Slovaks in Ottawa started the Year 2012 with a party. His Excellency Milan Kollar, Slovak Ambassador to Canada, welcomed a large audience to a party celebrating New Year' Day and the 19th birthday of Slovak independence.
The Ambassador welcomed the audience with a quiet and excellent speech emphasizing how peacefully Slovakia became known to the world, and how peacefully its people now bring its culture and its achievements to the world's attention.
He particularly praised the brilliant team of Slovak-Canadian women whose work won the Canadian Museum of Civilization's very first Christmas tree contest in 2010. Their tree, decorated in the traditional Slovak way with medovniky, lacework, and straw figures, was voted by the Museum audience as the best of the 19 trees which were entered. The team was allowed to decorate a three-metre high tree -- "The Champion Tree"-- in a prominent place in the 2011 contest. Two members of that team present at the celebrations, Jana Hanzel and Katka Koziakova, were also congratulated by Canadian Slovak League President Mary Ann Doucette. And in the Canadian crowd some attendees were clearly showing off Slovak culture.
The Embassy is working hard to bring works of Slovak art, literature, and academic distinction to the notice of all Canadians.
The large audience packed the Embassy Halls and after the Canadian and Slovak national anthems, dived into typical Slovak foods and drinks.
The next big event in Ottawa was the Homeland Mass. Slovaks as usual were among the outstanding delegations at the colorful Multicultural Mass which the Archdiocese of Ottawa sponsors every year at Notre Dame Cathedral.
Archbishop Terence Prendergast gives the main homily at this annual event, which is intended to show that Catholicism involves all nations of the world. He is backed by priests from practically every known culture, from African through Asian, European and American.
Slovakia's delegation, featuring quite a mixture of young and old devotees, was the second one in the parade of national Catholics that entered the Cathedral and went down the main aisle to just in front of the altars. The number one, as usual, was Canada's aboriginal group, with their colorful feather decorations and a picture of Canada's female aboriginal saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.
Other Slovaks, not in the parade, joined the audience wearing embroidered clothing to show their pride.
Slovakia was represented in the Cathedral Choir for the first time. Kubo Kovac, from Slovakia, is doing research at University of Ottawa for a Master's degree. He said he hardly knew that there is a Slovak community here, until he saw it from the Choir balcony. Kovac sang in Slovakia and joined the University Of Ottawa Choir, which was invited to work with the Cathedral Choir.
After the Mass, as usual, the huge attendance filled the parish hall in the basement to sample food from all over the world, provided by those who came as delegates or just to help their own culture.
Text: Jan Juraj Frajkor, Photos: Christy Pitt and Jan Juraj Frajkor