Slovensko društvo Melbourne celebrates its 60th anniversary

These days the Slovenian community in Melbourne is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its largest organisation, the Slovenian Association Melbourne. All current and potential members are invited to join in celebrations that will start on Saturday, 29 November, and end on Sunday, 30 November. The program is available on the Association's website.

On 5 December 1954, the first meeting that led to the formal opening of the club on 19 December, was attended by 26 members who agreed to call it 'Slovenian Club Melbourne' and set out to define its purpose. The organisation was established with the view of:

  • helping fellow Slovenians integrate in the Australian way of life;
  • helping Slovenian migrants in all ways, including financially;
  • helping Slovenian refugees from Europe;
  • providing members and their friends with cultural, social and sports  activities that are healthy, intellectual and/or physical, and
  • promoting, developing and upholding the Slovenian cultural heritage while contributing to the Australian community.

Today, these lofty aims are just as relevant as they were 60 years ago. Their interpretation, however, needs to embrace the current situation in which:

  • new Slovenian migrants who are arriving now could still use some friendly help;
  • many initial members and their friends are now in their 80s or even 90s and some, especially those with no family, need help (perhaps even financial help); and
  • the current political situation in Slovenia is still generating refugees even if they do not need to fear imprisonment and death. Having no job or hope of a better future creates economic migrants who find themselves moving overseas due to the political situation in the country. Helping them adjust in Australia remains just as relevant today as it was then. True, they come better educated and better prepared for their new life in Australia. They mostly speak English well and don't need this basic assistance. But their first year in Australia is just as hard as it was for those who arrived earlier and they experience the same sense of being too far away from everything familiar even if the circumstances are now different.

Throughout its history, the Slovenian Association Melbourne has been very active and successful in promoting the Slovenian culture and language in the Slovenian and Australian community. Publications, sports sections and events, concerts, Slovenian language schools, radio broadcasts, exhibitions, historic archives and many many functions have left a lasting effect on our community and created our common history.

Many members dedicated a lot of their free time to contribute to this history. Their hard work will never be forgotten.

While contemplating the past and trying to envision the future we should not forget to focus on the present. Our present moment is just as precious as our past and our future.

Slovensko društvo Melbourne, congratulations and happy celebrations!

Slovenia, where are you heading?

Speaker of the Slovenian National Assembly, Dr Milan Brglez, recently gave a comprehensive interview in Mladina in which he outlined the direction the current government will pursue during its mandate. While the interview presents him as a sensible scholar who carefully weighs his ideas and genuinely cares about the future of Slovenia, he makes several references that seem quite radical.

The parts of the interview that particularly stand out include:

  • Sympathizing with the United Left (Združena levica), an extreme left party that surprisingly won six seats in the last elections, even though Dr Brglez makes it clear that their ideas, especially their call for a revolution, might be unrealistic at this point in time;
  • Suggestion that children in primary school should start learning 'Serbo-Croatian'. The so-called 'Serbo-Croatian' language ceased to exist a long time ago, being replaced by Serbian,  Croatian and Bosnian. The question of Slovenians being forced to speak the above languages in their communications with the former Yugoslav government was always a sore political issue. Is this yet another indication that revival of Yugoslavia is again on agenda?
  • Suggestion that following the Swiss model of governance the Slovenian government of the future should be run by less than seven persons. In the last local elections, Slovenia with the population of two million people elected mayors to 212 local councils. The current government has fourteen plus two ministries. While the Slovenian administration currently appears overweight, the government of less than seven key persons is such a radical departure from the current situation that it may put already weak democracy in Slovenia under the question mark;
  • Dr Brglez makes not one but two references to Slavoj Žižek, probably the most successful Slovenian intellectual export to the West. In his own words, Žižek is a communist, a radical leftist and an admirer of Josef Stalin. To learn more about Slavoj Žižek please watch the video below (in English).

Jacqueline Bender on bee keeping, cheese making and her Slovenian background

You are doing lots of interesting things. Could you please tell our readers about your interests? 

I’m very interested in locally produced food. I think the more we can make and grow ourselves, the better it is for our environment and our health. It’s also fun and satisfying to make things, and you can make great friendships along the way by joining a community garden, a bee club or buying & swapping veggies with neighbours.

I make lots of things from scratch, including bread and cheese. I also teach cheese making classes. I keep bees and chickens in my backyard in Melbourne.  

Funnily enough, my passion for bee keeping actually reconnected me with a Slovenian club in the area. The Jadran Slovenian club in Diggers Rest hosts a bee meeting once per month. I was a regular at this club when I was a kid, going to dances and even performing in a Slovenian band (I played harmonika and drums). But, the band finished and I lost touch with the club. I hadn’t been there for over 10 years until I joined the bee group.

My website is called DIY Feast, and I write about cheese making, bee keeping and gardening.

From which part of Slovenia did your parents/grandparents come?

My mum grew up in Kalobje, which is a village about 20 minutes drive from Celje. My dad is Australian, from Polish heritage.

My grandmother was born in Šentrupert (which is a short, but very hilly – and hard! – bike ride away from Kalobje). My grandfather lived in Kalobje and my grandmother moved there when they married.

When and why did they migrate  to Australia?

My grandparents migrated to Australia in 1960, with their 3 young children.

At this time, there were incentives to move to Australia. Land was cheap, there was plenty of work and they were offered a free journey by ship. So even though it took 3 months to get here, and they didn’t speak English, they went for the opportunity.

After 8 years, Slovenia called my grandmother home and she has been living there ever since. My mother and her sisters go back to visit every few years.

Have you been to Slovenia? How many times? Where do you usually stay when you visit?

I’ve been to Slovenia twice. When I was 12, I went with my mum and we lived there for 3 months. I went again this year for 5 weeks in August/September.

Both times I stayed at my grandparents’ house in Kalobje. It was such a great experience for me. I met my mother’s many cousins and they opened up their hearts and homes to me, even though we hadn’t seen each other for 17 years!

I feel really lucky to have experienced village life in Slovenia. It was completely new and different for me.

Do you speak Slovenian? How did you communicate with Slovenians in Slovenia?

Ne govorim Slovensko. I learnt a little bit when I was there and I’m studying it now in Melbourne.

Sometimes communication was difficult. I could talk about simple stuff: how are you, where are we going etc. but it was disappointing that I couldn’t communicate well enough to get to know people.

I was travelling with my aunty, who speaks Slovenian. That helped a lot. When I wanted to talk about something more complicated, she would translate. But, when you’re out with friends and having a good time, it’s not so easy to always be translating. So there was still a communication barrier.

To try to overcome this, to show, instead of tell, people a bit more about myself, I played harmonika. My grandfather has a harmonika and when people came visiting, after eating salami and drinking blueberry šnapse, I would play. It really helped! It created a connection between us.

It was also surprising for them to see an Australian playing Slovenian folk music. I often got comments like: “How can you play our music but you can’t speak Slovenian?”

How do you feel about Slovenia and being Slovenian?

I feel grateful that I have a connection with Slovenia.

Life in Slovenia is so different from life in Australia. I can see why my grandmother missed it, and why my mother has a bit of her heart in both places. There’s beauty to both of them.

I loved my time there earlier this year. I feel I was really able to embrace the spirit of the place: of Kalobje, of the people who live there, of the mountains (I went on lots of mountain walks and trekked up Ojstrice), of the natural wonders like Vintgar river and the forests where I went looking for gobe.

I feel I want to connect more with my Slovenian roots, by learning Slovenian and going back for another visit.

Are you a member of a Slovenian organisation? If not, why not?

No, I’m not. I’ve just never explored it.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to visit Slovenia again and speak Slovenian fluently. I would be interested in working on organic farms in Slovenia and Italy (I’m learning Italian too).

I would like to start a small farm on a couple of acres, focusing on growing vegetables, fruit and herbs, with several bee hives. It could be in Australia or overseas.

In the short term I’m going to continue making cheese, like camembert and blues, and having fun with my bees.

The EU says 'No' to the former prime minister of Slovenia

Alenka Bratušek, former prime minister of Slovenia, nominated herself while still holding her former position to become the next Slovenian commissioner in the EU Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU delegates, however, overwhelmingly rejected her bid to the position with 112 votes against and only 13 in her support.

The EU Commission is the most powerful institution in Brussels and its 28 commissioners, one from each member state, draft laws and policy for the EU. The Commission chief, Mr Juncker, was concerned with the number of women in his government and nominated Ms Bratušek to the position of a vice-president for energy. 

Ms Bratušek appeared at a hearing on Monday in which she was expected to provide her plans and vision for the reforming and reorganising Europe’s energy policy into a new European Energy Union. Unfortunately she failed to convince the EU delegates that she was competent and able to provide leadership in such an important portfolio.

The new prime minister Mr Miro Cerar promised to respond to this embarrassing situation by nominating another candidate within three days. AFP mentions Violeta Bulc as the likely candidate.

Youth Concert in Melbourne

Last Saturday the Slovenian Catholic Mission in Melbourne, Victoria, hosted the 40th Slovenian Youth Concert. This year's slogan was 'Slovenian at Heart'.

The program was opened by Father Ciril Božič, Head of Slovenian Mission in Kew. In his speech he expressed his desire shared by the Slovenian community in Australia to connect the new and the old generations. "Young people are our wings, older ones are our roots.Without wings and without roots we don't know who we are and where we should go," he said.

Father Ciril's speech was followed by the screening of film "40 Years - Turning Back the Clock" and 26 performances by young and not so young singers, dancers and guitarists, pianists, flutists, etc.

A visitor from the audience commented: "My congratulations to all young performers: they were well prepared and offered a diverse program, including playing different instruments, such as the guitar, the keyboard, the harph, the flute, the piano, to classical ballet, modern ballet, solo singing and dancing to Slovenian folk songs in national costumes. They offered us rich and proud performances - they are the future of Slovenians."

Father Ciril Božič and Mr Alfred Brežnik (Photo: Florjan Auser)
Young performers in national costumes (Photo: Florjan Auser)

Going back in time - End of WWII in Tolmin

by Andrej Obleščak (Excerpt from his biography)

On 1 May 1945, partisan troops entered Tolmin. From Kranjc's balcony on the square, Trg 1. maja, speakers followed one another and claimed victory over fascism and Nazism. The people gathered under the balcony clapped and shouted. For us, the Tolminians, all this shouting and exclaiming different slogans was a novelty; but there were many from the nearby villages who understood what this was all about. At this gathering I heard for the first time exclamations like: "Long live People's Republic Yugoslavia under the leadership of Marshal Tito and the Communist Party!"

This was followed by evening meetings, parades with torches and endless speeches in which we were promised heavenly life in the blissful future of socialism under the leadership of the Communist Party and irreplaceable Marshal Tito at its helm.

A few days after this so-called liberation, all menfolk of Tolmin, including my father, were called to the Administration Office. They kept them there for two or three days for interrogations. I believe this was a manoeuvre to instil fear  in the mighty opposition of the socialist system. Jakč Škulerjev, my aunt Marija's husband, had been an administrative head, the council secretary. He, mayor Devetak and all counsellors were given notice. The administration was taken over by the Army Committee to control the whole left Soča bank, including Tolmin. This area was called Zone B.

The right Soča bank was under the military administration of the Anglo-American Army and was called Zone A.

Photo: Damjan Leban
In 1946, my father was relieved of his postman job because he was physically healthy and could do some other more physical work. His postman job was given to a war invalid.

As my father could not get another job in Tolmin, he went to Moste near Žirovnica where a new dam on the river Sava was being built for an electricity plant. My father worked there as a blacksmith (his trade) until the end of 1947. In the new year, he returned home and found a job in the newly created building company "Edinost". He worked there until his retirement in 1957.

In 1946, Tolmin was upgraded from a square to a town. Not only that, Tolmin became the district town, covering the area from Trenta to Solkan and Idrija and the whole Vipava Valley. As a result, an enormous number of new offices and officers appeared. An unbelievable number of semi educated village people came to Tolmin to shuffle papers. For every issue they kept sending you from one office to another and everywhere were long queues. As there were so many new people in Tolmin, there was not enough housing. They created a Housing Committee which came and checked your house to determine how many lodgers each owner should take. We already had Aunt and were required to take another two persons to live in one room. Before the war we had lodgers out of need, now we had them out of duty. My father paid off the mortgage before the end of the war and no longer needed lodgers. On the other hand, we children were growing and were in need of more room. The Committee decreed that two bedrooms were enough for us and that our sister could sleep in the bedroom with our parents. 

