Biros said Communist rulers attempted to suppress folk music, which all but disappeared from major cities under their control. Nevertheless, he said, villagers kept the old traditions alive.
Mak and Bodnarikov are from one such village, nestled among the hills outside Banska Bystrica. It celebrated its 400th anniversary earlier this year.
That longevity amazes Chuck Daugherty, chairman of the Charleston-Banska Bystrica Sister City Alliance. Daugherty pointed out that Slovaks have been mining around Banska Bystrica for more than four centuries.
In fact, Marjorie Cooke, general manager of the West Virginia Youth Symphony, had heard from the mayor of Banska Bystrica that Christopher Columbus brought copper, mined at Banska Bystrica, across the Atlantic with him. According to Cooke, the Banska Bystrica mines had furnished copper parts to outfit Columbus' ships.
Those historical ties between America and Slovakia have continued for centuries, and many Slovaks have immigrated to the United States, Mak said.
The sister-city program has continued that exchange of people and ideas. It opens up horizons for people to understand the world outside and to see similarities between cultures, Biros said.
There also are many similarities between West Virginia and Slovakia. Makoua said Charleston and Banska Bystrica -- both initially based on the mining industry and surrounded by mountains -- even resemble each other.
Those similarities have prompted some Slovaks to regard Charleston as a second home.
"Your city is like our city," Makoua said.
A group of West Virginians had a chance to experience the same sentiment last year when the West Virginia Youth Symphony traveled to Banska Bystrica to perform alongside Slovak student musicians.
Cooke said the experience was transformative for the 24 students who went. They returned with an appreciation for European music and friendships they cherish today.
On Sunday, those students will perform with Adam Stranavsky, a 20-year-old world-class Slovak pianist they met last year. Stranavsky and the West Virginia Youth Symphony will perform at 3 p.m. in the Clay Center lobby.
Reach Laura Reston at laura.res...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.