Mari Kosem Celestina

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Mari Kosem Celestina was born at Dol pri Ljubljani in 1930. Her father was a butcher and they had butchery at home. There were six children in the house, one died a few weeks after birth. The father was acquainted with communism, having been friends with the parish priest and he knew what was happening in the Spanish Civil War. In 1943 he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned at Begunje. His family feared he would fall as a hostage. The mother managed to rescue him through acquaintances. The prison, on the other hand, offered him security so that he was not captured by the Partisans who would surely have killed him, as they several times looked for him. He was called and released once, but he had to sign that the entire family would be evicted in the event of a minor offense. Therefore, he withdrew from home and so my mother ran the butcher’s shop. The Germans had a post opposite their house and found a list on which the father was recorded for liquidation. Life at home was very tense, especially since the Partisans were coming at night and collected what they could. Only kids with their mother and aunt were at home. They were constantly living in fear.

The elder brother Alojzij was recruited to the German army, then went to the Home Guard. In 1945, he came home and told them that they had to withdraw because the Partisans would occupy everything. They knew that the father would be the first to be liquidated, so they decided the family left to Carinthia. Alojzij was returned to Slovenia together with the rest of the members of the Home Guard. The grandmother told me few years later that one of the local people said: “Because they did not get the old man, the young man “croaked”.

The butcher’s profession rescued the family through difficult times. Already at Vetrinj, where there was no food, they started to slaughter the horses and always had a piece of meat to survive. Six weeks they were staying in the Vetrinjsko polje, then they went to Spittal. Mrs. Mari has nice memories on the camp. Everything was well organized. They were happy that they could live in peace, even though far from home. In 1949, they came to the United States, to Minnesota. Her father worked in the slaughterhouse, and at night in a mine, and they soon managed to build a new house. In 1953, they moved to Cleveland and also bought a house there.

Mari’s husband was from Zagorje and was forcibly mobilised into the German army during the war. He was in captivity in France and Italy, and after the war he wanted to come to America. First he emigrated to Argentina, then to Cleveland (USA), where he met Marie, married and created the family. Mrs. Mari is happy in her new country, and she is especially proud of her children.

Recorded on: 11/10/2011 in Cleveland, USA
Conversation led by: Marta Keršič, Camera: Jelka Piškurić