As the socialist economy didn't prove to be very profitable, the government issued a law on compulsory contributions. A Committee visited all farmers, checked how much land they owned and decreed on the paper how much produce they were expected to grow. From this produce, each farmer was required to sell the set amount to the government for the price the government dictated. The Committee did not take into account droughts or bad seasons; there were many farmers who were not left with enough produce to feed their families after compulsory contribution. The Committee came to visit us, peasants, too. They counted our sheep (3), the goat (1), the pig (1), chickens (20), rabbits (25) and in the end left convinced that we did not have enough for compulsory contribution.

In 1950, the parliament adopted a law on the establishment of farmers co-operatives. The idea was to join all small farms into big farms and work them with modern farming machinery, such as tractors, harvesting machinery. The planners, however, forgot that fields required total care, not only eight hours per day, 40 hours per week. At the time of harvesting when wheat is ready, harvesting goes on until all wheat is harvested. At that time, the government liberated us of our big field in Učenk. They left us the small field at Logar's to work on it for another two years, but then they took this away as well and used it as a parking lot for farming attachments.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

The Slovenian is celebrating its first anniversary as an independent online magazine. It has grown from an unknown website on the net to a magazine with a loyal following from Australia, Slovenia, the USA and many other countries around the world. 

The main reason for its success are you, dear readers, and your willingness to participate as interviewees or commentators. Your contributions make this magazine really interesting. 

Let me take this opportunity to invite you again to become more involved: please tell us your story - tell other Slovenians, wherever they live, about your life. All your stories are invaluable: about your contributions to the community in Australia, your adventures on the way from Slovenia, or your struggles when trying to settle in this (or any other) country, regardless of the time of your arrival. Mind you, those who are migrating now have equally interesting stories to those who arrived fifty years ago!

Even though many among us migrated a long time ago, we mostly still have quite strong feelings for Slovenia. We wish it well and want it to be a good and happy country. For me personally it is painful to see so many injustices, lies, fraudulent actions and corruption happening there. If you wish to express your views about the state of affairs in Slovenia, this magazine would like to hear from you too!

To contribute a story, an idea for a story or your comment please contact: I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Who is afraid of Slovenians in Australia?

In 1938, Orson Welles narrated an adaptation of H.G.Well's novel The War of the Worlds on American radio. The story was presented as a series of realistic news bulletins which made many people think that an invasion of aliens from Mars was in progress in America. The show did issue a disclaimer at the beginning but listeners who tuned in later believed an actual invasion was taking place which resulted in panic as some people fled their homes. In the aftermath, Orson Welles got away without punishment but radio networks were never to repeat such an experiment again.

I am often reminded of this story when I read Slovenian papers.

On 20 August, Aleksander Lucu of Nedeljski Dnevnik claimed in his column (with no disclaimer) that donors from Australia contributed $350,000 in cash to support the SDS election campaign or, as he puts it, 'our side'.

Another fascinating Lucu's claim in the same article relates to Nicholas Oman who allegedly went to jail in 2006 to evade Russian, Singaporean and Serbian debtors in armament deals. According to Aleksander Lucu, Oman holds documents that show most reliably who in Slovenia has hidden accounts, properties and other assets in Australia.  This is why he had to be discredited, together with recalled ambassador Balažic. Balažic's recall, on the other hand, was allegedly carried out on an order from 'above' by president  Borut Pahor about whom, claims Lucu, specific party intelligence people hold such damaging materials that he is the victim of their blackmail.

Aleksander Lucu is also a keen promoter of the story about Janša's clinic in Australia according to which the SDS leader is allegedly building a clinic for his physician wife in Australia. No matter how many times this story is repudiated, Slovenian media is again and again only too happy to bring it back to life.

In Slovenia, the Media Act in Article 8 clearly states that "it is forbidden to spread contents that incite ethnic, racial, religious, sexual or any other inequality; violence and war; and to provoke ethnic, racial, religious, sexual or other hatred and intolerance".

What is lying other than incitement to hatred and intolerance? Where did Lucu get the information that Australians donated $350,000 for the SDS election campaign? If Aleksander Lucu wished to find out the truth it would be easy enough. Living among Australian Slovenians  for a short period of time - and here I mean living among them rather than frantically searching for people who might be willing to hint at the existence of the phantom clinic - would inform him that Australian Slovenians are not involved in Slovenian politics enough to donate ANY amount of money, let alone a large sum like this. While it is impossible to say what individuals may have done, there was definitely no public fund raising for any Slovenian politician in 2014. 

Slovenian perception of Australia might be that this is such a rich country that dollar notes grow on trees (and Lucu is trying to tap into this potential perception) but let me tell you that in my garden trees grow only leaves and I have to work hard to make money. Like everyone else.

Who is or was Nicholas Oman is very easy to find out, just Google his name: there is even a Wikipedia page about him. What documents could he possibly hold? If they existed we would have known all about them by now. Recalled ambassador Balažic has been only too keen to shame and blame everyone who dared to raise his or her concerns about his role in this miserable affair which is and remains of his own making only.

If the part of Lucu's article that relates to our community is so remote from any resemblance of truth, what else can be said about the rest of his writing? If his editors are happy to publish stories that are not true and not verified, what does this tell us about Nedeljski Dnevnik?  If this is the face of Slovenian media, how can anyone believe in anything they say?

Let me finish with a comment I received from one of my readers from Slovenia: "I find it wonderful that such a 'small' community (Australian Slovenian) is still interested in reality and search for the truth, and tries to differentiate between right and wrong. Here, this is so blurred that one can no longer orientate oneself. You can follow one of the streams that you select or go with some kind of common sense. Many people follow this path - but when you talk to them you can see that even here there is no unity but rather a wide range of very different views. There is no discipline - in anything."

What about hope? Is there still any hope?

