On July 16, 2002, Pittsburgh acquired a new Sister City in Slovakia. The city of Presov, located in Eastern Slovakia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, agreed to share information pertaining to business, medical research, and cultural exchange programs with the goal of developing friendship and understanding towards one another. Mayor Juraj Kopcak, who was the mayor of Presov at that time, and Pittsburgh mayor Tom Murphy, signed the sister city proclamation in the city chambers with all of the councilmen and a large audience of Slovak Americans present.
The majority of the Pittsburgh Slovaks have ancestors from the Presov region making such an agreement more appropriate. Another reason for this relationship is that United States Steel Corporation has purchased one of the largest steel producing factories in central Europe located in Kosice which is very close to Presov. The former VSZ plant, now known as USS-Kosice, is the largest employer in Slovakia. As a result of their success, many other prospective businesses are exploring the feasibility of locating in the area. Presov is marketing itself as a good place for business.
Presov is the third largest city in Slovakia with a population of 95,000. The history of Presov goes back more than 750 years and it is very interesting. In the 17th century, Presov was a refuge for the leaders of the reformation. The Hapsburgs persecuted those who embraced the Protestant movement. As a result, 24 leaders of the reformation were martyred in Presov. This is just one example of the strong will of the freedom loving inhabitants of the city and also the reason that Presov is called the “Rebel City” of Eastern Slovakia.
Presov is home to an Evangelical (Lutheran) seminary, a Byzantine (Greek Catholic) seminary and a Russian Orthodox seminary. All of these institutions have residing bishops. The city at one time had a large and wealthy Jewish community. Presently, the small Jewish enc1ave is working to reestablish its facilities. The Presov synagogue, which now houses a gallery, is one of the most beautiful and famous in all of Slovakia. Numerous unique wooden churches, which are on the historical list because of their vernacular architecture and age, are scattered throughout the small villages surrounding the city.
Slovakia is divided into eight districts and the Presov district is the largest in area and population. The Saris area, the Tatra Mountain area, as well as much of the Spis region are within the boundaries of the Presov District. Just as Pittsburgh honors Andy Warhol with a museum, so does a small village North East of Presov by the name of Medzilaborce. There is a statue in the Town Square of Andy Warhol as well as a mileage marker pointing to Pittsburgh and a gallery dedicated to his work. The parents of the renowned artist were born in the area.
Presov is a city young in spirit. It supports a junior hockey team as well as a soccer team. It is also home to a historic liberal arts university and several technical schools, which bring many young people to the area. Several theaters, folk ensembles and classical groups are domiciled in the city. A culinary and hotel management academy prepares future chefs and managers for the tourist industry.
Just as Pittsburgh is planning renovation of its central business district, Presov has already started and the City Square is almost completely renovated in the beautiful rococo baroque style, which prevailed in Slovakia in the 18th century.
The membership of Slovakia into NATO and the European Union makes this area attractive for foreign investment. Several research and development facilities are under construction.
It was through the efforts of the Western Pennsylvania Slovak Cultural Association that the Pittsburgh and Presov Sister City Agreement became a reality. Now the work will begin to make the agreement viable and benefit both cities.