When did you arrive in Australia? Why did you leave Slovenia?
My name is Margareta –Metka Lap-Lenarčič, I am from Posavec in Gorenjska. After I finished high school in Radovljica I started working in Kranj in 'Iskra'. I finished technical college and became a draftswoman. Five years later my department moved to Ljubljana, to the tobacco factory. It was not possible for me to travel to Ljubljana every day or to leave my home village. An opportunity came my way, I got a permit to spend two years in Australia. As you can see, after all these years I am still here. I arrived in Sydney, Australia, in 1963 onboard a ship called 'Roma'. In Sydney I met Peter Lenarcic and two years later we moved to Melbourne.
In what ways have you participated in the community life?
As all other young people we were quick to meet other Slovenians. In 1968 my husband and I started to look for a house and a year later we were able to buy one. We had two daughters: Michelle was born in 1966 and Wendy in 1971. Worries, work, kindergartens, schools. Our company were mainly our friends who lived nearby. Among them were also Slovenians. Soon we were invited to join Planica Club which was on this side of Melbourne. My husband and I joined this club which was the closest to our home in 1978. In 1980 we started a club newsletter 'Novice Bulletin - Planica'. Every issue was typed by me. I also added pictures and edited it and have remained the newsletter editor to this day. We have published 116 issues since 1980. My aim was to record events, parties, meetings, visits from other associations and Slovenia, sports events such as bocce, hunting, chess. We also had a school and a folk dancing group for adults; I taught folk dances for five years and then this knowledge was passed on to the younger generation and they continued for another ten years. I worked as a club secretary, one year as its president, and did so many other things.
Please tell us more about your work as s a Slovenian radio broadcaster on 3ZZZ.
All this work just grew and progressed. Somebody suggested that I offer some help on the radio with reports on events in Slovenian organisations. Again I agreed thinking it was just temporary. This is how it started. Eventually some people resigned, even the convenor resigned and I was offered his job. I started in 1991 and in 1994 I became the convenor which is what I still do. Our work at 3ZZZ is the labour of love. After all these years I have nothing to show, this is just our love for the homeland, the Slovenian language and music. It has been 23 years since I started and 20 years since I became the editor. Some work is split between the secretary, the treasurer and two or three board members. There are annual meetings, fundraising once a year, annual barbeque for our maintenance, stationary, transport, music. The weekly one-hour program includes news from Slovenia, announcements from organisations, phone interviews with our guests from the Slovenian community, radio birthday cards. We cooperate with two radio stations in Slovenia, with Radio Ognjisce for the last12 years, and with Radio Potepuh Bled for seven years. Our one-hour program is one among 69 ethnic programs. It is attractive to our listeners for its information and entertainment contents. We do everything ourselves, including looking after the technical side.
As a former president of Slovenian Club Planica in Melbourne, do you feel that Slovenian organisations with buildings and grounds still have a place in the community life?
There have been considerable changes in the Slovenian community. At first we were building, physically: brick by brick at 40 degrees. Women were cooking while only five minute drive away the ocean was beckoning. Instead of taking a break at the end of the week we worked instead. Today all this is behind us. Young people have grown up and hardly ever come to clubs and associations, million-dollar buildings are mainly closed. We only celebrate special occasions, like New Year's Eve, 'Pust', Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, 'Dan mrtvih' on 1 November and 'Miklavzevanje'. The way of life has changed completely. When we had a party then, three to four hundred fellow Slovenians attended, we started at 7.30 pm and finished at 1.30 am. These event are now just distant memories. These days we get around two hundred members and friends who arrive at midday to have lunch and by 6 pm it is all over. Memories and good will are still alive, everything else is drying up. It won't be long before we have to close everything down or pass it on to younger hands. It is sad, but that's how it is.
How would you like to see the Slovenian community in Australia develop in the future?
This is the hardest question ever! What we would like and what our youth can offer us? These were our dreams which will never come true. And we are supposed to build on the past? Let me just mention year 2010-11 when I was the president of Planica Club. Two progressive and very capable men in their work from the second generation joined the committee. We started off well but suddenly they, especially one, ran out of enthusiasm and will to continue. It was all insufficient, too slow, too much following the old ways. Well, tell us what you want to do. The way we worked can't even be compared to how the younger generations work today. What does this mean... while we are around, things are like this, but afterward??? There is no future in this. And it is all the same in all organisations.
Do you have any suggestions as to what the Slovenian formal and/or informal groups in Australia could do to reach wider audiences?
This questions is an unknown for all of us! New migrants from Slovenia... I don't know if there will ever be the time to at least come together and ask, how are you? Where are you? Is there anything we can help with, suggest or contribute for your well-being considering you created so much; can we continue for you and your youth? There is no such thing from the newcomers and I don't think there ever will be! This is Slovenia today! We built with our hands, young people studied and now they should take over from here for their own sake. This is how they could show love and respect for the Slovenian community on this fifth continent of Australia.