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Our History

The Youngstown - Spišská Nová Ves Sister Cities Program was established on July 1st, 1991. Around this time, David Engler, 5th Ward Councilman for the city of Youngstown, contacted Judge John Leskovyansky and discussed the idea of having Youngstown adopt a sister city. Judge Leskovansky contacted Steve Bacon, a local Slovak-American businessman, about the project. Steve, in turn, contacted Steven Hruska, National President of the Slovak Catholic Sokols, a fraternal society. Initial discussions between these individuals created the groundwork for the first meeting.

On July 15th, 1991, the first organizational meeting was held at the rectory of St. Matthias Parish, located in the Lansingville neighborhood of the South Side of Youngstown. The twenty-five people in attendance decided that if Youngstown were to adopt a city, then the city should be from the Spiš region of Slovakia. At subsequent meetings the following decisions were made:

  • Youngstown would adopt a city in the Spiš region of Slovakia, as a census from 1920 showed that 5,000 immigrants from the Spiš region settled in the Youngstown area between 1890 and 1920.
  • The city of Spišská Nová Ves was chosen since its population was similar to that of Youngstown.
  • Councilman Engler would contact Youngstown Mayor Patrick Ungaro and present a resolution to City Council regarding the Sister Cities Program.
  • Vlado Slanina, first cousin of Steve Bacon, would make initial contact with Mayor Rastislav Jacak of Spišská Nová Ves.
  • The organization would be a non-profit, 501-c organization.
  • There would be no formal membership for the organization. Youngstown Spišská Nová Ves Sister Cities Program Inc. would be operated by 4 officers and 8 board members.
  • The board would be composed of representatives of the four Slovak fraternal societies and any person willing to help Slovakia develop its newly formed democratic nation. Board members would serve without recompense.
  • By-laws would be written.

The group applied to the State of Ohio for a charter. Incorporators were David Engler and Steve Bacon. Steve Bacon paid the original incorporation fees and pledged up to $20,000 to match all donations from the initial fundraising efforts. The first fundraising drive collected $12,000 from individuals, businesses, and the four fraternal organizations (The First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association, The First Catholic Slovak Union, The Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union, and The Slovak Catholic Sokols). Steve Bacon matched that amount, as promised. The first officers elected after incorporation were:

  • Steve Bacon, President
  • James Kutsko, Vice-President
  • Rick Salata, Secretary
  • Steven Hruska, Treasurer
  • Mary Babnic
  • Ray Novotny
  • John Rovnak
  • Robert Wasko

Steve Bacon made a trip to Slovakia in August of 1991 to present the Youngstown City Council resolutions in person to Mayor Jacak in Spišská Nová Ves. In turn, Mayor Jacak brought all the necessary documentation when he came to Youngstown later that year.

A special luncheon, sponsored by Rick Salata, was held at the B&O Station Restaurant in Youngstown where seventy-five people attended a special ceremony. The proclamation was formally read and Mayor Rastislav Jacak presented to Mayor Patrick Ungaro a crystal vase, hand made in Slovakia.

Since 1991, the Youngstown - Spišská Nová Ves Sister Cities Program has facilitated the exchange of culture, friendship, fundraising, and service between the people of the United States and Slovakia. Much thanks is given to those who have assisted this organization throughout the years.