Honoring Slavic history
Blue skies and a bright sun were fitting for the Sept. 21 ceremony unveiling the Slavic memorial monument and dedicating a linden tree at Municipal Park, Smith Lane and Laubach Avenue.
The new additions recognize the borough’s history with a bronze plaque attached to a local quarry rock citing the linden tree’s importance to the Slavic people. Many Slavics immigrated to Northampton in the late 1800s and early 1900s and worked in the local cement mills.
The tree was donated by the Rev. Jerry Mraz, former pastor of Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church, and his family. The dedication plaque was sponsored by members of the Northampton Slavic heritage churches: St. John the Baptist; Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran; Queenship of Mary; Assumption of the Virgin Mary; and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“The linden tree is the freedom tree for both the Czech and Slovak republics, which commemorates the creation of Czechoslovakia and all the other Slavic nations after WWI by the League of Nations,” Mraz noted. “Before that, the Slavic people were forbidden to practice their ethnicity by the ruling monarchy.”
Mraz said the Slavic ancestors came to Northampton to find their cultural freedom and worship in their own way, which was not possible in their home countries.
The unveiling of the monument was performed by Edward Hozza Sr., Ed Pany, Mraz and other borough officials. Hope Warren, Hozza’s great-granddaughter, dressed in colorful Slavic attire for the occasion.
Northampton Mayor Thomas Reenock proclaimed Sept. 20-22 as Slovak Heritage Weekend. He noted Mraz’s commitment to church and community as former pastor of Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church and his many roles in the borough, including chaplain for the police department.
The Rev. Dr. Paul Brndjar, bishop emeritus of the Slovak Zion Synod, spoke of the strong roots of the linden tree and the similar strong roots of the Slavic people. He said generations in the future will marvel at the tree’s growth and its connection to the people.
Mraz noted the two monuments already placed in the Municipal Park area that also remember the borough’s historic founding heritage — the colonial block house and the Sister Cities monument noting the ties between Northampton and Stegersbach, Austria.