Jožefa Katarina Debeljak Žakelj

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Jožejka Debeljak Žakelj was born in Ljubljana in 1944. She was the youngest of three children of the late Slovenian literary critic, translator, editor and poet Dr. Tine Debeljak. The Debeljak family suffered severe violence under communism, it was emigrated, controlled, separated for many years between two worlds and erased from the Slovenian memory.

Jožejka’s father Tine as a professor carefully monitored the cultural-political events and published them in Slovenian newspapers and journals. After the end of the World War II, he withdrew to Carinthia and from there emigrated to Argentina through numerous camps. Mrs. Jožejka spoke about her father’s post-war refugee path, about how the mother and children were expelled from their house in Ljubljana and how Udba controlled them in the post-war times. The contacts with his father were maintained only through letters, but they were signed with a pseudonym. After nine years, my mother and children again met with my father in Argentina in 1954. Upon our arrival to the new country, the father enrolled the children into a private school to start learning Spanish, and thus continued their education interrupted in Slovenia.

Mrs. Jožejka married Jože Žakelj. A business trip led them to the Tucuman province, 1500 km from Buenos Aires, to the North West of Argentina. There are only a few Slovenian families living there today. Jože and Jožejka gave birth to ten children, and they have more than 20 grandchildren today. All their children fluently speak Slovenian. They also want their grandchildren to show love to their homeland and show them the beauty of Slovenia.

Mrs. Jožejka also presents the figure of her aunt the painter, graphic artist and artist Bara Remec, who was also forced to emigrate after the war. During her stay in refugee camps in Austria and later in Rome, her painting work continued. In 1947, she arrived to Argentina. In the homeland she was kept secret for many years. Only when Slovenia became independent, her first exhibition was presented in Ljubljana. The painter Bara Remec died in Bariloche, Argentina in 1991.

Recorded on: 17/06/2015 at the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Conversation led by: Marta Keršič, Camera: Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič