One day, we brought three trucks of shoes from Holland. One pair for eight dollars. When a policeman was checking me, I gave him a pair of shoes. He was very happy. However, the next day, he sent forty colleagues as they wanted some shoes for free.”
500 visas in a month
His greatest success in the company was the export of 20 000 tons of cement from Odessa to Hamburg by boat. AS exporters they had to pay 50 per cent from the sale price and the firm could not last long. And that is why it collapsed. Meanwhile Willem had already been working for another company, a small trade firm Helios that bought him like a football player for 1000 dollars a month (that was his salary). It was the year 1994 and he was responsible for export- import. He imported furniture, clothes, electronic devices and second- hand clothes. He worked for them for almost a year. “I did not agree with the strategy and trade policy. Moreover, we had to pay for our protection as all other companies did otherwise they would not be able to run business. It made sense because the laws did not work and did not protect entrepreneurs. We focused on import of second- hand cars, tourism and organization of business trips of Ukrainians who wanted to buy cars and other goods in Holland. I sorted out visa for them. One month I managed to sort out 500 visas. I was glad we did not have any problems and at last, they were allowed to see different world.” 

Dairy in Žitomir
Meanwhile he began searching for possibilities to set up the business in Slovakia where he tries trading cars, wood and tourism. He wanted to carry out some projects as for example to build a big dairy should have been built in Žitomir for production of Dutch cheeses. When he always had problems with getting loans from Dutch banks, he decided to move his projects concerning milk processing and cheese production to Slovakia. “My problem was that I was asking Dutch banks, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a “ little money” I needed for my projects. When I visited a branch of ING Bank in Kiev, I was told that although I had a very good project, 400 or 500 thousand dollars is a very little amount to do a good business. Moreover, every loan needed so- called “aval”, i.e. grant from an Ukrainian bank that it will pay my loan in case of any difficulties. This policy of loaning for small and medium businessmen is still the same in Ukraine. I lived in Ukraine for five years and it was a great experience for me. Living there and understanding what was happening there- it cannot be learned anywhere. It was a real school of life for me. I like remembering those times and understand those people. I admire them that they managed to survive and move their country forward in next years.”
Gouda Cheese started production in Slovakia in a former bunker
Elemír Pastornický convinced him to come to Strážske, Slovakia. Men have known each other for a long time, since 1984. Mr Pastornický is his right hand in business, and a former chemical foreman in enterprise Chemko Strážske. He asked Willem to come and help the region and settle a producing plant there. Conditions for running business were slightly better than in Ukraine but they still lacked capital and banks provided loans with a high interest. Corrupted regime of President Kuchma and hyper- inflation were ruling the Ukraine. Vladimír Mečiar governed Slovakia; he naively supported creation of strong domestic capital-forming class by privatization of state properties for low prices and blocked entrance of speculative foreign investors into Slovak economy.
In Strážske, they turned a former bunker of civic protection and a restaurant “Raj” into a dairy that had been producing Gouda Cheese, the most famous Dutch cheese, until 2003. Willem sorted out a loan and the most modern Dutch technology that enabled them to produce cheese according to the traditional recipe and export it not only to the west but also to Ukraine and Russia.
His company Gouda Slovakia, s.r.o. whose major share was bought by a strong Dutch production and distribution company Uniekaas, was the first producer of natural and high quality cheese Gouda in Slovakia. Moreover, the cheese won the anonymous and prestigious competition of producers of Gouda in Holland. And the price in Slovak market competed with many Dutch importers who were supported until Slovakia became the member of the European Union in May 2004. 

