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Jožef Gorše

Jožef Gorše was born in January 1942 in Nadlesk in the Lož Valley municipality. A few months after his birth, on 5 June 1942, the Italians took the men from the villages of Nadlesk, Dane and Podcerkev to internment. Among the internees were also his father and uncle. They were taken to Ustica, an islet near Sicily. In June 1943, the internees were moved to Padua. After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, the Germans occupied this part of Italy and took the internees to the Belgian barracks in Ljubljana. There, they determined that Jožef’s father would go to Germany. The uncle could return home, but since the father was going to Germany, the uncle voluntarily joined him. Therefore, they were sent to Dachau. They worked in the labour camp in two 12-hour shifts, night and day. There were ditches around the factories, in which the prisoners hid in the event of an air strike. At the end of the War, 7000 internees were chased away 7 km from Dachau. Every exhausted internee was shot by the Germans. Jožef’s uncle almost died on the way. The group was then captured by Allied troops. When they came to a village, the inmates were so hungry that they ate chicken food and those who ate too much died. The Allies captured the internees as war prisoners and then transported them homewards by trains. The father and uncle returned home safely at the end of June 1945. Jožef’s uncle soon got a job, while Jožef’s father only found it after five years because he did not want to become a cooperative member. This was because he did not approve of the nationalisation and compulsory surrender, which severely affected the farmers. Jožef’s father worked in the forest at that time. He chopped wood and slaughtered pigs. In 1951, he got a job as a butcher and worked until his retirement.

Jožef attended primary school and lower general secondary school in Stari Trg. He was employed by the company Kovinoplastika Lož. From 1969 to 1996, he alternately served as commander and chairperson of the Volunteer Industrial Fire Brigade (PIGD) Kovinoplastika Lož and was actively involved in the Cerknica Firefighting Association as the sector commander. He participated in numerous voluntary activities in the Lož Valley and was the mayor of the Lož Valley municipality from 1999 to 2000. He has received many recognitions and decorations for his work in the Lož Valley municipality.

He was actively involved in the process of Slovenia’s strife for independence. Since as far back as 1968, the Lož Valley Territorial Defense (TD) weapons were stored in two locations: in the factories of the companies Kovinoplastika Lož and Gaber. Even before the Slovenian War of Independence, Jožef was a member of a light TD unit which was intended for a blockade against Italy and where he was a mobilisation officer. There was a military post at Rakek and two days a year they had military exercises where they got lists of TD weapons and checked to see if any pieces were missing. Nevertheless, the armament was still incomplete. In May 1990, when the Yugoslav People’s Army was collecting TD weapons in Slovenia, they also collected weapons at both Lož Valley locations. The weapons were mostly obsolete. In October 1990, when the national TD headquarters in Ljubljana were occupied, an acquaintance called Jožef to come to Kovinoplastika Lož. There, he helped unload weapons that had arrived from the area of Kočevska Reka, then went to Kočevska Reka to pick up a new shipment with two other defense department representatives. There was a storage of obsolete weapons, which were allegedly collected from the Germans and others who fled across the border to Carinthia after the War. They were, however, well maintained. The weapons were then stored in the premises of the company Kovinoplastika Lož. During the Slovenian War of Independance, Jožef was a member of the TD staff operating at the local community. The staff had been established earlier, e.g. when the YLA military exercises took place, the staff actively participated in the exercises. During the War of Independence, the staff had several departments: radio communications department, intelligence department (in each village there was a representative of the intelligence service), mobilisation department. During the military activity, the staff performed observation activity and orderly duty. They cooperated very well with the Croatian forces, which became active at that time. In this way, they were very well informed of various movements of the Yugoslav People’s Army in Croatia towards Slovenia. Jožef always said that the worst would happen once the weapons were used. He warned all those who took up positions to avoid the use of weapons, because once the conflict starts, it does not stop easily. Many YPA soldiers fled through these lands, who were then gathered in the former YLA barracks in Bloke. The local staff in the Loka Valley thus captured two refugees, who were successfully and happily returned home to Serbia and Kosovo. There were also two fatalities, but they were the result of an accident. As to the Slovenian War of Independence, he was most surprised that the local staff comprised people of different political beliefs, who all worked together in harmony. Each of them tried to protect the Loka Valley inhabitants as best they could.

Recorded: 10 May 2021, Nadlesk (Slovenia)

The conversation was led and recorded by: Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič

Preparad for publication by: Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič and Marta Keršič