Seek peace, and pursue it.

Psalm 34

The international project Tree of Peace is based on the true story of an ordinary and insignificant human. A soldier. Such people are several millions today. That ordinary and insignificant one among millions is my great-grandfather Ondrej. He was born in Lalinok, a small village in the territory of present-day northwest Slovakia. Lalinok is today a part of Divinka village. Our family has lived in these hills certainly since the beginning of the 16th century. The direct written sources about Sobola family of Lalinok are from 1580, 1641 or from 1770 and 1780.

Ondrej lived in a simple folk blockhouse, was employed in agriculture and was not really any special person. But I think he had his dreams. Because if he was without dreams, and he didn’t want to change anything in his life, he would never have decided to go to work in the United States. How did he have to feel when he first saw the huge ocean liner? What did she have to be compared to his little wooden blockhouse? And how did he feel when he was for the first time in New York? The mixture of nationalities, unusual bustle and perhaps fear of the unknown also. But he had a clear goal – to ensure a better future for his family. Already from abroad he was financially supported his loved ones. After returning home, their conditions improved and the family managed to increase the farmstead. All, however, ended the outbreak of the First World War. On Ondrej’s fate was decided by others and elsewhere. All the nice plans and prospects for a beautiful future were once ended by the horrors of war. My great-grandfather never returned home. His wife and children had not known where he was buried for years. I didn’t find out either through demanding historical research. Today I know exactly the same facts as my great-grandmother. We have only one a piece of information from the obituary register that he died on the Russian battlefield. It has even been preserved just a single photo of him. At that time, a woman was, in fact, dependent on her husband. The loss of husband and father was something that could have tragic consequences. Fortunately, they managed to overcome these problems. In the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, I decided, as a landscape architect, to plant a tree in memory of my great-grandfather. Only one. So that my family can honour of his memory. To this day, we use part of his original property, which is the result of his hard work.

On the other hand, the fate of our family and Ondrej also is almost identical to millions of unknown soldiers around the world. It doesn’t matter what nationality they were. They were fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. Someone who had a name and a face. Someone who put his life in a military conflict. And someone who gave his life for the freedom of others. Someone who liked his family and the view of his native land. someone on whom today almost no one will remember. I often come across the question, why and for whom I actually do this project. I think every person should leave a message behind in this world. It doesn’t matter how big and in what form. It is important that we did not live unnecessarily and did something beneficial for society. My way is the Tree of Peace project, which I do not only for my grandfather. I do it for all soldiers who have been killed or otherwise affected by any meaningless military conflict. I do this for those who had their ideals and dreams of a better life. I do not do this for well-known generals and colonels, which are written in textbooks. But for those on which nobody will remember. Those who merge with the gray crowd and were just a mass of people and a tool for someone to fulfill their war dreams. Simply for all unknown soldiers whose remains lie in mass graves, but also in unmarked and unknown places. The events of 2020 associated with the global pandemic of the coronavirus COVID-19 have shown that we can still be in solidarity with those who are in need. I do not want to link our project only to the victims of war conflicts. We should also honour those who lost their lives during natural disasters, including the victims of various epidemics, especially the unknown ones. We won’t never know anymore their names, but we know that we can do at least one thing for them – to plant a tree in their memory as a symbol of friendship and life.

And as Pope Benedict XVI said during The World Peace Day 2006: “Peace is an irrepressible desire present in the heart of every person that transcends any specific cultural peculiarities. That is why everyone must feel obliged to such a valuable good and advocate for it, that no form of lie can creep into it and has not poisoned mutual relations ”.

Therefore, let´s make love the lifeblood of this world.

Marek Sobola