Slovenia & Europe
Elizabeta Pleničar was born in 1922 in Vrhnika. Her brother, Tomaž, was returned from Carinthia and murdered in Kočevski Rog in 1945. At the end of the war, Elizabeta followed her fiancé, Dušan Pleničar, on a refugee journey. They got married in an army camp in Forlì. The Pleničar couple arrived in England in 1948 and started a life in London. Dušan had been born in 1921 in Litija. In addition to many other decorations, he was awarded the papal medal “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice”. He was the editor of the Klic Triglava (Call of Triglav) newspaper. He died on 4 December 1992.
Even as a child, Milko Mikola suffered the effects of the communist system and of the actions of its leaders, who took power in Slovenia in the aftermath of the Second World War. Though his father had been a German prisoner and both his parents had been part of the Partisan resistance movement during the war, the post-war totalitarian regime did not spare them. Due to the decreed mandatory handover, his mother’s detention and his father’s imprisonment, his family suffered greatly. As a result, his father and mother were no longer able to work the farm and sold it. In his father’s absence, Milko had to perform difficult farm work, during which he injured himself and was disabled for the rest of his life. He focused on his studies but was subjected to humiliation later, when he took up employment, too. Despite harsh conditions, he completed a doctorate in history and became the first director of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation. His main research interest was the study of post-war revolutionary violence in Slovenia, where he conducted pioneering work.
Tone Stele was born in 1924 in Tunjice near Kamnik. Like many other Slovene boys, he was drafted by force into the German army in 1943 and had to fight on the Eastern Front. From the day he had left for the army, he regularly wrote to his family. The letters, rich in content, demonstrate a great distress and suffering of the young man, who was forced to join an SS unit and fight in foreign lands. He had interrupted his education due to the war, and his short life ended in the distant Ukraine, where he fell in combat. A year later, his older brother, too, lost his life as a forced conscript.
Jože Strah was born in 1944 in the settlement of Ločica pri Vranskem. With vivid words, a rich memory, a critical assessment of social developments and drawing on his personal experiences, he takes us back in time to World War II and the period of socialism. As he writes in his recollections, “the post-war period was marked by many anomalies that fell on the shoulders of an impoverished population unknown to the present time. Life was very modest, or, to use a better term, miserable. As there was no money, people resorted to austerity at every turn, in some places even to the point of starvation.” His experiences will revive many people’s memories of the socialist times which Slovenia experienced for decades after the War.
Expert Symposium – THE THOUGHTS ON AN AUTONOMOUS AND INDEPENDENT SLOVENIA AMONG THE SLOVENIAN EMIGRANTS
Expert symposium titled The Thoughts on an Autonomous and Independent Slovenia Among the Slovenian Emigrants reveals through the prism of Slovenian political programmes in the Slovenian communities in the neighbouring countries and worldwide the directions of the development of Slovenian statehood that emerged among the emigrants after the end of World War II. It presents the parallels and divergences of the emerging programmes and their interactions as well as the reverberations in the homeland. Examining the activities of individuals and numerous Slovenian communities who significantly influenced the development of Slovenian independence, we learn about the actions of the post-war political emigrant communities in the light of the development of the idea of an autonomous, independent and sovereign state of Slovenia.
Anica Rahne (born Kožuh) was born in 1933 in Šujica (Dobrova near Ljubljana). There were nine children in the family. During the Italian occupation, the father and the oldest brother were sent to internment on the island of Rab and to other Italian camps. Two brothers disappeared in the post-war massacres and the father was imprisoned in Kočevje for four months after the War. Around that time, Anica learned to be a seamstress and got a job at the salon of Mrs. Škabar, a renowned fashion seamstress. The wives of Slovenian political figures, including Nada Vidmar and Pepca Kardelj, visited the salon. Anica recalls many shocking events from her parish that occurred during and after the War. Her optimism and deep faith helped her to survive life’s severe trials, from which she emerged richer and stronger.
Anton Golež was born in 1927 in Ljubljana. When he was a secondary-school student, he joined a Home Guard unit, graduated during the War, fled to Viktring in Carinthia, was returned and imprisoned in concentration camps, first in Kranj and later in Šentvid pri Ljubljani. As he was a minor, he was granted amnesty in August 1945. Later, he got employed, but the authorities did not validate his graduation for another two years. After the War, he met Marja Milač in Ljubljana. They married and had a family.
