Christmas time all over the world is a celebration of peace and happiness. Not in Bratislava. This capital city of Slovakia slept for decades during the communist regime and not so long ago woke up. And everybody is supposed to know and hear about that! Why be calm and peaceful when Mr. Nobel invented dynamite and Mr. Un-kno-wn from Vietnam is selling all those rockets, sparklers, crackers, Catherine wheels, mortars and fireworks so cheaply? This season, the home-guard, one-man artillery is on full alert in Bratislava. At any time during these days you can hear: “bang-bang, crash, aaahh, bang-bang!”. There is no hope of rest even at night. It’s worse when you have teenage boys at home. In that case you can be catapulted from your bed at all hours of the night by a detonation close to your head. The neighbour’s kids can do the same harm to your psyche and that’s the worst because you can’t punish those fully-armed little bastards.

Slovaks never fought their own battles. We were always alienated within the grip of foreign powers, sometimes battling on different sides. Only now, in an independent state, we see the chance to fulfil this historic absence with our own private wars, especially as ones we’re not about to lose! Add to this, the fact that the holiday season is always connected with serious over consumption of slivovitz and borovicka (two hard liqueurs that frequently fulfil the spirit of all good Slovaks), not to mention a whole range of delicious food, (Bratislava is a crossroad of cuisines – Austrian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Ukrainian and also Croatian and Bulgarian), we’re so well lubricated and nourished we want others to know about our good mood – loudly!

More pleasurable it is that all this military exercise is forbidden by a populist mayor of the city! Great, this war has its enemy – that stupid mayor and poor city policemen who can not by no means fulfill his foolish order. Clear prisoners of war are they all!

But there is some good news. Recent New Year’s Eve proved to be the final fireworks show of a character in our neighbourhood whom I shall call Fully-Dynamite Jožo (it is a nickname of Jozef pronounced as Jozho). It was at midnight exactly. Fully-Dynamite Jožo was in our local park encircled by a large group of odious and excited teenage boys. He was hard at work exploding things left, right and centre – the sky over our quarter was like daylight accompanied by noise like Baghdad or Damascus on a bad day. One piece of artillery consisted of fire-balls launched from a tube. After every three fire-balls fired the tube had to be replaced by a new one. But Fully-Dynamite Jožo´s didn’t have time to do this. Inevitably, the fourth fire-ball didn’t rocket up to the skies, but jumped lazily from the tube directly into the nearby box of unused fireworks. The box detonated in innumerable explosions and Fully-Dynamite Jožo jumped around it in horror like an Indian chieftain over the war-fire.

That was not all. One of the fire-balls launched on an unpredictable trajectory and finished inside Fully-Dynamite Jožo pants, entering by the left sock and continuing upwards accompanied by screaming. Fully-Dynamite Jožo jumped almost higher than his rockets ever did and then started zigzagging between the trees of our park. You can not imagine the speed he generated, nor the unpredictable swerves and leaps he executed. However, the story ends happily. Fully-Dynamite Jožo survived and his wife has no special comments to make on the performance of a husband’s sacred duties. Only one thing has changed. Fully-Dynamite Jožo now hates fireworks. So do we.

Gustáv Murín