Slovenia has new Prime Minister

Photo: Borut Peršolja
Mr Miro Cerar has been sworn in as the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia. He will form the new government in the next two weeks with his left-wing coalition partners DeSUS and SD.

In his speech, Mr Cerar rejected any suggestion that he won illegitimate elections as claimed by Janez Janša's party SDS and presented general principles that should guide his new government. Slovenia has all human and other resources to become a successful country, he said. The new government should inspire trust in public administration by respecting the rule of law and basic values. According to Mr Cerar, all citizens should be aware that the rule of law is an important social value.

"Respect for the rule of law means that the economy and the banking sector have instruments in place that prevent transgressions. The rule of law means that public tenders and public institutions in general are free of corruption. The rule of law means that within the framework of constitution and laws judiciary is independent and autonomous."

The opposition now unites parties as diverse as radical left Zdužena levica; Zavezništvo Alenke Bratušek; and Nova Slovenija and SDS as the two right-wing parties. With the exception of ZaAB, the new opposition members of the National Assembly did not give their support to the new Prime Minister. Their main objection is that Mr Cerar in his speech did not offer any specific and quantified measures that should take Slovenia out of its current crisis.

As a matter of our local interest, Slovenian weekly Reporter brought news of the recalled ambassador Balažic who was seen seated at the table with other prominent members of Nova Slovenia who participated in a debate at the recent party meeting in Radenci. Milan Balažic allegedly joined the party in January this year despite, or perhaps because of, his former membership in the Slovenian communist party and close relations with Milan Kučan.

Nova Slovenija seems to be a party of interest for many, including the new Prime Minister Mr Cerar who was visibly disappointed when NSi decided not to join his coalition. Mr Cerar who is currently the most popular Slovenian politician in all opinion polls has been recently at great pains to present himself through his former wives and his current partner as a practising Catholic.

Encounter Europe Scholarships for Australian students - by German Academic Exchange Service

The two-week course "Encounter Europe - Visit Germany. A DAAD Seminar for Students from Australia and New Zealand at the European Academy Otzenhausen" is held in cooperation with the ASKO Europa Stiftung (AES), Murdoch University and other renowned partners in Germany and Australia.

The course offers an exciting opportunity for students – from the fields of law, politics, international relations, European studies or similar subjects – wanting to improve their understanding of contemporary European affairs and legislative regulations, organised by the European Academy Otzenhausen, the University of New England and the DAAD.

The course is open to Australian or New Zealand advanced undergraduates and graduates enrolled at an Australian or New Zealand university and will be held in English.

Please note that the travel allowance has been increased to EUR 600 this year.

Applications from advanced students of all subjects will be accepted, provided they have completed at least two years of university education at the beginning of the Course and have a demonstrated academic interest in German and European affairs. Graduates and Ph.D. students may also apply.
Applicants must be enrolled at an Australian or New Zealand university. They must either be Australian or New Zealand nationals.
Applicants must not be younger than 19 years at the beginning of the course.

The deadline is September 1Students can find an application pack as well as further information on our website:

Two easy measures to dramatically improve the level of democracy in Slovenia

Slovenian democracy could seriously benefit from just two easy measures that every literate Slovenian can master in no time:

1. Promptly answer your emails.

When I send an email to my friend in England she answers within 24 hours. When I communicate with the Australian government, I receive at least an acknowledgement within 24 hours.

When I contact people in Slovenia, they don't answer. Or they do, but a few weeks later. Or perhaps a month or two later. Or never.

There are so few exceptions that they simply confirm the rule. But what kind of rule is this? Why don't they answer their email? Are they too busy? Are they perhaps trying to tell me that they can't be bothered? That I'm not important enough to deserve a prompt answer?

In a functioning democracy, all people are equal before the law. This rule is much more than just a rule. It is an attitude, a state of mind that should be adopted by every single Slovenian in our daily life. All people that I meet on the local bus, on highway, at work are equal. We are all equal. By answering emails promptly I show that I understand and apply this rule. That I truly believe in democracy.

2. Start using 'I' rather than 'we' in formal correspondence.

If you take a look at any formal letter from Slovenia, you will notice that the writer never takes direct responsibility for his or her own writing but always hides behind the collective 'we'.

'We would like to inform you', 'we believe', 'in our opinion', etc. Who is this 'we'? Why 'we'? It is understandable when the writer actually represents a group of people who all sign the letter. But when the writer is one and only and there is just one signature, the use of 'we' is questionable.

Is this the royal we, employed by persons of high office such as a monarch or pope? Or an attempt to sound like it? Or perhaps a sign of inferiority complex? Of a need to appear like a multitude rather than just one person?

Or is this perhaps a way to spread responsibility, to avoid accountability? If I say 'we would like to ask you' I am telling you that I am just a messenger and not the decision maker.

But when I sign a letter I have to stand by what I say. It is my responsibility to make sure that the details of my correspondence are correct. I take pride in issuing the letter and I take responsibility for its content.

Just a little shift from 'we' to 'I' could make a huge difference in everyone's minds. Why not try it? 

Slovenian physical education teacher Metod Klemenc behind International Children Games

Lake Macquarie will host the International Children Games, a member of the International Olympic Committee, in December 2014. The ICG are the largest youth games in the world. Young athletes aged between 12 and 15 years will come from all over the world to compete and make friends with their peers in Lake Macquarie.

The Games started in 1968 when physical education teacher Metod Klemenc organised the 1st International Children Games in Celje with participants from Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Croatia.

Since that time, the Games have been organised by many cities around the world, including in Logrono, Spain; Szombathely, Hungary; Hamilton, Canada; Cleveland, USA; Bangkok, Thailand; Taipei, Taiwan, among many others. This year, the Games will take place in Lake Macquarie, Australia, for the first time.

The Games are not only about sport, they are also meant to facilitate friendship and cooperation among children from diverse cultures.

For the Games in Lanarkshire in 2011, Metod Klemenc, the father of the Games, gave an interesting interview (in English).

Words of wisdom from an old master (C. G. Jung: Man and His Symbols)

"The communist world, it may be noted, has one big myth (which we call an illusion, in the vain hope that our superior judgment will make it disappear). It is the time-hallowed archetypal dream of Golden Age (or Paradise) where everything is provided in abundance for everyone, and a great, just and wise chief rules over the human kindergarten. This powerful archetype in its infantile form has gripped them, but it will never disappear from the world at the mere sight of our superior points of view. We even support it by our own childishness, for our Western civilisation is in the grip of the same mythology. Unconsciously, we cherish the same prejudices, hopes, and expectations. We too believe in the welfare state, in universal peace, in the equality of man, in his eternal human rights, in justice, truth, and (do not say it too loudly) in the Kingdom of God on Earth.

"The sad truth is that man's real life consists of a complex and inexorable opposites - day and night, birth and death, happiness and misery, good and evil. We are not even sure that one will prevail against the other, that good will overcome evil, or joy defeat pain. Life is a battleground. It always has been, and always will be; and if it were not so, existence would come to an end." (p.73)

Open letter to Slovenian media in relation to Balažic's revelations

Dear Slovenians,

We follow all articles and video reports in relation to the former ambassador in Australia Dr. Milan Balazic.

His statements have been changing and adjusting to fit his "stories" on a daily basis.

We, Australian Slovenians, were outraged when Nicholas Oman appeared at the opening of the consulate in Melbourne. We made written protests to the ministers and the government of the Republic of Slovenia as well as the Australian government and sent letters to Slovenian media and the Australian Slovenian radio program in the days immediately after the opening of the consulate, on 11th, 12th and 13th March 2014.

In the first week after the opening, Dr Balažic stated clearly on the SBS Radio that he met Nicholas Oman only twice at the Embassy in Canberra: when the man applied for his Slovenian passport and when he issued him with the passport. Oman's appearance at the opening was "mere coincidence", as his daughter did not respond to the invitation.

It is polite to respond to an invitation from the Embassy by confirming your arrival or by apologising. Oman's daughter did not do that; instead, her father just appeared - as he appeared on the "draft" guest list among other distinguished invitees and consular representatives. 

Ms Patricia Oman is not known among Slovenians in Australia. Many educated Slovenians of the second and third generation, however, are known (including doctors, surgeons, scientists, artists, lawyers, teachers, physicists, mathematicians, etc.) - they are distinguished and proud Slovenians who would equally deserve an invitation, but Derry Maddison as the new Honorary Consul for Victoria and Peter Mandelj who put together proposals for the guest list for Victoria decided to overlook them. They just blindly said yes please, as always. 

The former ambassador also claims that he sat at the table with Derry Maddison, the new Honorary Consul, Nicholas Oman and Peter Mandelj only for a minute. As photos show, the ambassador had lunch at their table. In his account on TVSLO Na tretjem... the former ambassador first tells us that he spent there just one short minute while waiting for his turn to make a speech (witnesses said he did not have a speech, only a short greeting) and then he says that the sausages were cold and stale! What an inconsistency! But nobody asks him how come that until now he has been telling a different story! Two conflicting statements in one breath.

In his accounts on other TVSLO channels, the former ambassador says that people in Australia became frightened as he, the ambassador, knew too much about arms dealings so they invented the story about Oman. Why would Slovenians invent a story abut Oman and his presence at the opening? Oman was there, what was there to invent!?!

The former ambassador who weeks ago publicly claimed he only met Nicholas Oman twice has now several times publicly admitted, including in his press conference, talks for the media and on TV, that they'd had contacts, talks and meetings since June 2013. They were even planning to travel to Slovenia together last Christmas!

And the oil fields! If the oil fields and Oman's participation in this affair were a diplomatic secret how could then Slovenians in Victoria know about all this and "become so frightened" to "invent" a story about him?

As to the "informal organisation of SDS party" in Australia, the former ambassador did not provide any evidence or members' names. To which part of the community in Australia does his claim refer? Who are the members? Where is any evidence of such an informal organisation?

If there are people who sympathise with this party, there is nothing wrong with this, this is democracy, right? What has sympathising individuals with any party in Slovenia to do with the former ambassador?

The Slovenian community is not divided to any parties. In this case our purpose was to react to the presence of Nicholas Oman at the opening of the consulate! We asked the former ambassador for an explanation but never received one.

Dr. Balažic now in Slovenia points out that he received honorary membership in Slovenian clubs and that there are Slovenians with spine in Australia who stood at his side. Well, yes, he did receive an honorary membership in the Slovenian Club Canberra which is one of the smaller Slovenian organisations in Australia. Regardless of its size, however, the decision to confer the honorary membership was made so much in advance that once the affair was under way the club president could no longer call it off. It was indeed given to him. In one club. At the same time, the former ambassador was no longer welcome in any club in Melbourne or in Sydney. Due to his lies and pretences the Slovenian community turned against him. Who are the former ambassador's friends in Australia now?

We are appalled by evidence provided in the last few weeks which showed that the former ambassador cooperated in the time of his service in Australia with a person who is well known in the world for his shadowy affairs. - He was offered blood money!!! The ambassador was negotiating and dealing with him. Moreover, he calls him a great patriot! If Nicholas Oman is such a generous patriot, how come that with the outbreak of this affair all his generosity fell through? Why did they have to negotiate his present to Slovenia?

The former ambassador is now blaming and shaming us, smearing our honesty and faith in justice! The community showed unity by signing the petition of non-confidence vote in the ambassador.

Do the Republic of Slovenia and its government not feel betrayed by all the accusations and hints made by the former ambassador?

The more we listen to all reports the clearer is becoming how from one lie so many new lies and false accounts have grown. Isn't it time for the Slovenian media to start checking his continuous claims rather than faithfully recording everything he says?

Yours sincerely,

Draga Gelt
With support from many Australian Slovenians

Election results and Slovenian emigration

Elections are over. Slovenian citizens elected their 88 + 2 members to the National Assembly. The clear winner is SMC (Miro Cerar's Party) with 36 seats (34.49%), followed by SDS (Slovenian Democrat Party) with 21 seats (20.71%); DeSUS (Democratic Party of Slovenian Retirees) with 10 seats (10.18%); SD (Social Democrats) with 6 seats (5.98%); United Left Coalition with 6 seats (5.97%); NSi (Christian Democrats) with 5 seats (5.59%), and Alenka Bratusek's Alliance with 4 seats (4.38%). 2 seats are taken by representatives of the Italian and the Hungarian ethnic groups respectively.

  1. SMC - 36 seats
  2. SDS - 21 seats
  3. DeSUS - 10 seats
  4. SD - 6 seats
  5. ZL - 6 seats
  6. NSi - 5 seats
  7. ZaAB - 4 seats
  8. Ethnic minorities - 2 seats
Whatever we may think about the results, they were expected and fairly accurately predicted by surveys published in Slovenian media before the elections. 

More surprising, however, is the (non)involvement of Slovenians who live outside our former homeland. As far as I can remember, it has always been claimed that the number of Slovenians living abroad is around half a million. According to Wikipedia, there are:

178 thousand Slovenians living in the USA, 
30 thousand in Argentina, 
83 thousand in Italy, 
50 thousand in Germany, 
35 thousand in Canada, 
just under 25 thousand in Austria, and 
20 thousand in Australia, to name just the main countries.

This totals 421,000 people. Together with a few thousand Slovenians living in each of other countries like Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Netherlands, France, etc., estimates go as high as 488 thousand Slovenians scattered around the world.

Half a million people living  abroad against around two million in Slovenia represent 20% of the total population. If all Slovenians living abroad decided to vote in general elections they potentially have the power to make a huge impact on the Slovenian politics. In fact, their votes could change the course of Slovenian politics altogether.

However, the State Election Committee sent out only 76 thousand voting kits. There is a huge gap between 76 and 488 thousand?!! What is happening with those other 400 thousand plus people? Are they not registered as Slovenians? Are Wikipedia estimates ridiculously high and do not reflect the real situation?

Of those 76 thousand who received the voting kit, only 8226 chose to vote. 134 ballots were invalid which leaves only 8091 valid votes. Slovenians living abroad voted as follows:

SMC - 2229 votes (27.1%)
SDS - 1589 votes (19.32%)
ZaAB - 706 votes (8.58%)
SD - 654 votes (7.95%)
NSi - 584 votes (7.1%)
ZL - 510 votes (6.2%)
DeSUS - 498 votes (6.05%)

Other - 1321 votes (16.05%)
Invalid - 134 votes (1.62%)


Comment from a reader who wishes to remain unnamed:
There are around 100,000 Slovenian citizens with permanent residence outside Slovenia. Everything else are estimates based on a combination of things: ethnic background, citizenship, parents, personal allegiance, etc. For example, there are only 3000 Slovenian citizens living in the USA, just over 2000 in Australia, etc., as opposed to estimates of 178,000 and 20,000 respectively.

Crisis of legality

By Jan Zobec, Constitutional Judge (parts of his address to ‘Mladopravniki’)

The development

The beginning was inspiring – I am referring to the birth of the Slovenian state – Slovenia as a sovereign country of free citizens, a liberal constitutional democracy based on the rule of human rights that put at their centre the free and responsible individual as the key value.
At first it all looked good: fairly quickly and without pain we moved past the critical period of independence implementation and did not, as it was threatened by some, eat grass. In comparison with others we paid a relatively low price and were able to join, it seemed, the train of European normalcy. We successfully joined the EU and for outside observers who were more interested in the image than in the internal workings of our society we were a model of a progressive post-communist state. Statistics confirmed this image. (...) We were the stars of transitional Europe, the first post-communist country to take presidency of the EU, the first to adopt the euro, a model to many others, in short, a story of success.
But only on the surface. Once the varnish dried up, cracked and fell off, the true state of Slovenian transition emerged. A rapid increase in public debt, no payment discipline, impotency of banks, falling GDP, increase in unemployment and subsequent social chaos are only external signs of misguided transition that surfaced due to the inevitable economic crisis. In 2008, Slovenia entered the period of global recession relatively well prepared. Again, this was only an image. The banking hole, internal indebtedness, state owned systemic and monopolistic corporations (state owned banks, insurance companies, energy producers and telecommunication providers are the centres of moral hazard and corruptible practices) – these are the facts of Slovenian transition and have nothing to do with the global recession. Despite it all, Slovenia was then a country with a relatively low debt – it’s public debt was 8.6 billion EUR or 23% of GDP. Less than six years later, it has increased to 28 billion or 81% of GDP. In mere five years the debt has increased threefold.  
The crisis of legality
This is the picture we have today, mercilessly complemented by other facts that confirm that the real reason for the catastrophic situation is not the global financial crisis but rather a combination of typically Slovenian factors - I dare say that the Slovenian crisis is in fact a crisis of legality. By this I am not suggesting that law as a cultural phenomenon is to blame for the crisis - on the contrary, it is the lack of legality, disrespect of law and perversion of justice that are the culprits.
Absence of constitutional culture
All this are consequences of dysfunction of the rule of law - which in turn is a consequence of the absence of legal culture that goes back to its source, i.e. the constitution. Slovenians have become insensitive to the values that are at the crux of Slovenian constitutional identity, and easily adopt intellectual values and cultural concepts (or perhaps we can't let go of them since they became ingrained in us in the 73 years of living in both Yugoslavias) that belong to another cultural tradition - let me be clear and direct: to the Balkan despotic culture that never implemented the process of state internalisation and never put at its centre the free and responsible, or if you like, constitutionally and morally-ethically integrated individual.
Hence, if in the normal Western world people rely on law, in this country we rely on our connections, influential friends and acquaintances; what is in the West arranged is here fixed through connections; what is there agreed and written down, happens, whereas here it is circumvented, outstripped, outwitted; what in normal democracies applies to all and in the same binding way, are for Slovenians rules of the game that can be bent to suit this individual or another, a group or the whole influential network; what is elsewhere considered an unacceptable lie is here a self-evident means of achieving one's goals, only a small, negligible, forgivable and repairable error, or even something that should be overlooked and pretended that it doesn't exist; what in the normal European environment works effectively, makes people's lives easier and promotes the economy is in Slovenia abused and allowed to go bad (e.g., land debt that had to be discontinued after ten years due to continuous abuse). Legal institutions that function in the West are rejected by our nation's organism, and if you'll excuse me a trivial example, if the waiting list for an MRI in Slovenia depends on corrupt connections and acquaintances, the same medical service is available for all without exception in four to five days across the border in Austria. 

