Slavic-speaking communities comprise over half of Europe’s territory.1
I always knew there were many Slavic nations. But, because of growing up in the USSR, my mind was over-filled with the slogans about the specific connection between "fraternal peoples" that included only East Slavic countries: Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. These ideas prevented me from the inclusion of other potential "fraters" to my worldview for many years. They were too far, they were too foreign.
The first eye-opening experience happened during my first visits to Slovakia and Czech Republic. Astonishingly, very often I could understand what the locals said or, especially, wrote in their native languages. Apparently, the knowledge of the Ukrainian and Russian languages, as well as the Latin alphabet had made it possible. Moreover, even the Slovaks' and Czechs' outlooks, desires, and habits were so surprisingly familiar, that I had to recognize other Slavic countries were not that far and foreign as I was taught to think.
Then there were trips to other predominantly Slavic-speaking countries: Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia. And in all these countries the language, cultural and social codes were easy to grasp, easy to understand. The world of ethnic relatives suddenly became much wider for me than it used to be. That was a pleasant recognition, I must admit.
The only sad part of this story was that sharing that related languages and cultures, for many it was still difficult to find an understanding based on mutual respect and equality.
I hope that in future all the Slavic peoples learn how to appreciate and take care of each other. And of course, my optimistic self wishes this would also happen to all the countries, nations, races, sexes, put-any-group-here of the world 💕.