Thursday, 3 December 2015

Referendum on Marriage and Family Relations Act - Only one day left to notify Državna volilna komisija of your intention to vote by mail!

Slovenia will hold a referendum on the amendment to the Marriage and Family Relations Act on 20 December 2015. The amendment proposes some major changes to the way family relations are regulated.

Please note that if you are a citizen of the Republic of Slovenia who does not reside in Slovenia and are unable to come and vote at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra on 20 December, you can vote by mail only if you notify Državna volilna komisija by tomorrow, 4 December 12.00am  (5 December 10am Australian Eastern Standard Time) that you wish to do so.

You can notify Državna volilna komisija of your intention to vote by filling in the relevant form available here:

The completed form should be:
 - faxed to: + 386 1 43 31 269, or
 - scanned and sent by email to: gp.dvk@dvk-rs.si
-  sent by mail to: Državna volilna komisija,
Slovenska cesta 54, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenija, 


This is how you fill in the form:


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Postcards from Slovenia

 Photos by Alan Zakrajšek
Šuštarski most, Ljubljana

Along the Ljubljanica river

Vogel

Vogel

Triglav

Lake Bohinj
Planica

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Postcard from Slovenia

There are lots of people enjoying a warm Friday afternoon in Ljubljana square next to the main food market. Locals and tourists enjoy ‘Odprta kuhinja’ event offering foods from different parts of the world, including Chinese noodles, Indian curry, Lebanese falafel and lots of locally brewed beers. It is busy and noisy and everyone seems to have fun.

Living far away from Slovenia and following Slovenian news we tend to think that the political situation in our homeland is all wrong and hope that some day better times will come. The daily life in Slovenia, however, informs me that the population is not hoping for better times, they are already enjoying them. My old friends and acquaintances with secure jobs are not lacking anything. They grumble of course: about the lack of jobs for their grown up kids with university degrees; about the health care if they happen to have met an obnoxiously aloof doctor; or about the complicated rules and regulations that now require you hold on your docket as you leave 'gostilna' as means of ensuring that there is no grey economy. Things could be better, most would agree, but the way it is it’s not too bad.

Politics is generally not on people’s minds. They worry about having their holidays on the coast in summer, about getting food from Mercator before rush hour or about meeting friends on Saturday afternoon. Not unlike people in Australia, or any other country in the world, they have their daily concerns which they meet as they arise.

Politicians may have the running of the country in their hands. They may be good or bad, corrupt or honest. They may be feathering their own nests. But Slovenians have a long tradition of being ruled by unfriendly governments in their genes. They are so used to being used and abused by their rulers that they hardly notice when they are burdened by even more rules and regulations. No matter what the government throws at them they always find a way to survive and get around whatever makes their life hard.

However, in addition to burdens that keep coming they also enjoy a bewildering range of perks and benefits they are most certainly not willing to let go: they are still enraged that the retirement age has moved to 60 and are horrified to learn that in Australia it is progressively set at 70; they enjoy cheap hot meals in their places of study or work and most of them don’t cook at home during the week; students enjoy free university courses and even receive free food vouchers!

As long as their daily lives are still manageable, they try to enjoy early autumn days and make the most of it. Life is too short to worry about politics!

Yet they all discuss politics quite seriously. There are two distinct sides who passionately hate each other. Their hatred is real and runs along the ideological line that defines their friends, choice of media and beliefs. One truth only, seems to be the message from both sides. 

If only life could be that simple. But for those who think that ideology is a reason enough to justify killing, sack or deeply dislike, it apparently is. Perhaps one day they will be able to transcend all this and start thinking that people, with all their imperfections, rather than ideology are the greatest value. In the mean time, we can still try and enjoy the company of friendly Slovenian people and the beautiful country they inhabit. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Update on the Slovenian Lawn Extension at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney

Letter by Mark Stariha

Dear fellow Slovenians,

It is with great pleasure that your Rookwood committee comprising of p.Darko Žnidaršič, Mr. Mark Stariha, Mr. Alfred Brežnik, Mr Joe Zele, Mrs. Olga Lah and Mr Antony Tomazin can announce successful completion of negotiations for the extension to the Slovenian Lawn cemetery area at Rookwood.

Slovenian Lawn Extension Agreement Signed

The agreement was signed on 5 June 2015, Lauren Hardgrove signing for Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, and p.Darko Znidarsic and HC Anthony Tomazin signing for the Slovenian community.  There are 2 original signed copies, one being retained by Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, the other being held by p.Darko at St Raphaels Slovenian Mission. 

