Marija Tomažič Lavrisha

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Marija Tomažič Lavrisha was born in Ljubljana in 1920. After the war, the refugee path led her to the Vetrinj camp, and from there to various camps in Austria and then to North America, where she created a new home. She was the eldest of four children and the only one from the family who went to Carinthia as a refugee in May 1945.

Marija’s memories first stop at her childhood and young girl period when she was actively involved in the parish life at Moste. She was a member of the Catholic Action, missionary circle and the choir. She attended the school at Ursuline’s, then she was a student of the Poljane grammar school. After the school, she was employed at the office of the Consumer Society, led by a proficient and honest director. He conscientiously warned her and her colleagues of the dangers of revolutionary violence, which began to emerge shortly after the Italian occupation of Ljubljana. There were many discussions about the murder of the Priest Ehrlich and Ban Natlačen, and Marija was closely watching these events. She repeatedly publicly expressed her opposition to such doings.

Following the advice of her father, she withdrew from Ljubljana in May 1945 because of the danger and fear of the Partisans. When she left her home, she only took some clothes, a piece of bread and an apple on the route. With the girls they then headed towards Gorenjska, Ljubelj and then towards Vetrinj. When crossing the tunnel, she and the girls were helped by the cousin to cross the tunnel on wagons and did not have to walk in the water. At Vetrinj, they arrived at the feast of the Ascension. They slept there on the fern and ate from the cauldrons, but they were happy to avoid the Partisan dangers. A new sadness arose when they learned in the camp that members of the Home Guard and civilians were driven back to Yugoslavia. The church was all the time full, people pleaded and prayed for all returned and murdered.

Marija was then transferred to the Lienz camp, and from there to Spittal. She finally got a refugee status, which allowed her to go with the guarantee letter to America. At the pilgrimage in Lemont, she met the husband of the Slovenian origin and was soon married to him. They went to live in Cleveland, which at that time was ‘very Slovenian’, as also in a store one could order in the Slovenian language. Marija learned most of the English language at school when she taught the children the Slovene language.

Recorded on: 25/11/2016 in Cleveland (USA)
Conversation led by: Renato Podbersič, Camera: Boštjan Kolarič