Slovaks in Washington, D.C.

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I started this website about a year ago, and probably the best things that came out of it so far, is that I became more involved in the Slovak community here in the USA – or at least in Washington, D.C. Turns out, Washington, D.C. has a fairly significant Slovak population. The problem is, it’s very spread out, without a single center where Slovaks can easily find each other.

Sure we have the Slovak embassy here. The embassy organizes cultural events, but these are pretty rare, and usually require advance reservation and business attire. This is all great, but perhaps not the best place for younger folks to socialize. On a lighter note, the Czech embassy screens Czech movies at the Avalon theater in Nortwest once a month. Many Slovaks attend these as well.

So what other options are there? There is the Slovak American Society of Washington, a group of predominantly second-generation Slovaks interested in learning more about their cultural heritage. SASW organizes several activities each year, none of which is to be missed. First, there is the picnic, held in the summer time. Then in December, the society holds a big St. Nicholas dinner at the Slovak Embassy. Last year, we had the sauerkraut soup, pierogi, stuffed cabbage, and many types of sweets. This group also hosts several interesting talks every year given by people with expertise in Slovak music, traditional folk art, or singing.

A large social organization active in the area is the Washington chapter of the Czechoslovak Sokol. Sokol (meaning “falcon”) was formed back in the days as a sort of a athletic organization. There is still much emphasis on sports, and the group offers volleyball tournaments and gymnastics, as well as school and summer camp for kids. But the main events are the Katerinska Zabava and Jozefska Party – two dance events popular with folks of all ages happening around the days of St. Katherine and St. Joseph. I’ve been to both and they were both awesome events. Tibor, one of the officers, even cooks a giant kettle’s worth of delicious goulash.

Slavic American Sokol is a spin off from Washington Sokol, which hopes to unify all people of Slavic origin, not just Czech or Slovaks. This group puts together a St. Cyril and Methodius festival with all kinds of traditional performers: singers, dancers, fujara players and so on. This festival commemorates the two Orthodox saints who are credited with bringing the written word to the Slavic lands.

When it comes to drinking, there is the Czechoslovak Happy Hour, a group of some 100 twenty and thirty year olds who get together semi-monthly for a drink – or ten. This group meets at various bars and the organization is mostly through the email list – or the Facebook page.

And finally, we have two Meetup groups here, the Czech Meetup and Slovak Meetup. So which is more fun? The Slovak one, of course! Ok, I am little biased because I am the assistant organizer of the Slovak group. The Czechs meet bi-weekly in the Brickskeller Pub near Dupont Circle. This is an awesome bar, with literally hundreds of different beers. These meetings are attended by both Slovaks and Czechs – in fact, the last time I came, we had some 15 people and not a single native Czech showed up.

So what should you do if you are a Slovak living in D.C.? Join our Meetup group! We are a great bunch and try to get together every two weeks or so. We do all kinds of activities: there have been picnics, cooking lessons, happy hours in bars, festivals, movies. Now with the summer in the full swing, we will be going kayaking or maybe even tubing. So join us, there is something for everyone!

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