Importantly, in the agreement, ‘Scope’ is written as follows, “This agreement outlines the landscape design and associated works CMCT will undertake for the extension of the existing Slovenian Lawn 2 and allocation of approximately 480 additional graves for the sole use and benefit of the Slovenian Community.”, and ‘Costs’ as
“All works outlined in this agreement, will be undertaken by CMCT at no cost to the Slovenian Community.”



Work on Slovenian Lawn Extension area

Work on the extension area commenced on Monday 15/6.  When the extension area is completed, they will then level and returf all of the existing Slovenian Lawn 2.  Significant work has already been undertaken in the new extension area, with a border of trees and 2 concrete beams installed.  The garden around the small chapel has also been replanted. All work will be completed well before All Saints day.


New Plot plan for existing Slovenian Lawn 2

I attach a NEW plot plan of the existing Slovenian Lawn 2 with the new plots on the new beam extensions numbered, along with colour key. 
All yellow plots are available for immediate purchase.  The new plot plan for the new extension area will be available around November.
·        Yellow – means vacant
·        Black  - means the grave is full (you cannot put any bodies in the grave but you can still have cremated remains interred )
·        Dark green  - means that there is someone in the grave but there is space for more.
·        White and / – grave contains cremated remains
·        Light Green - Pre-purchased means that the grave has been purchased but nobody has been buried in it yet.
·        Light blue - Reserved means that someone has put a deposit to reserve the grave but it has not been fully paid for yet (so nobody is buried in it).
·        Red - Unusable



I take this opportunity to thank, in particular, Lauren Hardgrove from Catholic Cemeteries Rookwood, who was very focused on giving us a satisfactory solution.

Mark Stariha,
on behalf of the Slovenian Rookwood Committee

Monday, 31 August 2015

Interview with Ms Nevenka Clarke-Golc, Honorary Consul of RS to Queensland

When and why did you migrate to Australia? Where did you settle initially? When did you move to Queensland?

I arrived in Australia in April 1988 as a permanent resident. It is hard for me to explain why I applied for a migration visa but I did. It has certainly changed my life. After arrival I first travelled a bit around Victoria - Philip island, Twelve Apostoles etc.. then to Sydney. I returned to Melbourne where I met my future husband and after a few years we decided to move to Queensland in 1992.

You are running a successful pocket book business and were quite active at the time of Slovenia's fight for independence by publishing a book about Slovenia. Can you tell us more about your involvement in this project?

The declaration of independence signaled a turbulent period. I worked at International Trucks in IT department at that time. I could see that some people could not understand why Slovenia would want to be independent. Too small, they said. Can't exist on its own at that size. They had no answer when I said that there were some 50 countries smaller than Slovenia. We were portrayed in media as rebels, especially due to cleverly designed Serbian Milosevic's propaganda machinery. Americans were backing Yugoslavia at that time. Europe was silent. Something had to be done. Slovenian National Council (SNS) in Victoria organised a rally in support of Slovenia’s independence. I joined the SNS at that first gathering at the City Square in Melbourne on 29.6.1991. I had a short speech and from then on I was asked to represent the Slovenian cause at many other meetings, especially meetings of other ex-Yugoslav republics and Kosovars who also strived for their own independence. I was very happy to do that. But I felt more had to be done.

There was very little understanding among Australians about the situation. I felt a need to explain that the Yugoslav constitution allowed each state to vote to leave the federation. Slovenian, as we know, voted overwhelmingly in support of independence.

After the independence declaration there were question of whether the new fledgling country satisfied the requirement of statehood by international laws. The Montevideo convention 1933 defines a state as an entity with a defined territory, permanent population, government and capacity to enter into relations with other states. Slovenia satisfied the first three conditions but the last one depended on international recognition.

I also felt I needed to present Slovenians to Australians as a nation of its own, with its own language and culture. The notion of federation in Australia was in stark contrast to the notion of federation in Yugoslavia. Those two types of federations had virtually nothing in common and I wished to explain that.

For this reason I put together an article about the legal rights for Slovenian independence, a short presentation of the Slovenian nation as such and added a bit of spiritual and moral flair to it - and 120 pages of the "Republic of Slovenia" was born. After the first issue I was asked to make about 50 more copies. It was all quite simple, just photocopies and do-it-your-own binding. We worked fast and low-tech and cost-effective. The purpose was to inform the Australian government and society about Slovenia, its rights and desires, and to lobby for its recognition and acceptance in the wider international community.

