The last couple of days I’ve had the good fortune to be the interpreter of a German journalist writing for one of the biggest German newspapers. He came to Bratislava to investigate the situation in the wake of this horrible crime.
Earlier he had investigated a similar case in Malta, an other murder of a journalist. He saw a lot of similarities between that case and this case here in Slovakia.
We went to Velka Maca, the village where Jan Kuciak and his fiancee lived. They lived in a quiet street, with older neighbours. The young couple was well liked. The older neighbours were a bit worried that the couple often left their door unlocked, but in the period the murders must have happened they didn’t notice anything unusual. It’s likely that the murderer played a bit of theatre at the young couple’s front door, perhaps pretended to need help, and the couple let in their killer.
The mayor of the small town was glad to meet with a German journalist. He expressed his hope that due to international pressure their would be a thorough investigation. He hopes they will not only catch the killers, but also the people that ordered the killings.
This small town about 65 kms from Bratislava is a peaceful place, with about 2,500 inhabitants. The town is bi-lingual. Many inhabitants speak Slovak and Hungarian. The mass at the local church is in Hungarian and in Slovak. The evening before, the local priest had organized a special mass to honor the victims. He wasn’t really willing to say much, but he was friendly. Slovak priests have to get the permission of the Archbishop if they are to talk to the media about things like this. This reluctance to really make an effort to influence politics is typical of the local clergy. The Slovak Church is run like a very tight ship, and priests who step out of line risk punishment, so his reluctance to say much was normal. When it comes to politics the Church clouds its statements in the rather vapid terms of ‘showing people the light’, ‘wipe away tears’, ‘comfort’, ‘compassion in these sad times’, etc. This is unfortunate because the Church has a level of influence among at least 30 percent of Slovaks that completely pales to the influence of any other institution in this nation. If the Slovak Church would call for a march against the government, the government would have to flee tomorrow evening, at the latest. The Slovak Church chooses not to use this influence, for whatever reason. Perhaps because it fears change on any level, perhaps it wants to be as apolitical as possible. Oddly, they are not apolitical when it comes to taking a stance in other matters. During the funerals of the victims the priests, higher up in the ranking, did say that the killing of a journalist was an attack on the entire country and that we can’t let this go unpunished. That’s the least that could be said right now.
The town has 30 cameras monitoring all the important crossroads. The recordings are being investigated by the Slovak police. The Slovak daily SME, has reported that so far they haven’t found any images of the killer.
The German journalist was deeply shocked by the whole situation. He said he felt European and that he sees Slovakia as a core part of the EU. So when an investigative journalist is murdered it concerns all Europeans. Bratislava is only an hour by train away from Vienna, and although Bratislava is still relatively obscure, nobody doubts that Vienna is in the heart of Europe, so, this event is not some sideshow, this is a very important European affair.
The journalist was respectful at all times, very polite and professional. He was clearly familiar with the history of Slovakia and the region of Central-Europe.
I haven’t mentioned his name, as he’s still working on his article, and I don’t want to give him any trouble.
It’s been a great pleasure to work with him, and I’m very glad that the international media are interested in what’s happening in Slovakia.
The murders of the young couple have deeply shocked the nation. Yesterday there was a protest march in Bratislava. About 25,000 people marched, which is huge here in Slovakia. Lots of Slovaks hope that the people will not let this pass, and that certain incompetent and utterly arrogant government officials will be forced to step down. These people, like Fico and Kalinak, are so power hungry and vain, that they won’t go down without a fight.
In true maffia style they literally put 1 million euro on the table during their press conference, a reward for solving this case.
The Slovak police is investigating leads that may link the murders with the Italian maffia.
Everyone in Slovakia always assumes that the government is corrupt and that many shady dealings are prevented from seeing the light of day, but this is the first time that so many people are aware that the Italian maffia is active in Slovakia. This is thanks to the work of Jan Kuciak. The article he was working on right before his death spells it all out. It’s highly likely that he and his fiancee paid for this important work with their lives.
Rather underreported these days is that in the recent past two other Slovak journalist have also vanished. The cases were never solved.