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A Village Torn Between Two Worlds

A Village Torn Between Two Worlds i
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April 14, 2013
Slemence, a small Transcarpathian village on the border between Slovakia and Ukraine, has been divided for almost 70 years. In 1945, it was split between then-Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Despite all the political and territorial changes seen in Europe since then, the villagers still can’t travel freely from the Ukrainian side – Maly Selmenci – to see their relatives on the Slovak side, called Velke Slemence. The 850-strong population is made up almost entirely of ethnic Hungarians – fewer than 600 in Velke Slemence and the rest in Maly Selmenci. While some elderly villagers can “boast” of having been citizens of two empires (Austria-Hungary and the U.S.S.R.), one kingdom (the Kingdom of Hungary), one federation (Czechoslovakia), and two countries (Slovakia and Ukraine), most of them have never left the village. Traveling between the two halves of the village became possible after the opening of a pedestrian and cyclist border crossing on the divided main street in 2005. But with Slovakia’s accession into the EU’s Schengen free-travel zone two years later, the inhabitants of the Ukrainian side once again need a visa to see their relatives at the other end of the street. (Produced by Nadiya Petervari of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)

Video produced by Nadiya Petervari of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Slemence, a small Transcarpathian village on the border between Slovakia and Ukraine, has been divided for almost 70 years, after it was split between then-Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in 1945.

Despite all the political and territorial changes seen in Europe since then, the villagers still can't travel freely from the Ukrainian side, Maly Selmenci, to see their relatives on the Slovak side, called Velke Slemence.

The 850-strong population is made up almost entirely of ethnic Hungarians -- fewer than 600 in Velke Slemence and the rest in Maly Selmenci.

While some elderly villagers can "boast" of having been citizens of two empires (Austria-Hungary and the U.S.S.R.), one kingdom (the Kingdom of Hungary), one federation (Czechoslovakia), and two countries (Slovakia and Ukraine), most of them have never left the village.

Traveling between the two halves of the village became possible after the opening of a pedestrian and cyclist border crossing on the divided main street in 2005.

But with Slovakia's accession into the EU's Schengen free-travel zone two years later, the inhabitants of the Ukrainian side once again need a visa to see their relatives at the other end of the street.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Zoltan from: Hungary
April 15, 2013 15:22
That's why we need to include Ukraine into the European Union (and the Schengen Zone) and abolish these meaningless borders.

In the long term even a Russian EU membership is imaginable.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 16, 2013 08:17
Zoltan, do you really think that people in Ukraine and Russia are that stupid that they would volantarily want to join the European Union of Bankrupt States? Or you think that they all get "informed" about the world from such "information" sources as RFE/RL?? What, do you really think that people in Russia and Ukraine want their money stolen from their bank accounts the same way as the Euro-Troika just stole people's money in Cyprus in March (this EU member state whose economy is projected to SHRINK by some 8,7 % this year)? Or maybe you think they want to be kicked out of their appartments on the street the same way as 400.000 Spaniards were kicked out of theirs over the last 4 years?
No, Zoltan, people are not that stupid and neither Ukraine nor Russia will EVER join the EU which is nothing other than the tool at the disposal of the Germans aimed at looting others (be they Cypriots, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards or Portugese).
And the in the medium run, the EU will, of course, simply desintegrate and many people here in the EU are aware of this.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
April 22, 2013 02:00
Yes, Eugene, people are that "stupid". They know that their future lies not with Russia (they have previous experience), and the best alternative in view is the European Union, which, far from being bankrupt, is a supernational union of 500-million people with one of the largest economies in the planet.

Of course, the old Czarist (later Communist) divide made many of these people fear Europe, as something alien to them. But if we simply check the fact that none of the ex-Communist countries who entered it have decided to leave, and that all the ex-Communist countries who wanted to enter it and haven't yet continue to push (including Serbia, despite the whole disagreement about Kosovo's independence), then the path to follow is clear and well laid out.

Nobody can know if the EU will be a success in the long run (by which I mean 100, 200, 300 years or more). But then again, nobody can know that about any country, including Russia (or the US for that matter) -- nobody knows if they will still exist, and be strong, after 100, 200, 300 years or more.

But the way to bet right now is loud and clear. If these countries want to amount to much in the long run, they should join the European Union. Moldova understands that. Ukraine understands that (barring anti-EU propaganda from the Russian side, who is of course against any changes in its former empire). Georgia, Armenia,

Have you noticed how those who are against such ideas are more often than not ethnically Russian, and could therefore identify with the past glories of the Russian empire? Like the French being against the independence of their former colonies... It's never a question of economics -- so, despite your emotional speech, nobody really cares about Cyprus and what happened there, because it's a trifle of minor significance. No, Cyprus is thrown around only to hide that the REAL reason why "they shouldn't enter the EU" is that this would offend the Russian national pride in their imperial past. That's the real reason; economics has nothing to do with most people's opinions on the matter.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 16, 2013 08:30
Guys, you will most probably block this comment for its "obscenity", and yet I will give it a try.
So, what happend, guys? While you were trying to present the sad fate of footwraps in the Russian army as the major "issue" that should worry the world, the life is once again literally exploding into your face:
(a) Inspite of all the anti-terror measures that the US govt has been implementing for the last 12 years, it looks like terrorism is back in the US and people are dying on the streets of American cities such as Boston. How about writing a article of now this is maybe related to the US policy to supporting these very terrorists in such places as Lybia or Syria?
(b) The US has spent the last 20 years promising not to allow the DPRK to go nuclear and ballistic - and the DPRK did go nuclear and ballistic, and the US can do nothing about it and even US helicopters flying around in the South of the peninsula just fall down killing all of those sitting in them. How about writing an article on what all of it tells about the level of competence and adecuacy of the US govt?
(c) In Venezuela the US is going out of its way to help its oligarchique friends to win at least ONE elections in the last 15 years - and yet thes pro-US losers have just lost one more last Sunday :-). How about writing an aricle on how inept and helpless the US policy in Latin America (and not only) is?
Cheers and have a nice time serving the govt of inept losers who will NEVER achieve anything with their criminal policies :-)).
In Response

by: Asehpe
April 22, 2013 02:03
You will of course have noticed that all topics you mention have nothing to do with this website (which is concerned with the post-Communist space and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East). Hey, why don't you ask about:

(a) the current policies of Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff?
(b) the FPÖ and its growing importance?
(c) the next Antarctic expedition?...

or other similarly "relevant" topics?...

Ah, Eugenio. If you could stop talking like an arrogant 18-year-old for a while and actually sit down and talk seriously with people. But then again, that wouldn't be fun, now would it? :-)

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