IT Employee Saves the Castle
The castles amazed me in elementary school. In high school, I knew all Slovak castles and their secrets thanks to books. Then, the Internet came and it expanded my horizons even more. After university graduation, I heard about a group of people trying to do something for the Lietava Castle. So I joined them to finally fulfil my childhood dream – to save the castle ruins. Surprisingly, instead of euphoria disillusion came, because I quickly found out that saving the ruins was not so easy and it cost a lot of sweat, time, commitment and discipline. However, I was rewarded with the acquired knowledge, friendships, better physical condition, but also a wide range of skills. At the beginning, I never dreamed that I could learn to build scaffolding or tile stove, brick vaults, to make temporary wooden support, to drive castle off-road jeeps in every season or to find grants from various foundations and to present the castle in front of the audience, even in Prague.
In 2004, rescue activities at the castle were in their infancy and I only observed them in the Internet. At that time, the men bricked a piece of wall over the entrance vault and it wasn't exactly straight. Someone wrote them on the webpage why they hadn't bricked according to the string. In the next morning, the voluntary workers sat around the fire and everyone was upset who could have criticized them. Eventually the paper with the printed internet comment ended up in flames and everything was forgotten for a while.
Two years passed and I as a newcomer helped a colleague-climber, who was repairing a piece of masonry on a rope. He told me: “Jaro take a look if it is straight! Some time ago a smart guy criticized us why we did not use a string when we bricked.” I didn't like the idea, but I had to admit the truth: “By the way, I wrote it!” At first my colleague got angry, and then he started to laugh. “So by the string, hah? From today you will be ´String´ for all castle´s volunteers!" The nickname has remained mine till these days and all Slovak castles´ volunteers and employees know me as „String“.
The Association for Rescue of the Lietava Castle (ZnZLH) is the official name of the group of volunteers who takes care of the castle and I am a chairman of the board. We have been working for 22 years and our goal is to preserve the castle as a living ruin, restore selected buildings and create exhibits for the public (one is already opened). How many members are in the association? Officially about 40, unofficially, when something is celebrated, a hundred members come.
I do various activities for the association – planning tasks, raising money, marketing, photo & video documentation, but I also like bricking or serving in the castle´s buffet. Here and there I perform at a conference, give lectures at schools or interviews for radios or newspapers. If we have any significant news, you can also see me on TV news.
My favourite activity is bricking. I return stone by stone to their authentic place. It's a relax when you turn yourself off and there is nothing only you and the stone and fulfilment of the task. At the end of the day, there is a satisfaction and a visible tangible result that will definitely last a few centuries. And then, there are days when I do everything at once and at the same time nothing specific, when I miss the physical result of my work at the end of the day. But these activities are necessary, too.
I managed to combine the work of an "IT specialist" with a "castle saviour" thanks to the life rule of mutual complementarity. I compensate the absence of physical work during my office days with activities over the weekend. On Friday I pack my sleeping bag, clothes, food and go to the Middle Ages. At the end of the weekend, I look forward to returning to civilization – to my comfortable swivel chair and sterile office environment, where I use my reset head.
Thanks to my work for Scheidt & Bachmann I also learned a few activities that I use to save the castle. For example, I am able to present in front of the audience without nerves or I keep the progress of work on projects – from the intention, preparation, risk assessment, benefits and division of forces – I implement all these steps in the planning of castle activities and our projects are more effective.
I am glad that I also managed to attract colleagues from Scheidt & Bachmann to the "castle brigade-work" as a part of castle adventure. Some of them became active members of the association and several members of the association found work at our company – at production and at Parking Solutions division.
Various findings are the reward for me and my colleagues from the association when we save the castle. It´s just a few stones for the laymen, but for us it's part of a gothic portal of the original castle or a spiral staircase inside the palace, about which no one knew. Each of these findings changes our ideas about the appearance of the castle in different centuries.
One of the important finds is a bronze counting token from Nuremberg from the beginning of the 17th century. It always reminds me that not only in today's modern IT era, but already in the Middle Ages, our country was closely connected with Germany by trade.
The most valuable, although less tangible findings discovered in the castle are friendships for me. I realize that I am a very lucky man to have a great team in both of my jobs, and that is priceless.
In the Middle Ages, the Lietava Castle went through many epidemics and it will certainly survive this one as well. The covid pandemic caused a lockdown of the castle at first, then we gradually opened it and learned to work with face masks. Because people spent their summer holidays mainly in Slovakia, we experienced a record in the numbers of tourists. On the other hand, the pandemic also meant less money from grants, which were either cancelled or transferred to health care sector. Before the pandemic I was able to gain around € 20,000 a year from grants for the castle, in 2020 it was a net zero. I hope that the situation will improve soon, because we still have a lot of plans and work with the castle, only the finances are holding us back. Let the world be as before!
Follow your dreams, it's easy – you have to start and hold on. If something doesn't work – you have to try, learn, ask – there are always people around you who will advise or direct you. You needn’t do great things. Even a small positive act in your neighbourhood can make the world a little more beautiful.
It is located 10 km from Žilina above the village Lietava. Thanks to its respectable area (9,478 m2), it is one of the largest castle complexes in Slovakia. The construction of the castle dates back to the last quarter of the 13th century and is associated with the Balshes family. The Hungarian duke, Paul Kinishi, expanded the castle in the 15th century. In the Renaissance, the appearance of the castle was significantly modified by the Thurzós family. It is interesting that in 1567 the Hungarian palatine, the representative of the Hungarian king, György Thurzó, was born directly on the castle. In November 1607, a meteorite hit the castle hill, which caused a minor earthquake and broke all the panes from the castle´s windows. The castle served as an archive and warehouse at the end of its "career”. After 1760 it was abandoned and fell into a ruin. The first rescue work on it began thanks to the Association for Rescue of the Lietava Castle (ZnZLH), which was established on August 20, 1999.
- Financial assistance
- Voluntary contribution to the association's account: SK9411000000002623535211.
- Material assistance
- Donate anything needed for rescue work and volunteers (tools, materials, fuel, food, fluids...).
- Voluntary assistance
- Every free hands are welcome in the castle, because there is a mountain of work to be done.
- Social support
- Come with your family and friends to various events that take place at the castle during an year.
- Become a fan of the Lietava Castle on Facebook.
- Vote for Lietava Castle in various grant competitions.