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21st February a Year Later

21st February a Year Later

More than a year after a special prosecutor in Slovakia charged Marian Kočner with ordering murders of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fianceé Martina Kušnírová. Kočner threatened Kuciak months before the murder. Despite Kuciak´s request, the police did not react. According the special prosecutor, the official motive of Kočner was Kuciak´s investigative reporting. Read the whole story how the newsroom and Slovak society has changed since the day of the murder. I am walking through the Slovak National Uprising Square in Bratislava, where the Public Against Violence monument is situated. The well-known V-shaped symbol is surrounded by several photos of...

The Cocaine Cowboys

The Cocaine Cowboys

In a nondescript shopping mall in the industrial outskirts of Venice, a major new European drug route is taking shape. Antonino Vadalà, a hot-headed man who dominates the room, sizes up his potential partner, a local businessman he hopes will help him import hundreds of kilos of cocaine into northern Italy and Slovakia. The plan is to use legal goods to disguise the drug shipments. “We load bananas, cereal, nuts, we load some bullshit,” Vadalà says. “We ship it to your company … and we pay off customs. We clear it with them when [the container] arrives.” Vadalà, 44, a...

The Murder

The Murder

The offer was straightforward and financially attractive: Kill a man in return for 50,000 euros in cash and the forgiveness of more than 20,000 euros in debt. Zoltán Andruskó, a Slovak pizzeria operator, quickly accepted – a decision that forever changed both his life and the history of Slovakia. The woman Andruskó said offered the deal was Alena Zsuzsová, an Italian translator and fixer who worked for one of Slovakia’s richest men, Marián Kočner. Sitting together in a car outside her house, Zsuzsová gave Andruskó the details: a name, a couple of photos, and a home address. It was all...

How the Mafias Came to Slovakia

How the Mafias Came to Slovakia

The Balkan mafias were the first major crime syndicates to come to Slovakia, following people from the region who had been invited to work and study there during the communist era. As their businesses spread across their new homeland, so did their influence, which they used to dominate the only organized criminal industries possible under the communist regime: prostitution, gambling, and illegal currency exchanges. When Slovakia gained its independence in 1993, the organized crime syndicates remained and flourished. Soon enough, the Italian mafia joined the former Yugoslavs and the Albanians. Today — though known for its relatively painless transition from...

Modern Fascists Are No Longer Skinheads

Modern Fascists Are No Longer Skinheads

In autumn 2018 , a new documentary When the war comes about Slovenskí Branci (Slovak Recruits – translation VSquare) was released. Its director Jan Gebert spent three years filming a group of Slovak nationalists. The documentary captured the beginning of the successful way of Peter Švrček, the leader of Slovenskí Branci. The director himself says that a huge increase of similar groups is not a local problem in Slovakia. It is a global trend and also a reaction of part of the East European society to the last 30 years of democracy and capitalism. Their ideology doesn’t remain on the margins of...

Eastern Kinderguardians

Eastern Kinderguardians

Children marching in raincoats with gas masks over their faces. It is a memory that comes to the minds of people who went to school in the Czech Republic before 1989. After the Soviet Union break-up, the picture of national defence education disappeared from the life of schools, just as compulsory Russian classes. The memory came back to life in 2012. The Czech Ministry of Defence came up with a new idea. A report on the nation’s preparedness to defend the country mentions a major problem: “the issue of preparing people to defend the country is not sufficiently highlighted in the curricula of...