Reflection on My Summer Trip to Slovak, Arkansas

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As the summer will be slowly closing its hot door, many of us will reminiscence of our recent vacation trips. This summer, our small family unit decided to explore Arkansas and its natural and cultural beauty. First brought to my attention by our son, who once pointed out that there is a town named Slovak in Arkansas, literally named Slovak, I decided that this place deserved to be included into our itinerary.

We started with exploration of Hot Springs, the resort city of Arkansas, which features famous bathhouses. This charming city sparked our interest naturally, as one-time residents of famous spa city of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) in the Czech Republic. And as nature enthusiasts, we drove the Talimena National Scenic Byway in the Ouachita Mountains, enjoying the beautiful vistas, including Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

After spending a few days in the western part of the state, we were ready to explore Slovak (formerly known as Slovaktown). Heading east, I could not miss visiting the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock, which was beautiful and worth to visit! (Bonus: In-person meeting with the Governor of Arkansas). Our next stop was the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. It is my tradition - visiting the capitol and presidential library in each state I go to, along with cathedrals – for I admire the architectural styles, decorative elements, and collections at these institutions. We were not disappointed. Then, clipping the seat belts again, we were ready to continue driving further east. We were on our Slovak mission.

Slovak, Arkansas
Photo courtesy of Iveta Blahútová

After some miles, the place names brought us back to Europe. Would you expect to see, a few miles apart, three places such as these - England, Stuttgart, and Slovak? And yes, there they were! We went to Slovak through England. Nice combination, isn’t it? Slovak, an unincorporated community, did not show up on our GPS. Finally, we saw the left turn sign to Slovak on the way to Stuttgart (see photo).

The community appears very tiny, we saw only a few houses, and only the street names bearing Slovak surnames reminded us of times gone by. We continued to drive to the church grounds and adjacent cemetery which stands strong and appeared large on the wide horizon.

It almost seemed as if I was standing in a cemetery somewhere in Slovakia. Most of the last names were of Slovak or Czech origin. Standing at this peaceful parcel of land, surrounded by the tombstones of hard-working people buried here, I was thinking of the brave emigrants, who came to America from the same small place in old Europe, using the same mother tongue as mine, as they eventually founded the once thriving community here in Slovak, Arkansas.

The church right across the street was silently watching and guarding this peaceful and serene place. Of course, I also wanted to see the interior decoration and layout of this church (Sts. Cyril & Methodius Church). To my inner disappointment, the door was locked.

So, we turned back one more time, took more pictures and headed up north, with a strong feeling that the descendants of this once lively community are still living in the nearby places we were passing by on the way back home. It would be nice to hear from some of them and read or listen to their stories.

Krásnu nadchádzajúcu jeseň or nádherný nadcházející podzim!
Wishing a gorgeous autumn to all!
Iveta B.

(Note: For learning more about this community and its history, see this article from the September 2018 issue of Naše rodina.

Slovak, Arkansas