After months of preparations, the big day has arrived. Finally we can celebrate the beginning of the construction of our campus in Vištuk, a village located 30 kilometers from Bratislava. We didn’t even notice how quickly the time passed until suddenly we found ourselves standing in a barn, blowing up balloons and putting up decorations. We couldn’t wait for the party to get rolling and for this barnyard to be filled with conversations, smiles and first encounters after six years of developing this project.
Our students arrive and flood the Humlov Dvor farm. They are followed by the locals of Vištuk, our future neighbors. Seeing first conversations between our students and the locals, we are filled with peace and joy. Some five minutes later, the crowd is well-mixed, and it is hard to tell who is from LEAF Academy and who is from Vištuk.
The program begins and together, we all enjoy the performance of the local choir, Speváčik. Their rhythmical folk songs get children dancing, and the grown-ups don’t stand idly by either. Dominika and Daniel from LEAF Academy enter the stage afterwards and start tuning their guitars, slightly overwhelmed by their stage fright. We all cheer for them and applaud them, after which they begin playing their guitar duet, which they learned specially for the occasion.
After their speeches, the principal of LEAF Academy, Matej Sapák, shakes hands with the mayor of Vištuk, Ľubomír Jelínek, and we get to see both of them smiling. We are all hoping that our guests share our belief that we are embarking on a wonderful, shared, mutually beneficial relationship. This celebration is a historic milestone for all of us; that is why everyone present will be able to take a shovel and take part in the campus groundbreaking ceremony.
With the last applause, people disperse rapidly, some finding their way to the kiosks that are serving goulash made of game meat brought by local hunters, and others reaching for wine made by Vištuk’s winemakers. Vištuk is a part of the Little Carpathins region, known for its wine, so we naturally wanted to know whether the rumors are true. We can certainly confirm them.
With the sun beginning to set, our guests are slowly approaching the location of our future campus in small groups. Hanka, our project manager, is already waiting for them there and welcomes them warmly. She worked with the architects from the very beginning to ensure that the spaces will fulfill all study needs and requirements. Hanka invites all guests to come closer and starts presenting models and visuals, showing what will stand at the place we are standing at right now. “The campus will connect the spaces intended for education, sport, living and student activities. It will also help strengthen the community and create a space where the students can explore and develop their strengths and their character,” explains Hanka. She quickly adds: “The studying doesn’t take place in classrooms only, and that’s why the spaces for extracurriculars are adjusted to the development of their talents, hobbies, well-being and many other aspects of their lives.”
After a lot of questions and answers, everyone gradually moves to the place where there are 4 shovels ready for use. People eagerly take turns using them, wanting to break the ground themselves. Some struggle with the hard soil, others only come to take a photo.
This small field, seemingly unimportant, has become very dear to us today. It is marked by a significant moment when all of us took part in the groundbreaking ceremony.
At the kiosks, we can hear that people are having fun; we can see students dancing to both folk and modern songs at the barnyard. We will surely remember how our expectations turned into joy and satisfaction resulting from our first meeting with the locals of Vištuk.
We turn off the last lights and silence descends upon the place, although in our heads, we still hear the tones of local folk songs and see the memories of the beautiful sunset during which we had our groundbreaking ceremony. We cannot wait to get together again, this time to celebrate the opening of our campus.