Ján Kuciak & Martina Kušnírová Memorial – Bratislava, Slovakia - Atlas Obscura

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Ján Kuciak & Martina Kušnírová Memorial

The site is dedicated to an investigative journalist whose murder triggered a political uproar that changed Slovakia forever. 

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On February 21, 2018, investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová were both gunned down in their home at the age of 27. Kuciak was shot twice in the chest, and Kušnírová was shot once in the head—both at close range with a 9mm handgun. Authorities didn’t find any sign of a struggle, and nothing seemed to be stolen from the scene.

The killings of Kuciak and Kušnírová only confirmed what the citizens of Slovakia had dreaded—that an intricate web of organized crime existed within the country. At the time of his murder, Kuciak was working on a report about the connection of Slovak politicians with the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the most feared Italian crime organizations, after gaining a reputation for his report on tax fraud cases committed by a businessman with close ties to the ruling SMER-SD party of the Slovak government.

This suggested only one thing: Kuciak and Kušnírová were assassinated by those unhappy with his investigations, possibly affiliated not only with the mafia but also with the government. As soon as the news of the double murder broke, people started to rally nationwide for change, forming the largest protest in Slovak history since the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

In the end, the protest was largely successful, culminating in the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico and his entire cabinet in mid-March. While it was far from the end of Slovakia’s corruption problem, it was a change nonetheless.

In September, the perpetrators of the murders were finally arrested. It turned out that the murder was carried out by former soldier Tomáš Szabó and former policeman Miroslav Marček, who were ordered by a businessman named Zoltán Andruskó. Andruskó was tasked by Alena Zsuzsová, the aide to notorious mob-affiliated businessman Marian Kočner.

Kočner, Zsuzsová, Andruskó, Szabó, and Marček were all arrested, and sentenced to 19, 21, 15, and 25 years, respectively. It was not long before their other crimes were unraveled, with Kočner convicted of forging $75 million worth of promissory notes (though he was acquitted of his involvement in Kuciak’s murder) and Zsuzsová accused of murdering a South Slovak mayor in 2010.

In February 2022, to mark the fourth anniversary of the Kuciak-Kušnírová murder, the city of Bratislava unveiled a memorial dedicated to them in the central square of the Slovak capital.

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April 26, 2023

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