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Julka Zelnik, born Rožmanec

Julka Zelnik, born Rožmanec, was born in Horjul in 1942. Her father Andrej bought an old mill with some land in Horjul and married Marija Nagode from Podolnica in 1937. The father was making a living buying agricultural products from farmers in the surrounding villages and then selling them in Ljubljana. He had regular clients to whom he was always fair, so he was very respected. Andrej and Marija had three children. Their son Jože was born in 1938, daughter Marija in 1941 and another daughter Julka in 1942. Before the birth of Julka, the father was arrested by the Italians, who took him to a camp, first to Rab, then to Renicci. After the Italian capitulation, he was transferred to the Flossenburg camp in Germany. He worked in a quarry and he had an accident, so he had to be hospitalised. The doctor prescribed him a special diet, but a local was stealing the food from him. He also did not receive the packages sent to him by his wife. This was the reason for his death. This was later revealed by the inmates, the locals who were imprisoned along with Andrej.

The family learned about the father’s death by mail. From that point on, the situation at home worsened. The mother took over the mill and the craft. In 1951, she severely injured her arm at work and became partially disabled. Her wound also caught an infection, so it is a miracle she survived. The kids stayed alone with their ill mother. They were 12, 9 and 8 years old when they had to take over the craft. They milled, weighed and recorded the incoming bags all on their own. Constant inspections of their craft were carried out. On one occasion, the children were unable to load a bag onto the scales, because it was too heavy, even if they tried to move it all at once. For the unweighed bag, their mother received imprisonment and a fine. She had no money, and she was planning on settling the fine by selling a lamb and piglets that were about to be born. The home parish priest Nastran lent her the money. She paid the fine.

After a few months, she received a letter to report to the police in Vrhnika. She didn’t know what they were going to accuse her of this time. They ridiculed her and did not tell her the reason why she was cuffed. Finally, they said she was arrested for not paying the fine. By the grace of God, she had a certificate for the payment of the fine. Her questioning went on late into the night. The children were waiting at home frightened and worried about their mother. When she came home, they could barely open the door because they feared that the police would come looking for them as well.

The children were neglected and harassed in school, by one teacher in particular. They never received a gift from Father Christmas. Their slippers and school bags were all made of corn straw, and they had to make them by themselves. They were poorly clothed, and they had to pick blueberries, mushrooms and herbs to buy notebooks and books. Although they were very clever and able to learn, they had no opportunities for education. By their will alone did they come to their professions and then to employment.

They only received a paltry compensation for their father, since they were unable to prove to the local committee that their father was on the ‘right side’ when the Italians interned him. They even heard that if he hadn’t died in the camp, they would have just ‘wiped him out’ in his home town. Even though they were poor and modest, no beggar was sent away hungry from their house. They remembered their mother’s words: “If you can’t do a good deed for someone, you shouldn’t do a bad one either!”

Recorded: May 2019, Horjul, (Slovenia)

Conversation was led by: Marta Keršič, Camera: Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič

Preparad for publication by: Marta Keršič and Mirjam Dujo Jurjevčič