On Saturday, September 21, Northampton residents joined together to celebrate their Slavic heritage and to dedicate the new Slavic memorial and Linden, or Freedom, tree. The memorial has been built at Municipal Park and is the result of efforts led by Reverend Jerry Mraz, former Pastor of Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church and himself an immigrant of Slovakia.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Slavic residents made up a majority of the borough’s laborers. They also founded five of the ten churches in the borough.
Recognizing their important role in the development of the borough, Reverend Mraz asked borough council to allow a Slavic memorial to be built.
The Mraz family donated the memorial’s living Linden tree, the symbolic Freedom Tree of the Czech and Slovak Republics.
“Our Slavic ancestors came to Northampton to find their cultural freedom, to worship in their own way and to find a life not possible in their home countries,” he said. “Therefore, a monument is fitting for them.”
Funds for a memorial plaque were raised by borough families and churches.
Reverend Mraz noted the differences between the various Slavic nations, but reminded attendees that there were similarities between the countries, too.
“If these similarities unite us,” he said, “we are one family.”
Reverend Dr. Paul Brndjar also spoke at the dedication.
“If people do not have deep roots, they will wither away,” he said. Just as the Linden tree.
“Let us remember that hope [of the Slavic ancestors]…these strong, abiding roots…so that our families do not wither away.”
Mayor Thomas Reenock announced that September 20, 21, and 22 of 2019 is Slovak Heritage Weekend.
“What you are looking at…this is it…you cannot get a better melting pot than this,” he said.
The memorial was unveiled by Edward Hozza and Edward Pany.
Following the ceremony, residents joined together at Holy Trinity Church to enjoy refreshments and continue the celebration of Slavic heritage through folk music.