The story of Kristina Lenc, or the story of her father, is still wrapped in a veil of memories and unanswered questions today, 75 years after the end of the Second World War. Who? Why? Where? Kristina’s great desire is for the name of her father, who is permanently present in her heart, to also be written on a tombstone or a memorial plaque in order keep him in the public memory in a way that is worthy of human memory and dignity.
Kristina’s path began on 29 December 1945, when she first saw the light of day in Studenci in Maribor. Her mother Magdalena was born in 1907. Kristina did not know her father as she was born only after his death. In 1996, Kristina began to look for his trail after a referral from a social worker.
Her father, Vladislaw Zombek, was a native of Poland and was imprisoned in Russia along with 38 Poles, among which were women. They told them they would shoot them all in Russia. So they took photos, hoping that their loved ones would receive them. But there was a change, and they were kept alive. From there, they moved them to Maribor, to the camp at Melje. They had to preform forced labour at the car factory. That was where Kristina’s mother worked as well. The Poles from the Melje camp were then moved to Studenci, to the present-day Janko Padežnik school, and housed in the basement.From there, they would go to work at the railway factory. The path led them past the house of Kristina’s mother. They were hungry and ragged, so they were looking for locals to look after them. On this commute, the father found Kristina’s mother and love began developing between the two. The father stayed with the mother from September 1944 to May 1945. During this time, she got pregnant. She was happy. At the end of the Second World War, she went with her friend a few times to the partisan meeting at a nearby farm, at Hauptman’s. The father was there with her. In exchange for food, the mother brought the partisans cigarette tickets, and the father had to give them his watch. The Germans were housed not far away. The father went to the camp school only occasionally, but otherwise he stayed with the mother. After the night of 8 to 9 May, he did not return from the camp. The only one who did not go to the camp that night was a Pole named Jure, who remained alive. As Kristina managed to find out, the rest of the prisoners were loaded on a truck on 10 May 1945 and taken to Radvanje, where they were beaten and killed.
Mrs. Kristina spent a lot of time looking for the killing grounds where the remains of her father could be buried. She discovered that there were 18 areas in Radvanje where the murdered Polish people had been buried. Now, she keeps lighting candles and bringing flowers there every year.
After Vladislaw’s death, the mother worked as a seamstress, working in a textile factory and taking care of his daughter. In the meantime, she had to report in Rajhenburg several times. Later she remarried, so Kristina had a stepfather. In spite of their modesty, the family led a good life.
Kristina spent tens of years searching for her father’s footprints. The modest memorial inscribed with his name is her expression of gratitude for the gift of life.
Recorded: November 2019, Study Centre for National Reconciliation (Slovenia)
The conversation was moderated by: Marta Keršič, camera: Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič
Prepared for publication by: Marta Keršič and Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič