In the summer of 1913, the last
Habsburg Emperor made a state visit
to Pressburg – later, after The Treaty
of Versailles, renamed Bratislava.
One photograph shows his open carriage
stopped in front of the Pressburg Yeshiva,
whose students came from every part
of the Empire. Franz Josef leans forward
to speak to Rabbi Akiva Sofer,
whose great grandfather founded the school –
two dynasties talking briefly together.
During the rule of the Communist Party
most of the erstwhile Jewish quarter was razed
to build a four lane bridge across the Danube.
After independence a memorial
to Slovakia’s murdered Jews was placed
on the site of a shul. The word ‘Remember’,
in Hebrew and Slovak, is engraved
into the black marble plinth. Often
little stones are placed haphazardly
on the marble as is the Jewish custom
and tradition: pebbles of mourning,
of safekeeping of souls, of memory.
In the streets and the squares were unremarked
small stones – where the Rabbi was waiting,
where the carriage wheels turned.