In 2002 when the remains of my grandfather Milan Hodža were brought home from America to rest in Slovak soil, the government’s larger intention was to restore his legacy to public awareness. For political reasons both the Slovak Republic of World War II and the post-war Communist regime (see History) had worked to eradicate the memory of his contributions and vision. To restore Hodža’s name to its rightful place, beginning in 2005 the government initiated the Days of Milan Hodža, which are held annually close to the anniversary of his death on June 28, 1944. Some observances in the Days are these:
- Wreaths and flowers are placed on his grave in the Slovak National Cemetery by leading government officials.
- An academic conference sponsored by the Slovak Academy of Sciences and the Slovak National Library is held on a theme that relates to Milan Hodža’s work.
- Two national essay competitions are held on themes relating to Hodža’s vision, one at elementary school level and the other at gymnasium level.
- Celebrations designed to engage the general public are also held, ranging from concerts to poetry recitations and dramatic productions.
- The Prize of Milan Hodža is awarded in the name of the prime minister.
Since its inception in 2005, the Prize of Milan Hodža has primarily honored distinguished academics whose work relates in a meaningful way to Hodža’s legacy. However, starting in 2011 a second award has been made. It honors institutions whose work in the wider public sphere reflect Hodža’s values. The first two of these institutional awards have gone to American organizations:
- 2011—The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
- 2012—The Friends of Slovakia in Washington, D.C.
It is a great satisfaction to me to see my grandfather being honored in this way, both in his native land and in the land where his life came to a close, the United States.