Are you a military history buff? Or are you simply interested in the events of the 1st and the 2nd World War? Would you like to visit historic landmarks and see period artifacts firsthand? The upper Šariš region has lot to offers in that regard! Come and see war memorials, cemeteries, authentic military vehicles and period equipment. Witness reconstructions of battles and hear about the troubled fate of the war-weary civilians.

Today’s northeastern Slovakia was originally a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later belonged to the Czechoslovak republic. During both World Wars the bloodiest battles of the region took place in the upper Šariš region. The fights of the Russian offensive (1914 – 1915), the Carpathian-Dukla operation as well as local partisan warfare (1944 – 1945) wrought incredible havoc in the area. The result was thousands of dead soldiers and scores of burned villages in the areas around Bardejov and Svidník.

The fate of the local region and the lives of its people were disturbed by major historical events and shaped by many military formations such as the 49th division of the Russian army, 2nd company of the Czech (volunteer) regiment and the 28th Prague infantry regiment of the Austrian army. Quarter of a century later the 1st German tank army, the 1st Ukrainian front of the Red Army and last but not least the partisan brigade Chapayev also influenced the life of locals.

The course of 1st World War saw the destruction of the majority of villages north of Bardejov. The Zborov castle ruin was also heavily damaged. The fight for liberation at end of the 2nd World War had also left its mark on the region.

Scores of war cemeteries, located in the Svidník and Bardejov area, are the most prominent landmarks of the tragic war events. The most preserved 1st World War cemeteries are those found in Becherov, Chmeľová, Stebník, Zborov, Vyšná Polianka, Nižná Polianka, Mikulášová, Cernina, Vyšný Mirošov, Svidník, Stropkov, Bodružal. The largest is located in the village of Veľkrop. War cemeteries dedicated to fallen German soldiers of the 2nd World War are present in Zborov and Hunkovce. Among important historic sites is also the cemetery of Tokajík, which honors the victims of the Tokajík Tragedy, as well as a cemetery of the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps in Dukla. In Nižná Polianka tourists can visit a special exhibition room dedicated to the Carpathian front.

The village of Becherov (16 kilometers north of Bardejov) is also important for the study of military history. Major engagements of World War I between the Austro-Hungarian and the Russian army took place there. A war memorial raised for the memory of fallen soldiers was built near the village, at the border peak of Dujava, in 1933. It was designed by a famous Slovak architect Dušan Jurkovič. Remains of 168 Austro-Hungarian and 135 Russian soldiers are buried at the memorial. Another World War I cemetery in Becherov contains 74 graves of fallen soldiers.

These are however far from the only remains of Becherov’s troubled past. During World War II around 60 local men came to aid the partisans against the German occupants. Becherov was severely damaged during the insurrection. Thus a separate war memorial dedicated to the memory of fallen local men was also built in the village.

The village of Kríže (22 kilometers southwest of Bardejov) located on the peak of Čergov mountain was a major center for the partisans during the Slovak National Uprising. First it was a base of operations for the partisan brigade Chapayev and later for the partisan group Alexander Nevsky. The village was awarded the Order of the Red Star. A monument dedicated to fallen soldiers of the Slovak National Uprising towers above Kríže. At the same strategic slope above the village, one can also see remains of trenches and a reconstruction of a period dugout.

Another well-preserved landmark is a hidden partisan hospital set up near Livov (24 kilometers southwest of Bardejov) in 1944. It was maintained by local resistance members, for which they were cruelly punished by the Germans. The hospital stands as a proof to the extraordinary self-sacrifice and heroism of the local population and it became renown all over Slovakia.

Slovak National Museum hosts an exhibition “The Fasists reprisals in eastern Slovakia” in the village of Tokajik near Stropkov. During the 2nd World War German soldiers burned the village to the ground and executed several of its inhabitants on the pretext of local help to the partisans. A monument dedicated to the victims of the tragedy stands in front of the museum. An additional one, located in the vicinity of the village, marks the very killing grounds of the incident.

However the bloodiest fights, in all of Slovakia, took place in the area around Svidník (36 kilometers east of Bardejov). During the autumn of 1944 the Carpathian-Dukla military operation took place there. The original aim of the Slovak resistance was to join forces with the Soviet Red Army. Around 30 000 soldiers fell in one of the biggest 2nd World War mountain battle. The Germans successfully halted the Soviet advance but took heavy casualties in the process. Several villages around the Dukla Pass were completely destroyed.

A memorial built in 1954 and dedicated to the Soviet Red Army stands in Svidník. It contains the graves of 9 000 Soviet soldiers who fell during combat operations in eastern Slovakia. In its close proximity lies a museum with a focus on 1st World War in eastern Carpathians, the interwar period as well as 2nd World War. The 2nd World War exhibition focuses on the Carpathian-Dukla operation, the Partisan resistance and the liberation of Slovakia in 1944 – 1945. The museum displays a precious collection of period artifacts with some pieces positioned outside in its exterior.

A grand memorial dedicated to the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps stands directly at the historic Dukla Pass, in the land registry of Vyšný Komárnik near Svidník. The monument represents the Corps’ breakthrough into enemy’s defenses. It is composed of a 28 meters high pylon and a ritual hall. A unique exhibit of period armored vehicles, a memento of the battle at the Dukla Pass, is located near the Death Valley in the vicinity of village Kapišová. Additional exhibits are located near the villages of Nižný Komárnik and Vyšný Komárnik.

Bardejov itself commemorates the events of the 2nd World War by its square dedicated to the Slovak National Uprising which also contains a statue honoring the allied liberation armies.

Locations:
maps.google.com

Translatedy by:
Mgr. Samuel Beňa, M.A.