Almost a year ago you were appointed to the position of the first Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia for Queensland. How do you see your new role? In what ways can the Slovenian community in Queensland expect to be served by you?

Indeed, this happened quite unexpectedly. It was an honour to be offered this position. Slovenia is close to my heart and to be given an opportunity to work on a diplomatic level for Slovenia and Queensland is very special. I am still learning a lot of course. I see my work as a three-fold engagement - working with Slovenia and the Slovenian government in any area pertinent to my role; working on matters pertinent to the relationship between Slovenia and Queensland, and working with the Slovenian community in Queensland. I find that the Slovenian community has embraced the idea of having a Queensland consulate with great warmth. As a consul I will work as dedicated as I can for Slovenia, Slovenians and the Slovenian community.

Do you feel that the office of Honorary Consul should function as a community leader? How do you see your position in relation to the existing Slovenian organisations in Queensland and Australia?

Let's put this into perspective. Slovenian clubs and community existed well before the consulate was established. Club Planinka, for example, was established about sixty years ago and club Lipa around twenty years ago. They are the true leaders of the community. I take myself more as a link for something that was perhaps missing in the past - a connection between the Slovenian government, the clubs, individuals and community as such. I see my role as to assist, rather than, as suggested, to lead. Together with the community we need to make Slovenia better known to Australians.

There was a Consulate General in Sydney operating successfully for many years by Honorary Consul General Mr Alfred Breznik but it was physically impossible for Mr Breznik alone to cover the whole of Australia adequately. The Slovenian government eventually established the Embassy and in my view it was the right decision to also establish local consulates in each state. This will ensure a much greater connectedness between the Embassy and the Slovenian community in each of the states and will serve the community better. One great advantage of this has already become apparent: people now no longer need to travel to Canberra to obtain a passport. The passports are still processed by the Embassy but now the Embassy staff comes to each of the states at set times to process the passports. This saves hundreds of dollars to people who need to renew or obtain Slovenian passports.

There is a growing group of new migrants from Slovenia who settled in Queensland in recent years. Do you have any contacts with this group? 

Yes, indeed. Migration now is very different. After the Second World War most Slovenians arrived either to Melbourne or Sydney. Some of those later moved to Queensland, which has a more pleasant climate than 'four-seasons-in-a-day' Melbourne. Not surprisingly, quite a few people originating from Primorska, the warm, coastal part of Slovenia, opted to live in Queensland.

These days Slovenian migrants often move directly to Queensland, the state often perceived as exotic. I am not aware of any organised group of these new migrants but I do have contacts with quite a few of them.

While a cluster of Slovenians is denser around Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast, Slovenians have found their home also in Townsville, Hervey Bay and other areas of Queensland. I wish to connect with all of them. Everybody is welcome to get in touch with me or come to the office for a chat.

What projects have you set in motion in the first year in office? What other projects are you planning to realise in the future?

There are regular consular tasks to be performed, such as answering enquiries and assisting with forms and information mainly about passports and citizenship. In addition to these there are certain activities that are either initiated by the Embassy or by us, the Consuls.
For example, in the first year the Embassy and the Consuls established a Slovenian Australian Chamber of Commerce. We expect that the foundation of this organisation will play an important role in the future economic relationship between Slovenia and Australia. One of the main aims of the Chamber is to join forces of interested parties in lobbying both governments for legislative changes in order to increase trade and investments between Australia and Slovenia.

Additionally, I have, with a few other enthusiasts, initiated an ambitious project of establishing, or perhaps re-establishing, learning of the Slovenian language in Queensland. There was a 'Slovenian school' in 1980s for a short time, but since then there has been a huge gap. Last year some interest to rekindle the school emerged. We took it quite seriously, of course on the basis of interest among  students. A project like this certainly has a few challenges in Queensland because of the size of the state and its scattered population. We have established three core locations at the moment: Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast. Occasionally, if appropriate, we offer classes over Skype. Both clubs have been very supportive. The Gold Coast classes are held at the Lipa club. Planinka often hosts bigger events in relation to the project. Classes are more or less individualised and are held for adults and for children. They can join at any time.

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

To start with, I would like to see another club established on the north side of Brisbane, around Sunshine Coast. As said earlier there are enough Slovenians living in this area for this to happen.
The Slovenian community in Queensland has a core comprising migrants who arrived after the WWII. Those Slovenians have established the clubs with their heart and have played a vital role in retaining the spirit of Slovenia within the community to-date. Some of them came to Australia due to political purges, some might not have liked the then system and some simply applied for an Australian visa and got it.

The new migrants, let's say people arriving to Queensland in the last eight to ten years, have different reasons for coming. Some might have been disillusioned with the system in Slovenia. The economic situation was and still is hard. These people have different ambitions. They are often highly educated and obtain straight away very good positions in the Australian society.

But there is a gap between the two groups. I believe that with tolerance and mutual respect and understanding we can obtain better cooperation. We need this cooperation to be better heard as the Slovenian community in the Australian society. For example we could join forces to represent the community at various multicultural festivals and events or perhaps organise a Slovenian Cultural Day.

Above I mentioned the Slovenian language learning project in Queensland. For this purpose, the teachers are in the process of registering an Association of the Slovenian Language and Culture Queensland. We have specifically decided to include the word 'culture' in the name as this gives us much broader scope of work within the community and promoting Slovenia externally to the community. The first president of the new Association is Mrs Jerneja Svetičič..

Do you have any business ties with Slovenia? What are your views on the trade exchange between Slovenia and Australia? What would be your advice to a company in Slovenia that wishes to sell its products in Australia?

We do not have a subsidiary of Pocket Books in Slovenia. We looked into it many years ago. As far as I remember we found out that one firm in Slovenia obtained, at that time, the sole right for producing directories and/or publishing phone numbers. This might be different now. There would have been also a question of the double taxation if we pursued the option.

I looked into statistics of trade between Slovenia and Queensland. From what I could see, there is about AU$1 million monthly exchange trade. This is not good enough. I believe more could and should be done.

There are also opportunities with tourism. For example, I have had a few people asking me for tourist information as they were travelling to Slovenia for holiday. I was of course very happy to provide as much as I could. Slovenia generally exports more to Australia than imports from Australia. We should be active in the area of high-tech and innovation cooperation.

Companies that want to sell to Australia can ask for advice from SPIRIT in Slovenia. They can also contact the Slovenian Australian Chamber of Commerce, the Embassy or the Consuls. Of course, they should also do their own other research of the market, especially regarding the demand for and saturation of their product or services in Australia.

Thank you for the interview.


Thursday, 6 August 2015

Gorenje is back to Australia!

Yesterday I found an interesting advertisement in my email box: I was offered a $100 voucher with every purchase of Gorenje appliances (which can no longer be called white goods!). Gorenje is back to Australia!

When I first moved to Australia in the 90s, I got myself a second-hand Gorenje washing machine. It had its quirks: when spinning it ‘walked’ and if I opened the front door when it stopped working I had a flood in the laundry. It took me a while to learn that when it stopped I had to manually start the spinning cycle to complete the process. But actually it was quite a good and reliable washing machine and served me well for almost seven years when the seal needed replacing and nobody in Sydney could do it. By 2000, Gorenje no longer sold its washing machines on the Australian market.

Now Gorenje is here again. They have their Australian website and apparently their products are sold only online.

In the last twenty years, Gorenje has come a long way: their appliances look modern and some of them come in a range of colours: orange, red and black washing machines and condenser dryers definitely look different! The Australian consumers will decide whether they want their laundries painted red or not, but the news that Gorenje is back is very good.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Giving the Slovenian minority in Hungary a voice

This article has been written by Tibor Horvat and Joël Gerber of  www.vendvidek.com. Their aim is to present the Slovenian minority in Hungary to the world. This is your invitation to visit their website and Slovensko Porabje. 

 
The project of our website gives us an opportunity to discuss the eventful history and diverse culture of the Slovene Raba Region. Additionally, Tibor Horvat has his own very personal connection to the Slovene Raba Region since he comes from Apátistvánfalva/Števanovci on his father’s side. Tibor wanted to learn more about his Slovenian roots and Joël was interested in the history and culture of the Slovenian minority.

While searching the internet for sources of information, we found some material in Hungarian and Slovenian, however, there was hardly any information available in English or other languages. We assumed that many descendants of the Slovenians from the Raba Region who cannot speak Slovenian would also be interested in learning more about their heritage. For this reason, we considered creating a bilingual website in English and German which is what we did ten years ago. In 2005, we were the first to make available extensive online information on the Slovene Raba Region (Slovensko Porabje) to the general public.  

