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Slavín

Sunday, September 21st, 2008 | Slovakia 2008 | 48°9' N, 17°5' E
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Slavín

When I’d walked out of my hostel on my first morning in Bratislava, I’d seen a monument on a hill a little way from the city centre. It had the look of a Soviet war memorial about it, and I decided to head up there to have a look.

The more I travel in Europe, the more I realise how devastating the Second World War was. The scale of it is just unbelievable. Rovaniemi at the edge of the Arctic was razed by retreating Germans at the end of the war; outside Riga, 100,000 people died; at Babin Yar, the Jews of Kiev were murdered in one of the biggest single massacres of the Holocaust. Warsaw, Belgrade and Berlin were reduced to rubble. And here was another memorial to some of the millions of people who died.

And yet not even a human lifetime later, one-time enemies are united in the European Union. Slovakia was shortly to adopt the Euro. As I walked around the memorial in the drizzle, I thought that if there is one thing that shows how even the greatest horrors can be overcome, it’s the state of Europe today.

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