Dear colleagues, I ask myself what is happening with us that we are morally so low, that we accept models from another, I dare say Eastern, Balkan tradition, a despotism-based and annihilating culture that came to existence in different historic circumstances and civilisation. We are a European nation that historically and culturally belongs to the Western world as it has developed through the European state system history - from the Renaissance, Humanism and Reformation to the period of Enlightenment.  Is this not the main reason why we found living in Yugoslavia not only suffocating but also unbearable - is this not why we set out to gain independence? We wrote this down in our constitutional documents that are saying: "Yugoslavia, your politics, your culture, your values - no thank you! And Europe, yes please (if I remember correctly, one of the pre-election slogans for one of the parties on the transitional left was "Europe now!"). We then went on our own and in our own way, as Yugoslavia did not work as a country with the rule of law, where human rights were badly disrespected; where there was no way out of the political and economic crisis due to lack of democracy  and which in the end fell apart in the same way as it was created - in bloodbath. In other words, we moved away from what we are now falling back into.

Full original text in Slovenian available on

Two responses to recalled ambassador Balažic's press conference in Slovenia

Alfred Brežnik: Answers to 'Večer' journalist Aleš Lednik in relation to the Balažic-Oman Affair (not published in Večer)  

On 9 July I received a few questions from Večer journalist Aleš Lednik relating to the Balažic-Oman affair. "Understandably, this story reverberates in Slovenia... moreover, at his press conference Balažic pointed his finger at you as an informal link between Janša's SDS in Slovenia and the Slovenian community in Australia," he wrote. And added: "Our readers and the Slovenian general public would like to know whether you can answer a few questions."

I responded the next day; however,  up till now I haven't seen the publication of my answers, even though I was told that I could expect it (and receive a copy). I suppose my answers were not controversial enough. Please find my response below.

Let me say that I first heard about Dr Milan Balažic's press conference on Tuesday at around midnight when a journalist from RTV Slovenia called me. She was interested in my comment on Balažic's revelations regarding the affair with Oman at which I had hinted in my open letter to Minister Erjavec. I said at the time that Balažic claimed it was a big issue (which I refused to discuss publicly) and if it came to his recall he was going to 'put his cards on the table'. The journalist reminded me that this actually happened with this press conference and asked for my comment. I refused to make a statement as I did not know the content of the press conference. Additionally, my/our (the Australian Slovenian community) issue with Balažic had nothing to do with Oman's oil-rich land in Republika Srpska. Our protests mainly related to Balažic's claims that he did not invite Nicholas Oman to the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne.

His insistence followed by insults aimed at individual members of our Slovenian community and the community as a whole triggered off general outrage which resulted in protests. In the Slovenian program on SBS Radio on Friday 14 March he denied, over and over again, that he invited Oman. I therefore called him the following Monday and advised that this whole affair would never have erupted had he apologized to the community, explained  that the whole issue was an error and promised that it would not happen again - and it would all be forgotten. He did not listen. PITY!  

In my letter to MinisterErjavec I described my relationship with the ambassador and will not repeat myself here - they were good, open and friendly. We worked together for the common good of our homeland and the Australian Slovenian community.  After my resignation/retirement he asked me many times to act as his advisor. Thus I was even more surprised by his attack during his press conference in Ljubljana last week,  and in a style that I would never have expected from him.

Of special interest are his claims (according to '') that:  some individuals from the Australian-Slovenian community who are closely linked to the informal structure of Janša's SDS Party that operates in Australia started a pogrom on him. They panicked because Balažic met with Oman. They were frightened that Balažic would pass on dangerous information about Janša and his involvement in arms dealings, the clinic that Janša allegedly had in Australia, money laundering, funding of the SDS Party in Slovenia from Australia, secret Janša's visits in this country and other dirty business. This SDS structure in Australia is  led by former Honorary Consul Alfred Brežnik who continues to abuse his consular position for the benefit of Janša fans in Australia and Slovenia.

For havens sake, has this gentleman gone completely potty - has he lost all his common sense? Is he hallucinating? I can imagine that this whole affair affected him badly: the loss of a distinguished career/job of ambassador, perhaps even his job at the faculty - it's terrible! I honestly feel sorry for him! However, as Minister Erjavec said, all this is of his own making. Suddenly it is the fault of the whole  government and his friends, and SDS Jansa fans in Australia with Brežnik at the helm.

And now to your questions:

1) Have you personally or any informal SDS structure, as the media calls it here (do you mean Balažic?), had any contacts with the Slovenian Democrat Party in Slovenia, what contacts and with whom? Do you know Jože Jerovšek and are you in contact with him?

I have no idea what kind of informal SDS structure Mr Balažic has in mind. Personally I don't know or have ever heard of any formal or informal SDS structure here in Australia. I have never been a member of any political party in Slovenia, including SDS.

I do have, however, friends who are members of this party. Additionally, I have sympathised with the SDS Party from its very beginning, from the time when its predecessor party was led by my friend Dr Jože Pučnik. I don't know personally Mr Jožef Jerovšek and I have never met him. I only know that he is a SDS member in the National Assembly.

2) How do you comment never verified accusations and rumours at which Balažic is hinting between the lines that part of the Slovenian community in Australia finances SDS?

I have no knowledge of any organised part of the community funding for SDS. If there is any such individual, which is possible - I do not know of him or her.

3) How do you comment the information that part of the Slovenian community under your leadership assists Janez Janša financially and otherwise?

This is absurd! I would, however, be happy if this were the case as Janez Janša deserves and needs help!

4) Do you have any information about Janez Janša's secret private visits to Australia during which he negotiated such assistance?

Total nonsense, just like your next question (5) that Janez Janša possesses a private clinic. About  two years ago we received such questions from Slovenian journalists at the Consulate and at the Embassy and made it clear at the time that this was all made up. The Embassy in Canberra also responded negatively, calling the allegations absurd!

5) How do you comment allegations that due to the fact that Nicholas Oman knew all these things and tried to trade such information through Balažic the informal SDS structure in Australia panicked and launched the story about Oman?

