baroque of the ruling class. The National Art Museum has arncollection of the usual German and Italianate paintings, mostrnof them technically competent, but turn the corner and walkrninto a room filled with paintings and carved wooden statues removedrnfrom churches, and you discover an art that combinesrn”primitive” exuberance with a high aesthetic sense. I lere wasrnan art that in a real sense had never escaped the Middle Ages,rnan art that expressed the rough-handed piety of a faithfulrnpeople.rnAt Eastertide Bratisla’a is not miles but centuries away fromrnPrague. All the churches seemed to be full every day, with peoplernof all ages in a fervor of devotion that is enough to make anrnAmerican uncomfortable. The onl exception was a Good Friday’rnGerman service at St. Martin’s Cathedral, where only oldrnladies (and casual German tourists) attended. I think of Germansrnas a musical people, but in St. Martin’s, the singing wasrnso bad that I took pity on them and joined in growling m r’srnand hissing out my ich’s with the best of them.rnComing back from supper, we stopped to listen to the Easterrnvigil service in the vellow Capuchin church in the ZupnernMesto. The little square outside the church was filled with thernoverflow crowd, listening to the beautiful and solemn music,rnand when we returned the next morning, there was an even biggerrncrowd. A little after 9:00 we succeeded in fighting our varninto church (at which unfortunateh’ a outh choir performedrnmusic as tasteless as anything in America) which again filled tornthe bursting point. An hour later, it took us ten or fifteen minutesrnto swim against the incoming tide for the next service, andrnso it went, apparently, in all the churches of Bratislava for muchrnof the dav.rnLent is still observed rather strictly. The week before EasterrnI had been in Ko.siee, a large industrialized city near thernUkrainian border, where we met some very distant relations ofrnmy daughter—the nearest common relative is her maternalrngreat-great-great-grandmother. The subject of my Vcgas-stlcrnhotel came up in conversation, and an American cousin expressedrnan interest in going to the nightclub and casino. Thevrncould do that only after Easter, she was told. “Just like in America,rnwe don’t go in for such things during Lent.” Just like inrnAmerica.rnM wife’s recently discovered cousins taught me more aboutrnSlovakia than I was able to find out from books. More thanrnkindness was expressed in the mere fact of the welcome thernextended to people vhose connection was so tenuous it tookrnsome time to work it out on paper. For these people, at least,rnfamily is not some abstract concept based on the nuclearrnhousehold, much less an “institution” that needs to be protectedrnby the United Nations. The ties of blood are something palpablernthere, something that can almost be sniffed (some rodentsrnidentify kinship through smell and will kill anrnalien-scented stranger). I have several first cousins whom I havernnot seen in years, and I am not at all sure of the welcome Irnwould receive if I showed up on their doorstep.rnhi the time I spent in Slovakia I found few people willing torntalk much about politics, and I concluded that the currentrnregime was the usual East European set of thugs. The rivalrs’rnbetween Prime Minister Meciar (the real power) and PresidentrnKovac has turned into something more like gang warfare, and Irnheard a number of jokes about Meciar that could have beenrnBrezhnev jokes. Meciar has two cronies w ith whom he sharesrnthe boodle. One day the leader sneezes, and one lieutenantrnsays, “Na zdravie” (which can mean either Gesundheit orrncheers). I’he other lieutenant, misunderstanding, complains:rn”If you two are having a drink, why don’t I get my share?” hi anotherrnstory, Meciar dies and goes to heaven where he is dissatisfiedrnwith the proposed accommodations. Exasperated, St. Peterrnasks the Prime Minister where he wants to sit. whereuponrnMeciar points to the throne of the Almighty.rnOverall, people seem mildly content with independence.rnOne professor told me that although his students might grumblernabout the economy and the government, they are morernconcerned about getting back to their family farms and gettingrnthe spring planting done. A businessman explained to me thatrnindependence was a bad idea, because he was being shut out ofrnPrague. “Wouldn’t it have been better,” he asked, “to try to getrnalong with the Czechs?” His daughter, a college student,rnthought he was being optimistic. “They have always despisedrnus, and thev always will.”rnI asked a ‘oung man about independence. Misunderstandingrnmy question as a reference to the Soviet withdrawal, hernjoked that the only change was higher prices. There are timesrnin Slovakia when it is possible to forget that communism isrndead. State officials seem as lazy and rude as they always were,rnand everywhere you go there are military police in green uniforms,rnsetting up roadblocks and checking papers. EnteringrnSlovakia on a train from Krakow, I had my passport checked fiverntimes: once by the Poles and four times bv the Slovaks. Thernmore efficient Czechs only looked at my papers three times,rnbut, then, they did not smile, like the Slovaks, and wish me arngood journey.rnWhatever else might happen, Czeeho-Slovakia represents arnrare case of peaceful secession, and both new nations are facingrna brighter economic future. The Czechs, it seemed to mc, dornnot actually want a real nation. They onh’ wish to take theirrnplace as a productive part of civilized Europe, and barring somernunforeseen international catastrophe, they shall have theirrnwish. The price will be continued dependency upon the UnitedrnStates’ military and diplomatic power and integration intornthe empire of the deutsch mark. That is not the worst of fates,rnand, if the gods of the Slavs and Germans are willing, thernCzechs will be joined by the Croats, Slovenes, and perhaps thernHungarians in a central European federation presided over byrnthe Hapsburgs.rnSlo’aks, although in some respects they seem to be at a prcnationalrnstage of development, are more like Serbs, Scots, andrnAmerican Southerners of earlier times. Blood and soil still matterrnas much to them as profits and progress. As primitive asrntheir art and music might seem to an overeducated foreigner,rnthey are authentic expressions of the national character. Theyrnwould have an easier time of it, preserving their identity, if theyrnremained in the Russian-Ukrainian orbit than if they fell intornthe grasping claws of the decadent West.rnDown-and-out as we were in Bratislava after being robbed b’rnRussians on a train and abandoned to our fate by American Express,rnwe received nothing but kindness and assistance from everyonernat Hotel No. 16, whicli I recommend to anyone about torntake that Eastern European trip. Perhaps I am prejudiced byrnthe one part out of se’eral hundred in my children that is Slo-rn’ak, but after two weeks I concluded that while I admire thernCzechs, I like the Slovaks. But even this remote calculation ofrnaffinit}^ and prejudice is one that the Slovaks can still appreciate.rnWithout such sentiments, there can be no nation, only arnmarketplace.rn14/CHRONICLESrnrnrn