Shifting Pictures: When the War Comes

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An inside look at a Slovakian teenage right-wing paramilitary group

Jan Gebert
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Peter Švrček, from the Czech Republic, Croatia, is having it good, he just finished his studies, has a pretty girlfriend and his parents bought him an SUV as graduation present. But there’s an element missing for his complete satisfaction. Worried about the future of Slovakia with all those immigrants, he starts a paramilitary group called Slovenskí branci (Slovakian conscripts). They meet in the hills and mountains of Slovakia, where they create a pretend totalitarian community that trains for the final clash of civilizations.

Peter’s parents are fairly rich, but in his eyes they don’t seem like authority figures. The same applies to the government. He views the Slovakian state as overly soft and under the control of Brussels. According to Peter, the current situation demands strength and determination. Europe is being overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of refugees, Ukraine is paralysed by war, and Slovakia is part of the ‘much hated, occupying force’ that is NATO.

Instead of waiting for others to call the shots, Peter has been working on becoming one of Slovakia’s greats. At 15, he travelled to Russia to train with the Cossacks and went through the same course as the separatist units in East Ukraine. His paramilitary unit in Slovakia now has a few hundred members who see it as an island of order in a world filled with fear and danger.

According to Peter, his paramilitary represents a model for what European society should be – efficient, well armed, and hostile to otherness. This observation of a juvenile paramilitary offers a unique glimpse into the forces that create dictators. Lack of confidence and fear are turned into lofty ideals of patriotism – ideals that Peter and his armed pals seem ready to defend.

Read more about Jan Gebert

Jan Gebert was born in Prague in 1981. He studied at Charles University in Prague as well as in Spain, the USA and Mexico. In 2007 he was awarded the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Award for his work in journalism; in 2008 he received the European Union’s ‘For Diversity. Against Discrimination’ prize for journalists. When the War Comes is his first feature-length documentary which premiered in the Panorama section of Berlinale and was screened in numerous festivals such as IDFA and Visions du Reel.