Itinerarium (1708 — 1709), the travel diary of young Daniel Krman, is one of the best examples of Slovak literature from the baroque period. Its translation into Ukrainian will considerably help improve Slovak-Ukrainian relations. The author, a bishop, was the leader of Slovak Evangelists living in Greater Hungary at the time. During the Austro-Hungarian monarchy they were persecuted by the authorities and were thus eager supporters of anti-Habsburg uprisings, especially those initiated by Fr. Rakoczi II. In 1707 Hungarian-Slovak Evangelical ranks entrusted Krman to go to the Swedish King Charles XII, who was also Protestant, and ask him to support the Evangelical seminary in Prešov. From this trip, full of dramatic events, arose «Itinerarium».
The diary was written in Latin, since that was the language of western culture at the time. Krman began his «odyssey» along with his fellow Slovak compatriot, named Podhorský. Starting in Slovakia, they went through Poland, Latvia, Prussia, White Russia (Belarus), Ukraine, and Moldavia. He reached his destination in Belarus in Mogilev, where he saw Charles XII, who gave him 20,000 taliers (money used in Austro-Hungary) for the Prešov Evangelical seminary and another 1,000 taliers for his trip back to his «sweet homeland», which is how Krman used to call the Slovak part of Greater Hungary.
Together with the Swedish king, they went further to Ukraine near the city of Starodub. Krman met for the first time the Ukrainian captain Ivan Mazepa, known as the «Cossack genius» who made a great impression on him. The highlight of Krman’s journey was the battle near Poltava in 1709, in which Czar Peter I fought against Charles XII and his ally Mazepa. Krman wrote an eye-witness account of the battle in his «Itinerarium», which became one of the oldest records of the Poltava tragedy. Cossack Ukraine became a colony of czarist Russia for almost 300 years. Because of this, Krman’s Slovak work of literature is very important to Ukrainians, since every nation wants to know what was written about it in foreign countries, especially if the work is from a neighbour who is a close Slav relative.
In his travel diary Krman wrote about his experiences from his trip, what he saw, and what he heard. But he didn’t only write about his own experiences, but also about the geography, economics, social customs, politics and ethnic relations of the places he visited and observed during his time. It must be emphasized that much of what he saw and heard was evaluated from his point of view as an Evangelist. This is why there are sharp, often one-sided and unjust criticisms about some social behaviours, mainly harsh judgments about religion life of the countries he visited. One example of his controversial views were his thoughts on «schismatics» (a group which differed in their religious doctrines). Other interesting aspects are his colourful portraits of Charles XII, Mazepa and Peter I, where he showed his own personal feelings. Another highlight is his description of Slovak envoys crossing nearly all of Ukraine (Novhorod-Siverskyj, Baturyn, Romny, Budysca, Poltava, Novi Sanzary, Perevolochna, Ochakiv), and their return trip back to their homeland through Moldavia (Bendery, Jasy, Suchava) and Zacarpathia (Khust, Koroleve, Mukacheve).
Krman’s baroque style combined the artistic methods of Rabelais (colorful, bloody scenes, popular habits, and religious rituals, etc.) with an historical view like Plutarch, a precise description of the Poltava battle, the state establishment of Cossack Ukraine, an evaluation of Zaporozska Sich, which was called the first republic of the Slavic east, etc. Krman paid the most attention to Ukraine which is Slovakia’s closest eastern neighbour. The Ukrainian edition of «Itinerarium» will certainly generate interest in Ukraine. Other Slavic coun tries as well will be interested in it because Ukraine, like Slovakia, after hundreds of years without freedom, is now going through the difficult process of self-discovery by shifting through its past.