Ivan Hauptman was born in 1930 in Ljubljana and spent his childhood in the town of Stična in the Dolenjska region. He was the youngest of seven children. He did not know four of them because they had died of disease before he was born. His father worked as a postal clerk in Ljubljana. The family lived on their small farm. They survived on what they grew on the land. The older brothers Tone (born in 1921) and Vinko (born in 1926) attended general upper secondary school in Ljubljana. Ivan enjoyed the company of his peers, and he helped with various chores at home. He attended school in Stična.
On 6 April 1941, the municipal secretary informed the locals that the Germans had attacked and bombed Belgrade. Ivan was not yet 11 years old at the time. Within a week, the Yugoslav army capitulated. Dolenjska was occupied by Italians, who also settled in Ivančna gorica. Movement was allowed only a few kilometres from home. The partisans provoked the Italians, to which they responded with retaliatory measures. Ivan’s family was accused of collaborating with the occupier. They saw the visit of an Italian doctor who came to see Ivan’s sore leg as a sign of their cooperation. Because of his leg, Ivan needed to go to Ljubljana for an emergency operation.
There were increasing reports of partisans killing people, also in Stična and its surroundings. On 26 May 1942, Prof. Ehrlich was assassinated in Ljubljana. On that occasion, Ivan’s brother declared: “Now I am convinced that the partisans’ background is communist.”
Ivan’s brother Tone had fallen during the War as a member of the Home Guard. Also Vinko, his other brother, was a member of the Home Guard. In November 1943, after the German offensive, the family, living in constant fear, moved to Ljubljana. Ivan began attending general upper secondary school.
At the end of the War, they were convinced that they were only going into exile for a couple of weeks, but they left forever. They boarded a wagon and drove towards Kranj and then towards Tržič. In a few days they arrived at Viktring. Brother Vinko was there with the Home Guard and Ivan met him there once more. He was later returned to Yugoslavia and murdered.
Doctor dr. Janez Janež came to tell them what was happening to the returned members of the Home Guard. People in distress and grief resorted to prayer, the church in Viktring was full all the time. The Hauptmans were later transferred to the camp in Spittal. Ivan’s mother tried to persuade him to continue attending secondary school, but he was more interested in manual labour, so he attended a crafts school. He passed the precision mechanics exam and learned many things that were very useful to him later in his career.
When he arrived in the United States, he got a job at a scrapyard. He was later employed at a steel company for several years. Together with his friends, he employed his diligence and competence to establish Sunset Industries in 1959, which is today run by his sons Tone and Peter and their friends. They manufacture parts for automotive and aerospace industries.
Ivan’s parents died in 1954, six weeks apart. The pain was too much for them, as they had lost everything they created in Slovenia. Ivan married Pavla Arnež and they had four children: Tone, Metka, Marjanca and Peter.
Ivan was one of those post-war refugees who was deeply touched and marked by the war period. After arriving in North America he created large projects and was a successful entrepreneur, all the while preserving his modesty and love for the Slovenian language, nation, culture and homeland. He had a lot of friends, with whom he got along well. He was active in the Slovenian community, cultural life, Korotan choir and in the parishes of St. Vitus and Mary of the Assumption in Cleveland. He was known for his kindheartedness and also for being a great benefactor and patriot. He died on 18 March 2021 in Cleveland, aged 90.
Recorded: 14 October 2011, Cleveland (USA)
The conversation was led by: Marta Keršič and Mateja Čoh Kladnik, camera: Jelka Piškurić
Preparad for publication by: Marta Keršič and Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič