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Fatra House of Arts


In Zilina at the beginning of the 20th century, the Art Nouveau building projects of engineer Szekely were progressing slowly because of planning changes.  At the request of the city, he had to reverse his plans to accommodate a change in street direction.  During the years 1919-1921, the Moravian Jan Rufinus Stejskal built a movie theatre, the Grand Bio Universum, where previously two 17th century houses stood on the site.  The building was constructed by the Ludvik Kanturka company in Zilina, and had a stage in a large hall, with two galleries.  The ground level seated 482 spectators, the first 100 and the second 146.  After construction, the first feature-film premiere, “Jánošík,” was held on January 3, 1922.  The literature lists two premiere dates, as the film opened first in Prague, on November 25, 1921.  The film was based on a script by J. Žák-Marušiak, directed by J. Siakeľ, and the title role was played by T. Pištek.  The film has been reconstructed in digital form by Ivan Rumanovský.

From 1983 to 1988 the Fatra movie theatre was reconstructed to meet the needs of the State Chamber Orchestra of Zilina (called the Slovak Sinfonietta abroad), which was founded in 1974, based on the old Zilina City Symphony Orchestra (1959-1974). Unfortunately, during reconstruction, the original historical inscription on the upper facade of the Bio Universum building was removed. The creation of the Orchestra was aided by well-known composer Jan Cikker (1911-1989), whose bust is on the ground floor of the hall. The first festive concert was held on January 4, 1989.

The Fatra House of Arts often hosts various social and cultural events.  In 1997 the Zilina Citizens’ Association placed two plaques on the front of the building, recalling the first movie premiere (“Jánošík”) and the founding of the State Chamber Orchestra.  The Fatra House of Arts is registered as No. 13729/0 in the Central List of the Memorial Fund.




The Trávniček Business and Residence


Oldřich Trávniček (December 17, 1888, Česká Třebová – December 7, 1945, Zilina) was among the most important figures of Zilina and helped develop the culture of the city, primarily as a book publisher.  Together with his wife Mária Matúšková, he came to Zilina in 1919 to build a paper and office-supplies business.  But in 1921 they started their own publishing house, and, first, among Slovak publishers, they published books and plays for young people. Until then, there had not been such a company in Zilina and almost none in Slovakia and Trávniček started fulfilling the need and hunger for books in the Slovak language. He collected in Zilina almost all the literature available from Slovak Matica, Tranoscius, the Society of St. Vojtech and others, as well as from Czech publishing houses. He opened a bookstore in Zilina, which loaned books and, in effect, became the first public library there.  The city then established a public library in 1924. He cooperated with several Czech publishers, paper and office-supply businesses to arrange the translation of original Czech literature into Slovak.

In Zilina, he became friendly with Dr Ivan Hálek, who translated the puppet play by K. Driml - Bacilinek into Slovak.  In the early 1920’s there was a lack of Slovak school text-books.  Therefore, he founded the Educational Publishing House of O. Trávniček (Učiteľské nakladateľstvo O. Trávniček), which published not only textbooks but also professional and methods manuals. He assembled a number of authors and translators to work in his publishing house. Most books had to be printed in the Czech Republic because apart from the city of Martin, there were no publishers capable of publishing Slovak literature. He collaborated with two Slovak artists, and also with Jan Hal, who published two books. In 1922 Trávniček published 16 books, including the Prvouka textbook, the Demonstrative Reader, and Slovak Language for Hungarian Schools. He collected a series, Selections From Our Cultural and National Creators (Výbery z diel našich kultúrnych a národných dejateľov), where the Book For Children by Martin Kukučín (Kukučín deťom) and the book by the Bytča-born writer Sidónia Sakalová, “My Joy” (Moja radosť) first appeared.

Trávniček also founded the Rozkvet Youth Theater Library, which produced seven plays for young people and four for amateurs. He published religious literature. In his series of fairy tales appeared two works by Božena Němcová, as well as Tikhon’s Russian fairy tales about animals. He basically founded the Slovak Puppet Theater, for which he started a library of plays called Drops (Kvapky). He also provided theatres with scenic equipment:  stages, puppets and other props.  He continued in this direction by setting up the Gašparkovo divadlo edition.

The Trávniček publishing house pursued an extremely wide range of activities. He published full-evening plays for amateur theatres, and also set up a library for amateur theatres.  From S. Sakalova came a number of poems, picture books, books on language usage, adventure novels, novels for girls and practical handbooks for Slovak students, which were republished by Trávniček. In 1931 he also published nine textbooks for teachers, but afterwards focused only on the publication of literature for young people. He knew well how to promote his books. He published an informative newsletter making the public aware of his publishing activity.  He also published translations of foreign literature, such as Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels and others. Between 1941 and 1945 he published mostly fairy tales, theatre plays and adventure novels like Jules Verne's "A Captain at Fifteen”. He collaborated with the artist Vincent Hložník, who after 1944 illustrated most books published by Trávniček.

He cooperated with the resistance movement in Slovakia and was detained and imprisoned in Ilava in October 1944. After the war, he published other novels and children’s publications, including Andersen’s fairy tales with beautiful Hložník illustrations.  In bad health, Trávniček died on December 7, 1945, in Zilina, where he was buried.  After his death, his wife and two sons continued their publishing activities until the firm was nationalized in 1949.

In 1930 Travnicek bought land from his neighbour (the owner of the movie theatre, Rufinus Stejskal), where stood an older house from before 1850, for 40,000 crowns.  In 1931 he built a two-story, prism-shaped house designed by M. M. Scheer, an important functionalist architect working in Zilina.  The front part of the ground floor is defined by columns. Here, through large display windows could be viewed the shops and workplaces. It is instructive even today that Trávniček, acceding to demands of the city, altering the construction to accommodate the rear street and the nearby street-corner. In the courtyard of the house were workshops and storage spaces where about 15 people worked.

Before building this home, the Trávniček family lived at 16 Komenskeho Street.  Previously they owned another house, near the present Grand Hotel, which was purchased in 1938 for 50,000 crowns. Earlier, they had rented living space, store and warehouse space. People of Zilina recognize him through the Trávniček Paper and Office Supplies business, which continued as a family activity until the 1990’s. The building has been remodelled and is currently the home of the VIX Restaurant.


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