Leigh Thompson, resident of Kozana in Goriška Brda

What is your association with Slovenia?

I met my future wife Katja in 1973 when I was studying Law and Arts at Melbourne University. We have been together ever since. We visited Slovenia in 1978 and again in 1980 when we were married in Ljubljana. We have returned many times and about 10 years ago we bought a house in Kozana near Katja's village Kojsko in Goriska Brda. We spend extended periods in Slovenia.

Where do you spend your time in Slovenia? Why?

We live in Brda. We spend time with Katja's father's people at Krnice on the mountain above Sp. Idrija. Beautiful scenery and a real farm with some cows and pigs and also the growing of herbs. I also like the villages over the border in Beneska Slovenija. But over the years we have been to most parts of the country. Next year we will go to Prekmurje.

Why do you want to spend time in Slovenija?

Even though it has changed over the years, I prefer it to Australia. I admire the culture and people strong enough to retain it in the face of attempts by others such as Italian or German fascists to destroy it. People are more polite than in Australia. And then of course there are the women.. After all I married one! Maybe I should write an essay devoted to Slovene women...

There is no crime where I live and I enjoy village life.

Several years ago I discovered the story of British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers escaping from Prisoner of War camps in Maribor, Australia and Italy and then being rescued by the Slovenian partisans. Some of these men wrote books about their experiences. I accessed documents from archives in Australia, UK and Slovenia. Hundreds of these men along with hundreds more crashed air crews and French forced labourers were rescued by the partisans and the village people who supported them at risk to their lives.

The photo shows me giving a speech with the sons of a New Zealand soldier rescued by the partisans.

What are the differences between Slovenian and Australian culture?

With the internet and international travel, the differences between the cultures reduce daily. But there are still differences.  I've always thought that people in authority have been accorded more respect in Slovenia than Australia purely by virtue of their position whether they be politicians or professional people such as lawyers.

The Slovenes have never been assertive about the value of their culture. There are probably historical reasons for this. But I've always been interested almost to a micro level even though Slovenes are rather shy about promoting themselves. Not all tourists are interested in casinos or big hotels. Just in my village is a 'samostan' from the 1600's, old houses from 1700, a building used as a hospital in World War 1 and the village Sv Rok festival.

Of course Australia doesn't have the dialects of Slovenia which is one of its charms.

Was it hard to get a residence permit?

It was easy for me as my wife and son Andrej are citizens of Slovenia. Just remember that all your Australian documents need to be officially translated into the Slovenian language.

What is your impression of the Slovenian clubs in Melbourne?

I have been to all the clubs at one time or another. In more recent years my son was dancing with the Folkloric group and we often went to the clubs. But now he is studying in Canberra, we don't go anymore. They are a fair way from our house. But I visit Slovene friends. Last weekend we were with Romana Zorzut and her husband Frank in Northern Victoria.

Can you share your best and worst experiences in Slovenia?

I have had many wonderful experiences in Slovenia.

I bought the house without seeing it and arrived with my small son. Of course the kitchen was a wreck, there was no heating and we had no beds. The local people of course wanted to know what was going on. So my friend from Kojsko explained that I was an impractical idiot but I was basically OK. She told them that I was an 'advocat' in Australia ( they weren't impressed with this ) but I didn't look down on people. So somebody suggested that if I confessed that in Brda I wasn't an 'advocat' but just an 'osel', they would help me...so I confessed.

I have had no bad experiences in Slovenia but I would like to say that the last couple of years have been very bad for the country. Young people are pessimistic about the future. Politicians are believed to belong to an exclusive club. I have no idea about the extent of corruption but it is perceived to be significant. People often say that they have been betrayed by a fantasy of democracy where the result has been a wider gap between rich and poor.

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