He moved production to Sambir in Ukraine
“We stopped cheese production in 2003 because we had permanent problems with the local self- government. The town cancelled our rental contract. The state is not interested in supporting the production by export contributions and contributions for farmers, a narrow- minded thinking of local politicians and officers were the biggest issues we were not able to overcome. We produced 350 tons of cheese every year (however, the capacity was 500 tons), we employed 25 well- paid people. We created and build up a project the town should have been proud of. But there are only “local players”, able to play only district league, they have no good manners and are unwilling to see beyond the borders. There is no one to run business with, to develop it, make it up and carry out projects. In 2007, the town was one of the worst places for entrepreneurship in Slovakia with the highest taxes from properties and lands. Only the change of the local authorities would help the town so that it returned to Europe. Young people leave to work abroad,“ he says bitterly.
When in 2002 he was visited by reporter from Russian television Odin plus Odin to make a report about using new Dutch technologies for production of Gouda Cheese in Strážske, he had no idea that after its broadcasting, owners of a diary in Sambir near Lvov would contact him and offered him cooperation. Thanks to good contacts with the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture and Dutch government, he sorted out contribution in the amount of 800 thousand EUR. That money enabled to set up the first production of Gouda according to traditional recipe in Ukraine and in the area of the former Soviet Union in 2002 when the plant moved part of its technologies from Strážske to Sambir. Compared to Slovakia, the production received state support in Ukraine. Even the Dutch government supported it. And Willem was awarded a prestigious prize for his work by Ukrainian and Dutch Government. 

Innovative ecological fertilizer Condit
As he continued talking to me he said he had seen so many good and so many bad things in Slovakia, Ukraine and East Europe. “I am a businessman who might have done a hundred important things over the past years. Other people have probably managed to do just one thing. Over past months, I have been searching for more peaceful way of living; I focused my attention on consulting activities for positive products and projects.” And one of these projects that I intensively deal with is the production of bio- organic fertilizer Condit. It has already revolutionized scientific circles as it can significantly help Slovak and European agriculture: It competes with industrial fertilizers (NPK), saves farmers´ money and state budget from high expenditures on protection of underwater against negative influence of those fertilizers, it ensures organic nutrition of plants and crops and organic humus in soil. In other words, it enables ecological way of growing plants and crops, higher fertility and it gives soil back humus that is usually destroyed by industrial fertilizers. One ton of this fertilizer contains as much organic material as 22 tons of manure. According to the latest research and results of the tests carried out in Holland and Slovakia, it is enough to use it once in two years.
Willem´s Company Interfood Ost, s.r.o. that he owns together with Elemír Pastornický, has been producing this fertilizer in Strážske for two years. They were the first who developed technology of processing liquid whey by enzymes that split unwanted lactose into simple glucose and organic substances. Afterwards, they enable fermentation of whey with oats and sawdust from hard wood that form the base of Condit. Later, wooden coal, zeolit (it prevents fast releasing of nutrients from soil) are stirred into the mixture. The final product is granulate that is dried and packed in nine- hundred- kilogram whole sale packs or twenty- five kilogram packs for retailers. “Whey that Slovak laws do not classify as biological waste but as secondary substance produced while making cheese. So far it was used as food for animals or it is drier to be used for food production (ice- cream, drinks). But we were able to split it. Our team was testing it for two years in form of liquid and powder fertilizers. However, that was not it. Tests have just proved that we need to granulate it,“ explains Elemír Pastornícky, production director of the company Interfood Ost, s.r.o. 

Rescue from Holland
In 2005, the Dutch company Interfood Group Holland, one of the biggest global producers of dried milk and whey, was already protecting and supporting the research and production development. The company bought and supported the entire project that he had been carried out and tied in very poor conditions in Snina. “If there had not been an investor who had invested first 60 million crowns in purchasing lands, production capacities, laboratories and technologies, our product would not have existed. I cannot imagine that we would be successful in “bothering” Slovak authorities with our requirements demanding financial support. It would not be possible at that time,“ E. Pastornícky adds. And it was just Willem van der Weide who contacted and persuaded that investor.
He believes only in Jesus´ Kingdom on Earth
“After 25 years full of experiences I have always remembered words of Jesus Christ talking about the last days of our system, politics and religion. And it was him who promised to be the king of a new kingdom. As the Holly Bible reads: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.“ (Matthew24:14, Daniel 2:43,44, Psalm 10:11). I see what it means when religion and politics have common policy, it is exactly was Satan intents to. And that is why we have so many problems in the world that were are not able to solve. The last book of Bible called “ the Book of Revelation” reads that political and religious systems will collapse. And afterwards new Jesus Christ’s Kingdom will come and it will be the greatest revolution ever. I have seen communistic and democratic systems and a lot of religious systems but none of them are willing to do what Jesus Christ taught us. I am glad that I had met a group of people spread around the world who had never fought in wars, have high sense of morality and walk from doorstep to doorstep to explain the answers and help to solve our problems. I saw them in Slovakia, Georgia, and Holland and in many other countries. They really impressed me because they have always wanted to live according the Bible. These groups are known all over the world and are called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”. They help all good people who want to learn the truth.“