According to the 2011 census, the community of the Slovenes in Hungary consists of almost 3,000 people and is in danger of becoming extinct. With our website we want to make a contribution to the preservation of the cultural heritage of this minority, especially where history, culture and traditions are concerned. It is our aim to bring the Slovenian population living in Porabje to a broader international public and specifically to inform the Slovenians from the Raba Region and their descendants living in the English and German-speaking areas about their origins.

Those who wanted to get informed about the Slovenians in Hungary and who possessed no language skills in Slovenian or in the regional variation of Slovenian, a circumstance that, for example, applies to the vast majority of the Slovenians from the Raba Region living in the US, used to search unsuccessfully for any information about the region of their origin before the launch of our website in 2005.

On our website, we introduce the seven villages of the Slovenian Raba Region by providing information on cultural customs such as festive days, dances, popular beliefs and regional cuisine. For those who are interested in languages, the website offers an English/German - Porabian (Porabščina) dictionary. Porabian is the local Slovenian dialect that is partly still spoken in the Slovenian Raba Region today. Moreover, we frequently attended public events and festivities periodically taking place in the seven Slovenian villages of Porabje, not least in order to gain personal impressions that we can then publish as brief reports on our website.

One of the most popular categories on our website is Genealogy. It contains a photo gallery showing the tombstones of the villages' graveyards. Owing to this segment, it is now possible for the descendants of the Slovenians from the Raba Region living overseas to see the last resting places of their deceased family members and to do family research with the help of the epitaphs shown on our website. Furthermore, many US citizens and persons living outside Hungary in general have contacted us via our guest book and asked us questions concerning their heritage, the history of the region, their family members, the terminology (Slovenski, Porabski, Prekmurski, Windish), the difference between Porabje and Prekmurje, etc.. We always answer such questions as quickly as possible.

It has occurred several times that families who had been separated for decades found their relatives and could be reunited due to our website. As various guest book entries prove, many people who take interest in the history and culture of ethnic groups learned of the existence of a Slovenian minority in Hungary due to our website. A lot of them knew about Slovenians living in Austria and Italy, but not about the existence of a Slovenian minority in Hungary.

Moreover, very often tourists who visit Porabje discovered this region due to our website. In 2007, we installed an exhibition in four languages (Slovenian, Hungarian, English and German) on the emigration of the Mura and Raba Region Slovenians to the USA. The exhibition toured Hungary and Slovenia. We guided members of the Slovenian diaspora in the USA through the Raba and Mura Region and introduced them to their historical roots and thus helped them perceive the cultural diversity of the region as if they were a part of it. Many people have already become enthusiastic about the Slovenian Raba Region. Now it is your turn to go on an expedition to the fascinating Raba Region and to get to know the rich history, culture and customs of Porabje!

We are Tibor Horvat and Joël Gerber and since 2005 we have been running a website about the Slovenes living in Hungary (Slovene Raba Region/Porabje). The website is both in English and in German. In the last ten years, we have been working completely without any financial aid. Tibor Horvat holds a Master’s Degree in Economics, Political Science and Media Studies, and Joël Gerber holds a Master’s Degree in History and English Language and Literature. Furthermore, we are both certified teachers of German as a foreign language / German as a second language. Together we share a profound interest in history and ethnic minorities in particular.




Saturday, 18 July 2015

Slovenian rock band Laibach invited to entertain North Koreans in August

ABC reports that the Slovenian rock group Laibach is about to become the first foreign band invited to tour North Korea.

Laibach was formed in Trbovlje in 1980 by adopting the old historic name for Ljubljana. The name itself and the music irritated many Slovenians at the time but also attracted many fans. This year the group celebrates its 30th anniversary.





Friday, 26 June 2015

Working holiday visa for young Australians and Slovenians

Australia and Slovenia signed a new agreement according to which 200 young people from Slovenia will be able to visit Australia and during their stay take temporary paid work. Similarly, 200 young Australians will be able to visit Slovenia and find temporary employment there. This agreement has been eagerly anticipated by many young Slovenians.

Already in place is a similar program between New Zealand and Slovenia. It allows 100 young Slovenians to holiday in New Zealand and undertake temporary paid work there. The visa is highly popular among young Slovenians and 100 places are taken up very quickly. There is considerably less interest among young New Zealanders to travel to Slovenia with only a few places claimed each year.