Marija Milač was born in 1929 in Prevalje and spent her childhood there. Then the family moved to Dravograd, where the father was the head of the municipal administration. Marija fled to Ljubljana as a 12-year-old girl during the German invasion of Yugoslavia. Maria’s brothers, who were secondary-school students at the time, were already staying in Ljubljana. Fearing the German occupation, other family members joined them as well. After the War, Marija fled to Carinthia. She stayed in the Viktring camp, together with her brother Metod. Her brother Ciril was repatriated and murdered by the Communist authorities. After the War, Marija returned to Slovenia and graduated from the Academy of Music.
Jože Gorenc was born in 1933 in the village of Mali Podlog near Krško. When he was eight, he and his family were exiled from their homeland and taken to a labour camp in Germany. He spent four years in several camps, performing various jobs and leaving there the most beautiful years of his childhood and youth. After returning home in June 1945, the family was not spared by the new Communist system either.
Jožef Gorše was born in 1942 in Nadlesk, in the municipality of Lož Valley. His father was sent to an Italian and later a German camp during World War II. He returned after the War, but because he did not want to become a member of a cooperative, he did not get a job for another five years. He was later employed as a butcher. Jožef educated himself in toolmaking and found employment at Kovinoplastika Lož, a company making plastic and steel products. He was a member Volunteer Industrial Fire Brigade (PIGD) Kovinoplastika Lož for 27 years. During the Slovenian War of Independence, he was a member of the Territorial Defense (TD) staff in the Lož Valley local community and actively participated in activities relating to Slovenia’s independence. All his life he was also an active member of various voluntary associations in the municipality, for which he received numerous decorations and awards. For one year, he was the mayor of the Lož Valley municipality.
Anton Ivanetič was born in 1937 in Semič. His father was first a member of the partisans, but later left and joined the civic guards. The wife was threatened that she would be killed if her husband did not report to the partisan command. When he did that, he never returned home again. He was missing since December 1943 and they never found out where he was killed. The family lived in great poverty. Despite the hardships of life, Anton always maintained good will and serenity.
Stanislav Novačan was interned in Gonars when he was a student, during the World War II, and after the end of the War he was sent as a teacher to the westernmost Slovenian village, Robidišče. He advocated for a cultural revitalization of village life until two members of Udba from Tolmin knocked on his door and took him to prison. As he did not want to cooperate with Udba, he was transferred to Borovnica as a punishment. There, his career continued, but under the Party’s supervision.
Antonija Marolt was born in 1926 in Horjul. Two of her brothers were victims of the revolution and its violence, one was murdered by the partisans in 1942 and the other was returned from Carinthia in 1945 and then murdered. His remains lie in an unknown location. Tončka was sentenced to death in May 1945, later exonerated from this sentence and imprisoned instead. She spent time in the camps in Šentvid nad Ljubljano, Kočevje, Teharje and Begunje na Gorenjskem. She returned home in 1948.
Jože Košir presents the story of his family and the fate of his parents Jožef Košir and Marija Košir, born Beber. His father Jožef Košir took an active part in the partisan movement during the War and afterwards served in KNOJ (People’s Defence Corps of Yugoslavia) and the Yugoslav People’s Army. He was arrested and interrogated on 21 November 1949 for allegedly participating in activities against the state. In December 1949, he was convicted. He served in various labour camps and prisons his sentence of 16-year imprisonment with forced labour and 5 years of civil rights’ loss.
In her testimony, Vida Vrhnjak presents the shocking story of her family, which lived in Pameče, and the whirlwind of War that turned their lives upside down. Her father went to work to Dolenjska, where he later became a Home Guard first lieutenant. After the War, he was murdered in unexplained circumstances. The mother was left alone with six children, aged 1 to 11. Despite poverty, harassment, and second-class status, the children managed to get educated and find employment. In 1990, Vida arranged for a memorial plaque for her murdered father to be placed on the church wall in Pameče.
In her memoirs, Kristina Kastelic (s. Lea) returns to the War period, which was difficult and painful for her and her family. At Turjak, they lost a son, Kristina’s brother Jože, who had to die instead of a close neighbour who was a civic guard commander. He later asked his Kristina’s mother for forgiveness and she forgave him. Kristina finds that faith and trust in God’s help helped them survive in difficult times.
Janez Marolt was born in February 1937. He had two more brothers and three sisters, one of whom died when their father was in exile. His father Štefan was one of the first to be imprisoned by the Italians in 1942, later he joined the civic guards and the Home Guard and after the War fled as a refugee to Carinthia. From there he fled to America. Later, the children and wife joined him, but his son Janez stayed at home to take care of the farm.
