Helena Alenka Bizjak

79

Franc Bizjak was born in Trieste in 1911 to father Franc and mother Eufemija, born Turk. The father was a police officer and the mother was a seamstress. The family had four children. Since the parents were nationally conscious, they sent their children to a Slovenian civil school even though it was further away than the Italian school. After the end of the First World War and the emergence of Yugoslavia, the family moved to Maribor, because the parents wanted the children to have contact with the Slovenian environment and the opportunity to be educated in the Slovenian language. In the first period of their stay in Maribor, they were very poor and constantly in debt. Their possessions were confiscated several times; authorities took almost everything except the beds. They took the mother’s only source of income, the sewing machine. Son Franc first graduated from an electrotechnical school, and then the Realka high school. He experienced poverty; he couldn’t afford school books, so labour and social issues were always at his heels. He got employed as a postal officer, kept educating himself and served in various places in Styria, Carinthia and Prekmurje. At the time of the royal dictatorship, which prevented the creation and operation of societies, he joined the Narodna Odbrana and acted as a youth in the interests of offshore emigrants. The Nanos association was founded in Maribor in 1931, connecting many of the Primorska emigrants that fled there in fear of fascist violence. Franc was a secretary of the association for two years. The association had its own premises, choir, drama group, propaganda section and social welfare section. They organised a commemoration for the victims in Bazovica. When Franc was transferred to Murska Sobota in 1938, he joined the local emigrant association called Soča. In 1938, he left for military service in Zemun. After his return (in 1940), he married Milica, born Marinić, who was of Croatian ethnicity. They had to two children, Alenka in 1942 and Riko in 1943.

In 1940, he was transferred to Šmarje pri Jelšah, where he waited for the beginning of the Second World War and the German occupation. Being mobilised into the Yugoslav army, he witnessed its collapse. He made sure to have his parents come stay with him, as there was a high risk of being relocated violently. In Maribor, there were many German sympathisers who wanted to have the nationally conscious family deported. But since the father was lying in bed as a patient, that did not happen. Franc’s son was not deported because the German occupying authorities needed him; he could speak German. The brother also stayed with them; he was known as a communist ideologist. He knew he had to go away, so in 1942 he went to his sister’s home in Babno polje, where she was working as a teacher. In June 1942, the Italians shot all the men from Babno polje, including Franc’s brother Riko.

The Gestapo constantly monitored Franc, so he was extremely cautious. He repeatedly received calls for mobilisation, but he did not respond. His wife indirectly supported the partisan fighters and maintained the relationship through a courier. Franc was unable to join the partisan movement, since it would provoke the German occupier to relocate the whole family, and the grandparents did not have the strength for that. So he acted in the background and helped as much as he could. After the end of the Second World War, he immediately stepped into action. He worked as a volunteer in Šmarje pri Jelšah and helped the local physician Dr. Lorger, who took care of the wounded and other patients. He made posters and notices for political meetings and other propaganda campaigns and for elections to the Constitutional Assembly in November 1945. He led the district propaganda team, wrote articles for Slovenski poročevalec and Ljudska pravica and he was president of the sports association and chairman of the trade union branch in Šmarje. He participated as a lecturer and speaker in various celebrations and political meetings. Franc wrote in one of his memories: “… I never backed down in my work, I fought for the establishment of the people’s authority consistently and without doubt.

On 17 September 1947, he was transferred to Gorizia, where he immediately began to organise the operations of the district post office. In November of the same year, his family joined him and they settled in Volčja Draga. At the time of the Informbiro, he feared they would take him to Goli otok. He was the first manager of the post office in Gorizia, even before the city of Nova Gorica was established. Then, he took the position of director of the post office. He became a member of the party, but in 1966, UDBA removed him from this position. He was constantly followed, so he knew he had better withdraw.

Recorded: 28 October 2019 at the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, Ljubljana (Slovenia)

The conversation was moderated by: Marta Keršič

Camera: Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič

Prepared for publication by: Marta Keršič and Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič