Vladimir Joseph Rus was born on 12 February 1925 in Rijeka, which at that time was part of the Kingdom of Italy. He attended an Italian primary school in Rijeka and then a Croatian primary school across the border in Sušak. A week before the German attack on Yugoslavia, his father took his family to Slovenia, to Soteska near Dvor in the Dolenjska region, to prevent them for being interned as foreign citizens.
In 1943, after Italy’s capitulation, Rus was drafted into the Levstik Brigade and posted to a training for officers in Semič. He completed the course in a month, at the end of October, when Semič was hit by a German offensive. From there, the brigade retreated to Kočevski Rog and then to Gorjanci. Rus was sent to the 13th Brigade in Kočevje with the task to deliver a letter, which he was forbidden from opening. Vladimir opened it nonetheless – the letter said “to be executed”, so he ran away to Soteska, hid at home for a while and then went to Rijeka and continued his education. He graduated from secondary school in Sušak in June 1944. From there, he fled to Trieste to join the Primorska Home Guard and was stationed at the San Giovanni barracks. He never saw any fighting. He belonged to a covert team working with Chetniks and occasionally patrolled Trieste. The team was later moved to Prestranek. Vladimir then fell ill and acquired a certificate of being unfit for military service; he went to Rijeka. There, he worked in an illegal organisation rescuing Jews. Rus provided them with travel documents.
Just before the end of the war, there was a risk of Rus being drafted by the Germans or killed by the Partisans as a deserter. On 1 April 1945, he visited relatives in Ljubljana, who provided him with some money, then he fled to Venice on 7 April 1945. Due to an appendix inflammation, he had to undergo surgery just when the Allies entered the city. Along with a friend, he was active in a Venetian Catholic organisation hiding Jews. Through this organisation, he got a job with the British intelligence, where he listened in to phone calls between Tito’s agents and the Italian communist party regarding captured weapons and a takeover when the Allies would leave. In June 1945, he went to Trieste to learn more about his family. His father also arrived in Trieste, but he had to go to the Bagnoli refugee camp. In 1946, Rus became the secretary of the Jadran Academic Club, a Slovene student organisation in Trieste. The attitude of Italian professors towards Slovene students was hostile. He completed his doctorate in 1949. His cousin, a political commissar married to an OZNA major, exerted significant pressure on him. Several times, she sent an agent to persuade Rus to spy for them. In exchange, they would release his mother, who was imprisoned at the time. Rus did not agree to this, however. He ultimately decided to emigrate to the United States of America. This happened in 1951, after two years of waiting for his permit. He first stayed with his mother’s sister in Cleveland and was employed as a worker in different factories; later, he became an economy, sociology and Russian teacher at a high school. He ran university courses on Russian and became a professor of political science, Russian language and literature and Eastern European history at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University. He also served in the Cleveland mayor’s cabinet, where he directed a committee for human resources and economic development for the city of Cleveland. He died on 22 November 2020 in Cleveland.
Recorded: 22 November 2016, Cleveland (USA)
The conversation was led and recorded by: Renato Podbersič
Preparad for publication by: Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič