Mrs. Marija Žakelj was born in the village of Graben at Sv. Gregor near Ribnica in 1926. She was the fourth of nine children. She had seven brothers and one sister. Janez Evangelist Krek was born in the house where she attended the elementary school. His father had a timber trade and a farm before the World War II. Although they lived modestly, they were satisfied and nothing short of.
For their family, village and the environment everything changed at the beginning of the World War II. They were occupied by Italians, who were not liked by the natives, and even worse conditions were created when Partisans came to their villages shortly after the start of the war. In the first phase, they carried out requisitions, robbed the inn, trade and numerous homesteads. Then they started with murders, among which Mrs. Marija especially remembered the murder of her confirmation sponsor, the teacher Ivanka Novak, who was murdered pregnant just before giving birth. After her death, they found a letter on her to the unborn child, writing farewell to the child. They also murdered the cousin of Marija’s father and a relatively large number of Gypsies.
Marija’s two older brothers joined the Village Guard. One was captured by the Partisans and kept in prison for a long time at Bloke. When he wanted to escape, he was killed. The other brother, together with members of the Home Guard, was captured by the Partisans at Veliki Osolnik. On the way to the forest they were tracked by the Germans, so the Partisans fled and the members of the Home Guard remained alive. Her third brother worked in a shop at Kamnik, from where he was mobilized into the German army. During the war, he was wounded and when his clothes were received by post, they thought he was dead, but he returned home.
After the war, the family together with other refugees fled to Carinthia, where they were first in the Vetrinj camp and then in Spittal in Austria. Marija there passed the exam for a dressmaker and worked in a workshop. Her parents returned home to Yugoslavia, and in 1949, Marija left for America with her brother. They were well received, Marija began to earn her living by work in a car factory. She visited her parents for the first time in 1971. Both her parents came to America for her marriage. On her second visit to the homeland, she had a lengthy interrogation, however, she was released to see her parents.
Oblak Žakelj Recorded on: 23/11/2016 in Cleveland (USA)
Conversation led by: Renato Podbersič, Camera: Boštjan Kolarič