I believe I answered this question in my introduction above, before my answers to the questions. I don't know what exactly would be the cause of such panicking?!! And in what way was the story about Oman 'launched'? He appeared there publicly! At the official opening of the Consulate! Any community gathered together at such a distinguished function in Australia would react the same if people knew that one of the invited guests was Nicholas Oman. 

Alfred Brežnik
Sydney, 10 July 2014

Joe Ramuta: Letter to the Editor 

Thank you for your informative post, which I read with interest. I have tried not to respond on some of them, as it would probably attract some negative responses from readers. However the latest video of Dr. Balažic’s response to the saga of his own making, I decided to make a comment. I actually liked the guy, I thought he has the personality to attract the following of the Slovenian community in Australia. I was present at the opening of the honorary consular in Melbourne and I thought it was well organized and not too formal. I have noticed the person in question with shady past standing not far from me to my right, (Oman) however I have never seen him before and never heard of him until I read of complaints from some people who knew who he was.

In my opinion, all that the ambassador had to do, was to apologize to the Slovenian community about the presence of Oman and he would probably be still an ambassador of the republic of Slovenia. Despite having a high opinion of Dr. Balažic in the past, I have now changed my mind.

I know of at least one another person, who claims, he was not invited to the opening, to be present at the opening and later at the Jadran club, which means that anyone could be there, as there was no security check. I have spoken to the Ambassador at the Jadran club and also presented him and the honorary consul with my book ''Pot v Neznano''. Knowing Derry Madison personally, I was happy for him to have the honor representing the Republic of Slovenia among us and I can appreciate his contribution to the service to the Slovenian population in Victoria (at his own expenses).

I have also been following the judicial system in Slovenia. The old Communists, who are still (trying) to run the country, are also running the courts and judges. Why does former presidents of the republic of Slovenia, Kučan, Turk and the old Communist Slovenian president Stanovnik still have so much power in pulling the strings. They should sit back and enjoy their handsome pensions, as do the presidents of other democratic countries. The old guard will never forgive Janša for his contribution to the democratic movement in the late 80s and subsequent independence from Communist Yugoslavia. They will do anything to destroy him. I just hope the European court will eventually clear him.

As one of my friends commented the other day: You can take Slovenia out of Balkan, but it is impossible to take the Balkan out of Slovenian politicians...

Joe Ramuta
Geelong, 12 July 2014

Erosion of EU Rule of Law in Member States: the Case of Slovenia

Interview with Mr Anthony Tomažin, the new Honorary Consul for NSW

You grew up in a Slovenian migrant family in Western Sydney. Were you involved with the Slovenian community as a child? In what ways?

As a teenager I enjoyed attending the two Slovenian associations and the church community in Sydney where many social and cultural events were organised.

Yes, I was active as the president of a youth organisation, for eight years.  As a young man I had lots of ideals and I believed it was very important to build a bridge between the older and the younger generation and to actively include them in the Slovenian community. Among very successful activities were regular monthly parties, picnics etc.
Some of us joined the folk dancing group which was at the time very active.

I have nice memories of this time. I had an opportunity to meet many good people with whom I still keep in touch on a regular basis.

As an adult, you built up your mortgage brokering business and were recently appointed to the position of new Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia. How do you see your new role? In what ways can the Slovenian community in NSW expect to be served by you?

I take the position of Honorary Consul very seriously and responsibly. I will try to work for the benefit of all and to assist people who will turn to me for advice in solving their problem. I will consult the community on ideas that could be realised, on what people wish and what the most pressing problems are. At the same time I will encourage young people to take their time and learn about the country of their ancestors and to think about opportunities for business connections and investments. Personal contact is very important. I will make an effort to meet them regularly in Sydney or here in Ljubljana - I regularly travel between the two destinations.    

This position was previously held by Mr Alfred Brežnik who is one of the most respected members of our community. In our interview in November 2013 he said: "To be appointed an Honorary Consular officer of a country/state is great honour indeed. It is a prestigious position. (...) the most important thing is sincerity and courtesy when dealing with people and to be a good listener. People who come to see you expect to be helped, and they can be very appreciative when granted assistance." Do you agree with his views?

I absolutely agree. I have great respect for Mr Brežnik. We often meet in the Slovenian church or at the Slovenian Association. His character, experience and his work can serve as a role model for many.

Do you feel that a Honorary Consul should position himself as a community leader? How do you see your position in relation to Slovenian organisations in Australia?

Not at all. It would not be appropriate for me to interfere in the community leadership. Each organisation has its own representatives that members select themselves.

As a Honorary Consul I am required to be neutral and to act in the best interest of the whole community. I wish to act as a bridge in cultural and linguistic information exchange and especially in promoting business activities between the two countries.  

How would you like to see the Slovenian community develop in the future?

I wish that the Slovenian community could act more unitedly and to appeal to the younger generation. I would also like to see more activity in integrating new Slovenian migrant families who chose to make Australia their new home.  

You are a distinguished businessman with business interests in both countries. What is the main difference between conducting a business in Slovenia and in Australia?

Doing business in Australia is considerably easier. Unfortunately, there are many unnecessary administrative obstacles in Slovenia, not to mention high taxes. Additionally, politics is too involved in the economy here.

It is however a fact that due to the financial crisis and banks not approving new loans there are currently many well established companies with good business results for sale in Slovenia at relatively "low" prices.   

What are your views on the trade exchange between Slovenia and Australia? Do you think it is adequate? Is there room for improvement?

The trade exchange is very positive.

For Slovenia, Australia is the fourth most important market in Asia. Looking at the trade exchange, it improved more than 100% in the last few years. Currently exports are valued at about 200 million EUR **. It is worth noting that Harvey Norman is one of the biggest Australian investors in Slovenia.

There is always a lot of room for improvements.

What would be your advice to a company in Slovenia that wishes to sell its products in Australia?

It is necessary to do a good market analysis to ascertain the need for a certain product; to take account of standards, exchange rate, shipping costs due to great distance. It is especially advisable to connect with local brokers or partners who can help distribute and market new products.

Thank you for the interview and all the best in your new role.

** Correction: According to DFAT Fact Sheet on Slovenia  total trade exchange between Slovenia and Australia in 2013 was 125 million Australian dollars (exports to Slovenia: AU$38.24 million; imports from Slovenia AU$86.49 million).