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Friday, 19 September 2014

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.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

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: metka@slovenian.com. I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Monday, 1 September 2014

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?