Hunter´s manor house Betliar
It is one of the most spectacular Slovak manor houses. It is situated in Gemer in the village of Betliar, near the town of Rožňava in the east of Slovakia. Stefan Andrássy had this castle built at the beginning of the 18th century and its entire history is related to this noble family. It is the National Cultural Monument and there is also a museum with a permanent exposition focusing on the lifestyle and culture of the gentry in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was built from the communal economy of the castle that belonged to the Andrássy´s family. The central library is its biggest treasure. It contains more than 20, 000 volumes- mainly theological, historical, geographical and philosophical works written in 15 languages dating back between the 15th and 19th centuries. The natural park is included in the list of world historical gardens and it is the largest maintained park in Slovakia. It spreads on the area of 70 ha and surrounds the castle. There are acclimatized exotic trees and bushes, a freemason pavilion, a romantic castle situated near the pond, a man-made cave and a waterfall, a garden summer-house, a fountain and a statue.

No Education, No Job

Howe Leather, an Australian company, is looking for honest and qualified employees among Romany people, too. From January 2008, it does not cut only leather components but also produces covers for the head rests for luxurious motor vehicles.
The number of firms that are not afraid of offering jobs to Romany people and employ them if they have particular qualifications and pass the interview is increasing. Over past four years, U.S. Steel Košice, s.r.o. has employed 150 Romanies after having attended various educational trainings and qualification courses. Apart from U.S.Steel, Romany people are also employed by the company Howe Leather, a subsidiary company Howe and Co Pty, Ltd, an Australian leader in leather production and a prestigious world leading manufacturer of leather products for the global automotive industry. The company that has the only producing plant in Europe employed first five Romany people for the post- operator- cutter.
“We have overcome the prejudices and offered job opportunities to the Romany community. We are convinced that there is no difference between a Romany person and a citizen of other nationalities but we make differences between honest and dishonest non- Romany, between hardworking Romany and lazy non-Romany. If one is honest and has required qualifications, it is a right person at the right place, and we need such workers. Our employees must also be irreproachableness, working skills, previous work experience and education,“ says Richard Duda, a general director of the Košice producing plant of the Australian company Howe Leather. Its 240 employees process from 2500 to 2800 square meters of cow leather daily. Every work day, they make 20 000 various components of this leather. Other manufacturer sew head rests and luxurious leather seat covers for automobile vehicles such as Land Rover, Audi, Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Mazda and BMW. Just to imagine it better- skins from 700 to 800 cows are processed in this plant every day. Their value exceeds a few tens million Slovak crowns.
Responsible organization
Last year, the company joined the project of the European Social Fund “Chance for Equality” and in September 2007, it received the certificate proving it is a gender responsible organization. Thus it belongs to eight Slovak firms with the same certificate. Since 2005, when the company opened its producing plant, they have registered 50 employees who were not able to meet our requirements during the trial period; one of them was Romany. “We believe that our Romanies, who have already been working here, will show the way to the others. We have no problems with their work attendance and performance. Their community does not need money but education that brings along hygienic habits, positive approach to work. And we would like to stimulate Romany community to work, change their lifestyle and values. And if we do not show and appreciate those who want to change, nothing will be changed. We are still searching for new employees; there is lack of qualified and honest employees. Three years ago, I was also given the chance and was appointed the director of the firm. I feel obliged to give chance to others. If one is willing to, they will take it and valuate it,“ Mr Duda explains.
“I like when I have to think while working”
His ideas led me to ask him for short interviews with his Romany employees. He agreed. First of all, I asked Ondrej Bulka. He is 39 years old; he has three children and lives in Košice. He used to be unemployed for a long time. Due to family reason, he did not complete his studies at the secondary school: “I applied through the agency. It was my own decision. I have been working for the company for six months. First I was given chance for three months. When they realized that I was good and hardworking, I sign the contract. What has this work given to me? At last, I have money and do not quarrel with my wife. It is not hard and stereotype work, I have to think and use my logical thinking as well.“
Gejza Jakubík, 38 years old, a father of three children, lives in the village of Sokoľ (20 kilometres from Košice). He is trained as a carpenter, at the weekends; he does some extra works at sites. His 19 - year old daughter graduated from the Secondary Nursing School, his son studies at secondary technical school and his youngest son in the year nine at the primary school. Mr Jakubík learned about this job offer from a leaflet: “As I do not have a job in winter, I was looking for some job opportunities. I have been with the company for two months and after two days of working here, I was successful and my leaders gave me a chance. Now, I have a regular contract. I am satisfied with my job, I like when I have to think while working. My wife will probably work here as well. It all depends on her skills. If she is as skilful as me.“
Lucia Horváthová, 25 years old, a mother of one daughter, lives in Košice- the suburb of Ťahanovce. She finished primary school, and because of family reason she was not able to continue in her studies. He worked as a barman and cleaner in Germany and Belgium for five years. “I was offered this job by the Personnel agency. I have also been working here for two months; I like my job and have no problems. My colleagues accepted me very nicely. I enjoy working here and I am glad I can earn some money.” Anna Badžová, 22 years old, lives in Košice- the suburb of Myslava. She has completed secondary study with “maturita” (A- levels); her profession is a baker and confectioner. She used to work for a canning factory but she left because of low salary and problems with her spine bone: “The personnel agency offered me this job. I have been working here for two months. I am satisfied, my working place is clean and I feel relaxed atmosphere here. I do not feel as if someone made any differences between Romanies and “Whites”. 

