Life and Legend of Juro Jánošík,

A Soldier Who Became an Outlaw.

 

Juro Jánošík was a folk hero. He and his band of men robbed the rich and gave to the poor. His legend lives on in stories, songs, poems, woodcarvings and even in embroideries. He became a symbol of courage, bravery, tenacity and the desire for human justice. He is the Slovak Robin Hood.

Juro Jánošík's father, Martin Jánošík lived with his wife and three children in Terchová where Juro was born in 1688. Their lives were toil and tribulation, struggling as best they could through poverty and misery; they sowed the fields and brought in the harvest. Things were difficult but life in other domains was even harder.

With a change in the landlords, a different order began. The tithes were soon raised from one thirtieth to one tenth. Taxes were increased threefold, and people were obliged to work on the landlord‘s fields from dawn to dusk five days a week, leaving only two days for their own plots. 

Realizing this was no life for a human being, Martin left the village going to a place where he could completely vanish from the landlord’s overseers.

A little meadow, beneath Púpov hill and high above the village was a perfect spot.  The sun shone all day and a spring of crystal clear water ran through the meadow. It was especially good for grazing sheep and cows. Martin secretly built a wooden cottage there and waited until the snow thawed to move. Martin labored from dawn to dusk struggling with the soil and forest but built a small farmstead and took care of his family.

Since he disappeared from the village, all of the landlord’s men were searching for him. They announced if he did not return he would be severely punished when caught.

One day, news came that an uprising against the Emperor had started. All the working people joined in. Martin was too old to help but Juro who was already in his twenties was anxious to participate. He was eager to fight to his last breath so that the serfs could live as human beings at last.  When the recruiters came to Terchová, Juro signed up for seven years and marched off with them along the Váh River toward Vienna.

Juro fought with this Kuruc Army and just as the serfs were on the verge of winning their battle for a better life, the Emperor bribed the Kuruc generals. The generals called for a retreat and while the army retreated they were unexpectedly ambushed by the Emperor’s troops. The generals had run away. Later the Kuruc army regrouped. Again when the battle was begun the Kuruc commanders betrayed their forces. The Kurucs fled in disarray.

Juro Jánošík headed back home to Terchová. When he arrived at a nearby village, he heard crying and bells ringing. Thinking the town was invaded by the Emperor’s troops, he rushed to find out what happen. To his terrible surprise, he found that his Mother and Father were being buried. He ran to the church where he learned that the landlord’s men had discovered the place where his father was living. His father could not run away because Juro’s mother was very ill. They seized his father and the punishment for not working for the landlord was one hundred strokes of the stick while being tied to the rack. Martin died after the fiftieth stroke. On the same day his wife died at the cottage.

Juro’s first thought was revenge, but no, he said revenge resolves nothing. The world must be different, fair and just; but how, where and with whom could he continue this struggle. He did not know the answer but felt he could find the answer in the mountains. This begins his life as an outlaw.

 

A book, Jánošík, Jánošík... written by Anton Marec, translated into English by Tatiana Strnadová and John Doyle and published in 1995 by Matica Slovenská, contains 33 tales of this famous outlaw captain. The information in this book was used to create this story. Check in the future for other stories.