Tonga – Slovakia – Hungary – Turkey – Singapore – Fiji – New Zealand – Australia – French Polynesia – United States – Germany – Austria – Slovakia, June 10 – July 3, 2022. Servare et Manere is celebrating its 4th Anniversary of the international initiative Tree of Peace. Organization decided to at least partially fulfill one of the goals of the initiative: within 4 years (that’s how long the First World War lasted) to plant one Tree of Peace on every continent. Since it was not possible to fulfill this goal 100% due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the associated restrictions, the idea of the Tree of Peace at least went around the world. In the context of current war conflict on European soil, we realize much more than ever how difficult it is to “capture” the world with peace compared to war, which by itself and its consequences can affect many nations in a short time.
The big expedition to Oceania was organized by Servare et Manere for almost three years. From the very beginning, we wanted to connect the trip with the personality of General Milan Rastislav Štefánik, perhaps the most important Slovak personality in the modern history of the country. In addition to a military career, Štefánik was also a scientist and an astronomer. Our project brings to war-scarred Europe and world peace, friendship and understanding between nations.
In 1911, an extraordinary astronomical event took place in Oceania – a total Solar Eclipse which was visible from the southeastern tip of Australia, Tonga, American Samoa and Cook Islands. On April 28, 1911, Milan Rastislav Štefánik observed this exceptional astronomical phenomenon at Vava’u island, Tonga. His expedition achieved one of the best scientific results of the observation of the Solar Eclipse here, which was greatly appreciated also by the French Academy at the time. In 1911, as a member of an international scientific expedition, Štefánik traveled from French Polynesia to the Cook Islands, and successively visited New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji and Australia, from where he traveled home. In Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, there is also the only and largest monument dedicated to this Slovak native in Oceania. In 2022, we commemorate the exact 111th Anniversary of Štefánik’s visit to Oceania and one important scientific stage of his life. It is an excellent opportunity not only to pay tribute to the 111th Anniversary of the Štefánik’s visit to Oceania but also a significant and unique opportunity for planting several Trees of Peace in this region, which were planted in the countries authentically visited by Štefánik. Together with Slovak Post, we also issued two occasional postmarks.
An expedition with a message of friendship and understanding between nations
During the expedition to Oceania, the NGO Servare et Manere succeeded in implementing the ideas of the Tree of Peace in five countries, planting six commemorative trees and adding another to the number of continents – Australia. A brief recap of the expedition:
- Tonga. The expedition started already on April 28, on the island of Vava’u in Tonga. As the country is currently closed to visitors and tourists, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tonga & Niue, our partner, planted the very first tree of the expedition “at distance” precisely on the 111th Anniversary of Štefánik’s astronomical observations at Vava’u. We believe that next year it will be possible to place a memorial pillar near the tree and to award those who have contributed to the implementation of the project in this country. Our expedition also had a humanitarian character for Tonga. After the explosion of a submarine volcano at the beginning of 2022, the country was hit by a humanitarian disaster. Our non-governmental organization therefore decided to provide humanitarian aid to Tonga through the #slovakiafortonga public fundraiser. For the Catholic Diocese of Tonga & Niue, we were able to send 2,500 Tongan paʻanga (over € 1,000). In addition to ordinary citizens of Slovakia, two Slovak Ambassadors also contributed to the fundraiser. Many thanks to all donors, because they were able to find funds and contribute to a country so geographically distant from Slovakia! The Tree of Peace in Tonga is Casuarina equisetifolia. More information can be found >> HERE <<.
- Fiji. Between June 16 – 17 , two more commemorative trees were planted in Suva and near the town of Nadi. The tree of peace in Suva is Gymnostoma vitiense. In addition to the memorial tree, the following species were planted: Garcinia myrtifolia, Decussocarpus vitiensis, Agathis macrophylla and Myristica castaneifolia. The Tree of Peace in Tifajek Mud Pool and Hot Spring on Wailoko Road, Sabeto in Nadi is Artocarpus altilis. In Fiji we implemented the project also in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific and the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network. The Fiji Sun newspaper reported about our initiative. More information can be found >> HERE <<.
- New Zealand. The Tree of Peace was personally planted on June 19 by His Majesty Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII, the Māori King, who was also awarded the Tree of Peace Memorial Plaque, the highest honour of Servare et Manere. The Māori King’s Chief of Staff & Private Secretary, Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds, was awarded the Memorial Medal of Tree of Peace for his outstanding contribution to the implementation of the project in New Zealand. The Tree of Peace in New Zealand is Elaeocarpus dentatus (Māori: Hīnau). More information can be found >> HERE <<.
- Australia. In cooperation with the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Canberra, another Tree of Peace was planted on June 24 in the campus ground of Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview in Sydney. In 1911, Milan Rastislav Štefánik visited this school and its small observatory during his scientific trip. The day before, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley, Governor of New South Wales, received the Memorial Medal of Tree of Peace in a Special class with rubies. During the ceremonial planting in Sydney, His Excellency Mr. Tomáš Ferko, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Australia, was awarded the Memorial Medal of Tree of Peace. The Slovak Embassy in Canberra provided accommodation to the members of the expedition at its own expense, helped with the organization of the project with a local partner and with the Government House mediated the awarding of the Medal to the Governor. The Tree of peace in Australia is the linden tree – Tilia cordata. The Slovak radio SBS Radio Sydney reported on the planting ceremony. More information can be found >> HERE <<.
- French Polynesia. The last tree of the expedition and the 27th Tree of Peace in the order was planted on June 29 in Papeete by His Excellency Edouard Fritch, President of French Polynesia and Dr. Marek Sobola, Secretary-General of Servare et Manere. The association also received the great honour that on June 28 it was able to plant 3 pieces of roses in the very rare variety Rosa gallica var. ‘Generál Štefánik’ next to the Monument of Milan Rastislav Štefánik in Papeete. The roses were provided by the Milan Rastislav Štefánik Society (Slovak: Spoločnosť Milana Rastislava Štefánika) and were imported to Tahiti directly from Slovakia. It was the very first import of this kind of Rose to the Polynesian region. Before the celebration of Internal Autonomy Day (La Fête de l’autonomie), Secretary-General of Servare et Manere, handed over to the President the Tree of Peace Memorial Plaque, highest honour of this organization. The Office of the President and the country’s largest television, Tahiti Nui Television, reported about the planting and the handing over of the award. The Tree of Peace in Papeete is Intsia bijuga, known also as “Kohu“. More information can be found >> HERE <<.
Mr. Robert Stingray with his wife Kristina and Mrs. Mateata Ruta helped the organization a lot in implementing the project in French Polynesia. The implementation of the entire project in Oceania was financed from the resources of Servare et Manere with the contribution of NGO Starý Klíž, the Divina village, the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Canberra and the Town of Žilina, which supported the production of memorial pillars to mark the Trees of Peace.