Kristina Lenc was born in December 1945, seven months after her father’s death. She is still collecting information about the fate of her father, a Polish national who was transported to Maribor as a prisoner of war in September 1944. On the night of 8 – 9 December 1945, he disappeared without a trace. Kristina assumes that he was murdered by the Germans and also speaks of the location where the remains of her father are supposed to be buried. She wants to set up a humble memorial for him.
In her story, Kristina Podkrižnik, born Pečar, presents the family of her father, who was imprisoned after the war in the camp in Šentvid nad Ljubljano. The mother and children stayed at home. They were imposed with compulsory provisions and high taxes, so they could barely keep the farm alive. Kristina’s brother Izidor remembers the trucks driving through their village, taking prisoners from Šentvid to the nearby forest. This happened after the end of the Second World War.
Avguštin Sadar faced poverty and scarcity as a child. He was faced with death three times: he joined the Home Guard during the war and was a refugee at the Vetrinj camp in Carinthia, and after the war, he was a war prisoner in a camp at the St. Stanislaus Institute in Šentvid. His trials strengthened him, so his narrative was still vigorous and full of vivid memories despite his ninety years of age.
The Spudič family – father, mother and five children – was taken to the concentration camp Strnišče pri Ptuju (Šterntal) after the war, because they were descended from Danube Germans. At that time, Matija was eight years old, but he remembers well all the hardships in the camp.
Spouses Matevž and Slavka Košir presently live in Suhi Dol, in the parish of Šentjošt nad Horjulom. Their story dates back to the time of the Second World War, when they were still children. They tell a story about the difficult situations that farmers were facing after the war, when Matevž and Slavka had to use their best efforts, courage and dedication in order to keep the Košir farm alive.
In her testimony, Breda Kavčič from Šentjošt nad Horjulom presents life during the Second World War and the post-war years, and she offers an interesting description of the living situation at the time of her schooling and service and emphasises the importance of remembering and talking about the past..
In his testimony, Matija Kavčič summarises the history of Šentjošt in the 20th century, ranging from the time before the First World War until the Second World War, and the emergence of village guards and later the Home Guard. He thoroughly presents the attempt by the post-war authorities to erase Šentjošt from the map of Slovenia, but the local residents resisted and remained masters of their land.
Julka Zelnik from Horjula never saw her father, since she was born two months after the Italians took him away. He was interned at the camp at Rab, in Renicci, and after the Italian capitulation, he was transported to the Flossenburg camp, to Germany, where he died. He left behind three young children, aged 5 years, 2 years and one year, and their mother.
In her testimony, Lidija Drobnič presents us her memories of the time when she was imprisoned as a student in Ferdreng – today Podlesje (formerly the closed-off area of Kočevje), where a women’s camp for socially useful work was founded in July 1949. The shocking memories point out the fact that, after the end of the Second World War, Slovenia was not a legal and democratic state and that it roughly violated human rights and dignity, in this case of women.
Helena Alenka Bizjak speaks of her father Franc, born in Trieste in 1911, from where the family fled to Maribor due to fascist persecution. Franc served as a postal worker in various places in Slovenia. He was a secretary in the Nanos association that connected Primorska emigrants. After the war, he was transferred to Gorica, where he was the director of the post office. He became a member of the party, but in 1966, UDBA removed him from this position.
The route of the couple Majda and Alojz Starman started in Slovenia. They both experienced the painful and sad moments of the war time. When after the World War II with a wave of refugees fled over Ljubelj, Majda was eight, and Lojze was twelve years old. They met in the Spittal camp and married there in 1958. They created a home and a family with six children in Spittal in Carinthia, not far from the location of the camp barracks.
Mirko Gogala found refuge in Argentina as a post-war refugee, and he made a great deal of good for the people assigned to him as a spiritual shepherd, both for Slovenians and Argentines. He did not make differences between the nations, he was talking about God’s glory. He achieved many honours in the Argentine Church as a prelate, a doctor of theology, a professor at various universities, but most of all meant to him the day when Bishop Rožman dedicated him to the priest, Christ’s deputy.
During the war, Valentin Mohar was pursued by the Italians, then a Partisan in the Prešeren Brigade, a guardian of the Kočevje Assembly of Delegates, a member of the Primorje Safety Guard, and a refugee in several camps after the war. The last route led him to England, where he created his family.
Jelka Mrak Dolinar, despite all the harsh tests, did not lose her solid backbone and remained faithful to her principles. As a witness of time, she has testified with countless articles, interviews, and above all her book Brazde mojega življenja (The Furrows of My Life), about the horrors and injustices that happened on the Slovenian soil in the interwar and post-war times.