The Huns in Reverse

The earliest written records of Bardejov come from the yellow parchments found in the Ipatyiev Monastery dating back to 1241. The paved rectangular square and the cobblestone roads leading up to the magnificent ecclesiastical buildings are traced back to 1505, a building period where prosperous merchants laid the foundations of Bardejov's gothic and renaissance architecture. The exceptional Jewish Quarter, with its remarkable features such as a fantastic 18th Century synagogue helped earn the town the European Gold Medal Prize for Historic Preservation. Amazingly, those same welcoming cobblestone roads that have led thousands of visitors to the beautiful spa town of Bardejov over the centuries had also managed to survive the horrors of the 100 Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, Hitler's invasion, and Stalin's occupation.


Over time, the EastWest Institute has earned the distinctive designation, "the Huns in reverse," moving West to East, dispensing freedom and prosperity wherever possible. In June 1991, the Institute held its 10th Annual Conference in Bardejov, where government leaders and representatives of international organizations met to discuss how the West might more effectively design and implement assistance programs to the new democracies of Eastern and Central Europe. In what was essentially billed as Eastern Europe's economic "coming out" party, the conference attracted a host of international dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia, President Arpad Goncz of Hungary and Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki of Poland.


The Mayor of Bardejov, Lubomir Skalos, simultaneously overjoyed and overwhelmed at the international spectacle in his hometown undoubtedly had his hands full dealing with a short supply of housing, an overwhelming security presence and the delicate structural design of the city's historic buildings. Hundreds of students pitched in as an all-volunteer work force. The conference was a remarkable triumph. U.S. dignitaries spoke of opening their markets to Czechoslovak exports and local participants discussed much-needed plans for greater regional cooperation in improving the economy and managing industrial trade barriers and tariffs.


One distressing snag came with the arrival of U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle's Executive Office advance team, who apparently told the mayor that the cobblestone streets of Bardejov were going to be unearthed. Rumor had it that no one on the Executive advance team wanted to be responsible for photographs of the U.S. dignitary tripping over the grooves between the stones. Mayor Skalos, astonished and incredulous, balked. The Executive Office advance team quite adamantly insisted that this was a mandatory precaution. The mayor noted that these stones had survived Nazi and Soviet tanks and would not be unearthed for a Vice President no matter how friendly or powerful the country he represented. In the end, true to the style of EWI, there was a compromise, and a wooden ramp was built over the top of the ancient road. Bardejov's beautiful cobblestone streets thus remain untouched for all to see.


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Idea No. 11