Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, December 10, 2022. Today, under the auspices of the Slovak Embassy in Canberra, on the premises of the Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview in Sydney, a ceremonially unveiled commemorative plaque commemorating the year 1911, when the Slovak astronomer Milan Rastislav Štefánik stopped in Sydney during a trip through Oceania where he observed total solar eclipse. Australia was the only country from Štefánik’s diary where a monument commemorating his travels has not yet been erected. The very first official commemoration was the June planting of the 26th Tree of Peace, one of the goals of the great Servare et Manere expedition to Oceania, during which the leadership of the association was received at the Government House of New South Wales. The Tree of Peace is marked with an arrow in the gallery.
Several years have passed since the initial information from Milan Rastislav Štefánik’s diary entries from voyages in the South Pacific and Oceania, provided by historian Michal Kšiňan, or the findings of archive clippings from Australian newspapers from 1911. The final installation and unveiling of the first commemorative plaque on the Australian continent dedicated to the Slovak astronomer, politician, diplomat, pilot, French general and co-founder of the Czechoslovak Republic, Milan Rastislav Štefánik, brought even greater joy and satisfaction from the fulfilled dream of the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic, His Excellency Tomáš Ferko in the 111th anniversary of his visit to Sydney.
The commemorative plaque of the Slovak giant is symbolically located near the Jesuit Observatory in the grounds of the Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview. According to archival records, Štefánik visited this observatory and also a professional astronomical lecture during a three-week visit to Sydney in June 1911. As an interesting fact, we note that the observatory has been preserved since its foundation by Father Edward Francis Pigot in 1908 in its original state and is still used today as part of school education for pupils.
The ceremonial unveiling of the commemorative plaque was carried out by Ambassador Tomáš Ferko in the presence of representatives of the diplomatic corps, business partners, friends of the Slovak Republic and representatives of the expatriate community in Sydney. In his speech, he thanked the Rector of the College Fr. Tom Renshaw SJ for his cooperation and making the project possible and also to Martin Siman from Orion Financial, the generous sponsor of the project. At the reception, the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic thanked for the exemplary representation of Slovakia the Slovak Honorary Consul Mrs. Edita Berntsen, who ended her activity in the state of New South Wales, and introduced the Consul General of the new Consulate General of the Slovak Republic in Sydney, His Excellency Mr. Martin Kabáč.
The planting of the Tree of Peace in Australia as well as other related events were carried out with the support of the Slovak Embassy in Canberra.