Car Crash Kills Minister
Nationalist Deputy Culture Minister Ruffled Feathers in Short Life
United Press International, November 2, 1993
Roman Zelenay, the deputy minister of culture and one of Slovakia's most controversial politicians, was killed in a car crash late Monday.
Zelenay's car crashed into a stationary truck as it approached the Czech border post on the motorway near the town of Lanzhot, 40 miles (65 km) northwest of Bratislava, said Bohuslav Geci, spokesman for the Slovak embassy in Prague.
An unnamed female passenger and the car's driver were in serious condition, according to an interior ministry spokesman. The Slovak government began its regular Tuesday session observing a minute of silence in Zelenay's honor, and said in a written statement that the truck was parked illegally. Czech police are investigating the accident.
"It's hard to understand that we will never meet Roman again, that we will not witness his enthusiasm, his fire and passion to create the future of our young society," the government wrote in a letter to Zelenay's wife and two children.
Zelenay, 41, worked for years as a pharmacist, athletics coach, translator and author. He made a name for himself as the outspoken chairman of the former Czechoslovak House of Nations, one of the two chambers of the federal parliament where Czechs and Slovaks were equally represented.
After independence on Jan. 1, Zelenay had been vying to become foreign minister but had to settle for the post of deputy culture minister and an influential position as deputy chairman of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia.
He was perhaps best known for planning a ministry of information to improve what he often called Slovakia's unfairly negative image abroad, a project which was shelved after stinging international criticism.
Zelenay was determined to forge a strong national identity, and was accused of blocking recent plans by Slovak and Polish local authorities in the Tatra mountains to create a so-called euroregion to improve the area's economy, saying it would give the region too much autonomy.