Tree of Peace (Slovak: Strom pokoja, Russian: Дерево мира, German: Der Friedensbaum) is an international and global project that originated in Slovakia in the European Union. The project, created on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I, was initiated by Slovak landscape architect Marek Sobola from Žilina. The main goal of the project is to promote a message of peace by planting at least one Tree of Peace on every continent. The project was at the very begining associated with the World War I, which also had a great impact on Sobola’s family. His great-grandfather Ondrej Sobola (Andreas Szobola) died on the Russian battlefield in an unknown place. The story of the author’s family inspired him to memorialize the soldiers who died in World War I in unknown places and were burried without their names or identities. There is probably no country in the world which does not have a war victim or an unknown soldier. In addition to the victims of wars, we are now increasingly facing various natural disasters, including epidemics, the number of victims of which can be counted to thousands maybe ten-thousands. The project is also a tribute to those people.
The project has the ambition to become a universal message of joining the nations. At present, the project is not being strictly linked to the year 1918 and World War I, but more generally to the need for peace and the avoidance of global military conflicts. Its main tool is the tree, a living organism that represents growth, prosperity and nature. The project would like to point its attention to the global environmental problems and to strengthen human solidarity in order to respect nature and its resources, not to rule the nature. In this way, the project has become universal and its application is made available also in all countries all over the world. But the author does not exclude the allusion to World War I because on the 100th Anniversary of its end the project itself started. By planting trees, we want to point out to not only the senselessness of military conflicts, but also to the senseless plundering of nature in all its spheres – on land, in the oceans or air pollution. Because wars and riots bring great environmental burdens and destroy human destinies.
The project is implemented as a voluntary and community service by Servare et Manere, Slovak civic association. The Tree of Peace is a grassroots movement and this project is a collective activity which fulfills its mission on national and international level. All members of the board perform all their activities for the association pro bono.
Ondrej Sobola (*August 7, 1880 Lalinok, Austro-Hungarian Empire – † December 31, 1918 official date) was a soldier of Austro-Hungarian Army (German: Landstreitkräfte Österreich-Ungarns; Hungarian: Császári és Királyi Hadsereg). His death, in an unknown place during the First World War, inspired the Tree of Peace project. Ondrej was born in Lalinok into a farming family and the Sobola family have lived in Lalinok since the beginning of the 16th century. Ondrej Sobola was married to Jozefína Rapšíková in July 31, 1900 in Dlhé Pole and was taken into the army in 1901. Ondrej and his older brother Štefan travelled to the United States in around 1906 and their place of residence was the borough Clifton Heights in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Ondrej returned to Lalinok between 1907 – 1910 and went back to the United States on November 30, 1910. Because of his stay in Pennsylvania he did not take part in the military manoeuvres in 1912. He definitely returned to Lalinok before 1914 and after the outbreak of the First World War he was enlisted in the 15th Military Infantry Regiment (Hungarian: 15. Népfelkelő gyalogezred ütközetei). Ondrej Sobola was missing from about 1915 on the Russian battlefield. In Czechoslovakia, he was officially pronounced dead in 1930, with the official date of death: December 31, 1918. Ondrej’s name was written on a Memorial dedicated to WWI victims from Lalinok village in the local cemetery on November 11, 2018. His portrait made by sculptor Michal Janiga based on the only preserved photo is also incorporated on the Memorial. You can also find Ondrej’s name on a Memorial pillar in the Emperor’s park of Kaiservilla in Bad Ischl.