Mihajla Bitežnik Habjan

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Mrs. Mihajla Bitežnik Habjan was born in Gorizia in 1922. Her father, Josip Bitežnik, withdrew to Vienna in the 1930s, when fascism prevented any Slovenian activity, and in Vienna he was involved in solving national minority issues for several years. In the meantime, the family lived in Maribor, where Mihajla went to the folk school. She graduated from the classical grammar school in Ljubljana and then enrolled in law studies, which she was unable to complete due to the war. When in May 1942, Dr. Ehrlich was shot she ran to Streliška Street and saw him bleeding. She was a friend of the murdered Franček Župca, and she also knew Jaroslav Kikelj. After the interrupted study, Mihajla was given a job for a short time. Because of fear of the Italians, her father did not dare to return from Belgrade, so her mother remained alone with the children. On 6 May 1945, she moved with them from Ljubljana to Carinthia. They went by train to Kranj, and then on foot. When they crossed the border, the Partisans captured them on the Austrian side and imprisoned them. Then the Partisans from Carinthia had to withdraw. They were taken under the auspices of the English, who drove them to Klagenfurt, and from there to Italy, where they moved from camp to camp.

Mihajla returned to Gorizia with her mother and found there a job, so that she could survive the family that was still without the father. She got a job at the Red Cross. Life in the A zone was nice to her because she was happy to live in freedom. They arranged a nice apartment and finally met with their father after many years (in 1947).

She met Franc in Gorizia and they soon married. Mihajla worked for a short time at the Red Cross in Trieste, and then Dr. Falež invited her to work with the IRO – International Refugee Organization. Mihajla was pregnant for the second time already, therefore, she decided to move to Canada with her family. She never regretted having moved there. Only in Canada Mihajla was breathing the air of freedom.

Conversation led by: Renato Podbersič and Ivo Jevnikar,
Camera: Renato Podbersič