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Juraj Jánošík was a famous Slovak outlaw. Jánošík has been topic of many Slovak and Polish legends, books and films. According to the legend, he robbed nobles and gave the loot to the poor. The legend were also known in neighboring Silesia, the Margraviate of Moravia and later spread to the Kingdom of Bohemia. The actual robber had little to do with the modern legend, whose content partly reflects the ubiquitous folk myths of a hero taking from the rich and giving to the poor. However, the legend was also shaped in important ways by the activists and writers in the 19th century when Jánošík became the key highwayman character in stories that spread in the north counties of the Kingdom of Hungary (present Slovakia) and among the local Gorals and Polish tourists in the Podhale region north of the Tatras (Tátra). The image of Jánošík as a symbol of resistance to oppression was reinforced when poems about him became part of the Slovak and Czech middle and high school literature curriculum, and then again with the numerous films that propagated his modern legend in the 20th century. During the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising, one of the partisan groups bore his name.
The actual future highwayman Juraj Jánošík was probably born shortly before his baptism on January 25, 1688. Another baptismal entry in the records of his parish for a Juraj Jánošík was on May 16, 1788. His parents then would be either Martin Jánošík and Anna Čišníková, or Michal Jánošík and Barbara Cingel. There are also two or three less likely baptismal entries that could relate to this particular highwayman. His first name, ("George" in English) has been a very common name all over Europe and his last name is still common around his birthplace.
Jánošík was born and most certainly grew up in the village of Terchová (Tyerhova) in the Habsburg monarchy's Kingdom of Hungary area, (present-day northwestern Slovakia). He fought with the Kuruc insurgents when he was fifteen. After the lost Battle of Trenčín Jánošík was recruited by the Habsburg army. As a young prison officer in Bytča (Nagybiccse), he helped the imprisoned Tomáš Uhorčík escape. They created a forest robber group and Jánošík became their leader at the age of 23. They were active mostly in northwestern Kingdom of Hungary (today's Slovakia), around the Váh (Vág) river between Važec (Vázsec) and Východná (Vichodna), but the territory of their activity extended also to other parts of today's Slovakia, as well as to Poland and Moravia. Most of their victims were rich merchants. Under Jánošík's leadership, the group was exceptionally chivalrous: They did not kill any of the robbed victims and even helped an accidentally injured priest. They are also said to share their loot with the poor and this part of the legend may be based on the facts too.
Jánošík was captured in the fall of 1712 and detained at the Mansion of Hrachov, but was released soon afterwards. He was captured again in spring of 1713, in a pub run by Tomáš Uhorčík, living undercover in Klenovec (Klenóc) at that time. According to a widespread legend, he was caught after slipping on spilled peas, thrown in his way by a treacherous old lady. Jánošík was imprisoned and tried in Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš (Liptószentmiklós, present Liptovský Mikuláš).
His trial took place on March 16 and March 17, 1713 when he was sentenced to death. The date of his execution was not recorded, but it was customary to carry it out as soon as the trial was over. The manner of his execution, not in public awareness until the early 19th century, became part of his modern legend. A hook was pierced through his left side and he was left dangling on the gallows to die. This brutal way of execution was reserved for leaders of robber bands. A legend says that he refused the grace offered in exchange for enlisting soldiers of his abilities with the words: "If you have baked me so you should also eat me!" and jumped on the hook.
Slovakia, 1996, Jánosík