“The Tree of Peace” (in Slovak: “Strom pokoja”) is an international garden and historical project and initiative, based on the principle of connecting people which is strictly apolitical. The first impulse of the project was the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI and a family story of its author Marek Sobola, a landscape architect from Slovakia. Marek Sobola is a member of the Slovak and the Czech Chambers of Architects. This project has its own story, which is not the story of a high celebrity person, but it is the story of a simple, unknown soldier. Probably there is not a country in the entire world without an unknown soldier. WWI also had an impact on Marek Sobola’s family. Personally, it touched his grandfather Joseph, who had never seen his father Andreas (Ondrej), who died on the Russian battlefield. Andreas was born on August 7, 1880 in the Village Lalinok near Žilina, Slovakia (an Austrian–Hungarian Monarchy that time). He was enlisted in the 15th Military Infantry Regiment. Andreas Sobola was missing since about 1915 on the Russian battlefield. In the Czechoslovakia, he was officially pronounced dead in 1930, with the official date of death: 31th December 1918. The grave of Andreas has not been found after many years of historical searching in Military archives across Europe. The story like this was repeated millions of times during the WWI, WWII and also during the other global military conflicts.
The first idea of the Project was the Memory for all soldiers of global war conflicts, who are buried in unknown places, without their names and identities. The project ambition is to plant “Trees of Peace” on every occupied continent within 4 years. As the WWI lasted for 4 years this project could last for 4 years as well. On the contrary to the WWI this project is going to join people around the world. Gradually, other partners from different countries are being added to the initiative and it is necessary to change the first idea, but with the restoration of its original principle. The project is a “living organism” (not only because of trees), which evolves and does not have to be strictly limited to the original purpose of its origin. It has the ambition to be a universal message of joining the nations, although it may be paradoxical on the basis of something that on one side separated the nations in the past but on the other side approached trough military alliances. In the coming years, the project will not be strictly linked to 1918 and the WWI, but rather generally to the need for peace and avoidance of global military conflicts. In this way, the project will become universal and its application will be made available to countries where the WWI touched only marginally. But the author does not rule out the allusion to this global military conflict because thanks to it the Project itself began. This Project is European, international and strictly apolitical. The main idea of the project is a Message of Peace. “The Tree of Peace” is a very successful project. So far eighth of “The Trees of Peace” have been planted:
- The largest War Cemetery of the WWI in Slovakia in the village of Veľkrop,
- Kysuce Village Museum in Vychylovka with the cooperation of Žilina self–governing region,
- City of Žilina, Military cemetery in Bôrik,
- Town of Turzovka in Kysuce Region,
- Lalinok village the part of Divinka village, the birthplace of Andreas Sobola.
- Saint Petersburg, State Museum Tsarskoye Selo – Martial Chamber, the World War I Museum.
- Village of Trzyciąż, Jangrot location – The War Cemetery of the WWI in Cieplicky Forest.
- Town of Bad Ischl. The eighth of “The Tree of Peace” that was planted by Archduke Markus Emanuel Salvator of Austria grows in the Imperial Villa (“Die Kaiservilla”) in Bad Ischl, which was the summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph I. The Imperial Villa is an important place for the history of the First World War. Emperor Franz Josef signed Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia at his desk in the Imperial Villa.
With the Embassies of the Slovak Republic in across the World and personalities of cultural and social life across Europe and other countries, the author of the Project is in the process of negotiating the date of planting the trees in following years in the others countries. These institutions, as well as socially active persons, will be the official partners of the project. The project has its official logo, which contains the dove – the general symbol of peace that is associated with the tree – the main tool of the Project. The official website with the map of planted trees is in preparation. The part of the Project is a Memorial Plaque. For the 100th Anniversary of the end of the WWI it had a unique design, for the next years the design of Memorial Plaque will be modified to meet the universal purpose of the Project which is connecting nations and message of peace.