Hundreds of important cuts
The company Howe Leather cuts leather according to costumers´ demands. Every cutter is very important for our company. They have to design hundreds of cuts of various sizes. From every piece of leather, there is 50 per cent waste that is sold to manufacturers of purses, covers for mobile phones or watch bracelets. “Leather is a natural product; it is not consistent on its surface, in its thickness. It has no precise geometrical shape, no squares or rectangles. It has many defects, scars, stings made by insects. Some parts are not suitable for a particular product. Right at that moment, our employee plays an important role. He /she decides what is or is not suitable for a customer and final user, i.e. a car owner. He really cares how the final product- leather cover will look lie and also will decide whether to buy the car or not. And as leather is very expensive, our employees and their subjective decisions influence the final economic results of the firm,“ Richard Duda continues. 

Leather covers for manufacturing of head rests
As his colleagues and employees have already managed the development of the manufacturing process and have capacities for added value in the field of products development and they have convinced their parent company there is something to celebrate at the first new year’s party: “Some innovations we have carried out in Košice, our company has implemented in China as well as in Mexico. We are proud of the fact that in January 2008, we started with a trial production of head rests. We are supposed to produce 50 000 pieces annually,“ Mr Duda adds.
Furthermore, he emphasized that at the end of the year 2007, a twenty- member group of re-trained Romany people visited the company. U.S.Steel Košice offers them to Howe Leather within their project of increasing the employment of the Romany community. “We reached an agreement that they would be able to have a job interview in the middle of January. We will choose the best ones. “

Andrej Smolák

This academic painter was born in Humenné, East Slovakia, on 10 July 1953. Between the years 1974 and 1979, he studied at the Faculty of Arts at Pavol Jozef Šafarik University in Prešov. He studied Russian language and Fine Arts. He completed an extraordinary study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (Professor Václav Popíšil´s Atelier). In 1993, together with his brother Miro Smolák, they opened a first branch of MIRO Gallery in Snina in Slovakia. A year later, together with his brothers he established an international festival of fine arts in Snina, Slovakia and an international plenary of fine artists that is held annually. Since 2004, he has been managing the gallery which is named after him. He is the author of the project “Gallery of monumental statues, an establisher of the foundation ART.EAST” and he also established the Private Primary Artistic School in Snina. He was awarded the European Prize of Franz Kafka (1998), the Prize of the European Union of Art (2000) and Salvador Dali’s Prize (2003). In 2005, he was given the prize for the development of the region by the chairman of the Prešov self- governing region and in 2007, he became the member – correspondent of the International academy of culture and art in Moscow.
He deals with oil painting, aquarelle and drawing. He has illustrated a few books of artistic prose and poetry. Since 1982, he has organized over fifty individual exhibitions in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Poland. His pictures are parts of galleries and private collections in many European countries as well as in the USA, Japan and Australia.

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