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Janosik, the Slovak Robin Hood

Story ID:5850
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Biography
Location:Tarchova Trenchin Cty. Slovakia
Person:Juraj Janosik
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I have always appreciated the story of Janosik. I wrote about him earlier on Our
Echo and included him with the stories of other people I admired. Mistake. Janosik's
life story should stand on its own. This week my friend Michael brought me a tape of
it, but alas it was in Slovak. I probably understood every tenth word.
However, it was like a silent movie and the actions of the players sufficed to
adequately portray what was happening. And since I already knew many
particulars, this tape afforded me the pleasure of following it in living color.

I'm sure that as in most productions of long dead people- some artistic liberties
were probably taken, but how can this be avoided since there is no one
alive who can attest to the absolute accuracy and truth of the life of Janosik
and the times being depicted. Thankfully though, there are documents of his
court trial through which much was gleaned about this exceptional life. I definitely
want to do more research on this leader of the Slovak Mountain Boys, but for
now -I enjoyed the tape and even what I wrote about him a couple years ago:

ROBIN HOOD? England had Robin Hood, Spain had Zorro and Slovaks have JANOSIK.
I learned about him many years ago and I can still visualize him swinging on a hook at the
end of his life in the movie made about his life. I truly loved and admired him then and still do.
I was recently reminded of him because of the quarterly magazine I receive entitled "Slovakia."
It had a feature about him which I thoroughly enjoyed because it contained some new
information for me.

Juraj (George) Janosik was born in 1688 the second of 4 children. As a youth he worked
with his parents on a Hungarian feudal estate. Later when conscripted to fight for a fuedal
lord in a failed rebellion against Hapsburg oppression, his parents ransomed him out of the
army. However, he returned home to unbearable social conditions and many peasants' sons
refused to bow down under the yoke of a feudal system after having tasted freedom as soldiers.
After frequent class struggles, wars, and plagues, Northern Slovakia was reduced to
extreme poverty and misery. Slovaks were desperate and as a result young men organized
robber bands and preyed on the surrounding countryside from their mountain hideouts.
But Juraj Janosik was not among them yet because he had joined the imperial army and
was sent as a guard to Bytca Castle. Here he providentially met one of the Emperor's
prisoners, Thomas Uhorcik. This proved to be a defining moment for Juraj. After Uhorcik
escaped from prison he came to Terchova to persuade Juraj Janosik to join his robber band
in the forest.

At home Juraj's mother lay on her death bed. His father chose to attend to her and refused
to leave her side to work in the fields. An infuriated Lord of the manor ordered that
Janosik's father be flogged to death.

I don't know if this precipitated Juraj to finally accept the invitation to join the robber band
but he did and took the robber's pledge which was sealed with his blood. He assumed
his new role with zeal and passion. As news of his exploits spread, he was elected chief and
extended his operations from the counties of Slovakia to Moravia, Silesia, Poland and Hungary.

Although some of the booty was given to the poor and needy -- according to one legend, it is
said that jewels taken from nobles were distributed among the young ladies in Terchova,
Juraj's village.

Many other anecdotes are mentioned in this article which ends with Juraj being finally
captured after only less than two years of robber life. He was chained in a cell in Vranov
Castle. After charges were brought against him including murder, he was condemned to torture
on a rack and hanging. He avowed that he had never killed anyone. He had been falsely accused.

Even though he asked for clemency, it was denied. Legend says a courier came from the
Emperor with an imperial pardon for Janosik but by then he was already hanging on the rack.
After being suspended by his rib on the rack for three days, the hanging death entence was
carried out before a large audience.

Janosik's friends went into mourning -- overcome by sorrow at his passing. Janosik is revered
to this day as a symbol of resistance and freedom. While the names of the men who hung him
are long forgotten, the proud name of Janosik echoes down through the ages.