Please note, however, that although the agreement between Australia and Slovenia was signed on 16 June 2015 it is not yet possible to apply for Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462). Australia and Slovenia must first put in place appropriate administrative and legal procedures and decide upon the date when this arrangement comes to force.

For more information please check regularly the Immigration Department web site.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Letter from J. Ramuta: Slovenska miza and Professor Biggins in Seattle, USA

I have spent 3 months on a visit in Seattle, Washington State, and during that time I met a number of interesting members of the Slovenian community there. 

I was visiting my partner Shirley, whose father migrated from Slovenia in 1940 as a young sixteen-year-old. Shirley was born in the States and since her mother was not Slovenian she didn't understand the Slovenian language. However, in 1983 she decided to visit her father's birthplace together with him. There wasn't anyone who spoke English and she had to rely on her father's translations. She then decided to start studying the language and has been a number of times a student in the Summer School in Ljubljana and in Seattle she hired a private tutor. Three years ago she also enrolled in Slovenian studies at the University of Washington. The lecturer was Professor Michael Biggins who does not come from any Slavic background, nevertheless, he is fluent in Slovenian, Russian and German. It was on his insistence that a small Slovenian club "Slovenska Miza" was formed and the members are mostly newer immigrants and students from Slovenia.

He has translated over 15 Slovenian books into the English language. I had the honour to meet him in Seattle and again at his house where he organized a BBQ for Slovenska Miza and few other times. In 2013 he visited Slovenia with his wife and another student at the same time as Shirley and I visited Slovenia. Shirley organized a welcome party for visitors at her cousin's cellar in the village of Kal in Bela Krajina. Then we took them to some interesting places and to a local firemen's fete and I couldn't believe how fluent his Slovenian was when he talked to people there.
The Slovenian government has recognized his work in promoting the Slovenian language and literature and on the 11th of June this year he was awarded  "Janko Lavrin" Prize for his work. The presentation was in the auditorium of Cankarjev dom. Professor Biggins also created a Slovenian section in the University of Washington Library which has a highest number of Slovenian books in the country.

Shirley of Seattle, USA
While in the States, we also visited Enumclaw, a small town of about eleven thousand inhabitants. It is about 80 kilometres East of Seattle and near Mt. Rainier. The name Enumclaw is a native Indian name and it stands for "place of bad spirits". There is a small Slovenian community there and Shirley was invited to the gathering. No one speaks Slovenian there, however, the president and another member were playing Slovenian music on their accordions. Present were 3rd and 4th generation Slovenians from mixed marriages, mainly Italian, German and Norwegian.

I have been involved in the "Ivan Cankar" club in Geelong for over 50 years and am noticing our numbers dwindling as we are getting older. I would like to see the generation of Australian Slovenians more involved and proud of our language and culture. I hope some of the younger members across Australia will read this and be proud of what Professor Biggins is doing for our language and culture even though he has no connections to our past.

Best regards,
Joe Ramuta,
Geelong.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Welcome Home



You are invited to attend "Welcome Home" event which will take place in Ptuj this year.



Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Slovenian success story

When Tina Maze and other successful Slovenian athletes are winning their races our hearts are filled with national pride, only to discover that our Australian neighbours do not watch winter sports and are completely ignorant of the fact that our Slovenian heroes even exist. It is a tough battle convincing the world that Slovenians can be and are successful internationally.

Dr Edi Gobec  has spent most of his life diligently collecting and researching every person of Slovenian background that could be considered a candidate for 'who is who' in any field, and in American science and industry in particular. His latest book  published recently in Slovenia 'Slovenski ameriški izumitelji in inovatorji' (the book is published in Slovenian even though originally written in English, it's English title is 'Slovenian American Inventors and Innovators') is another of his quixotic  attempts to battle this ignorance.

In the introduction to the book, Dr Gobec explains what motivated him to become so involved with this peculiar line of research. As a penniless migrant he supported himself as a student by working as a brickie hand on construction sites. His work mates teased him about his Slovenian background and demanded he named an important Slovenian in the American society. His inability to provide a convincing answer incensed him to spend all his free time for the rest of his life researching noteworthy Slovenians.

In over 60 years of research Dr Gobec compiled an impressive list of inventors and innovators of Slovenian background who significantly contributed to progress in the American and international science, technology and industry. His latest book reads like an encyclopaedia: one  great achiever of Slovenian background follows another. There is no doubt: some Slovenians are extremely smart, ambitious and successful people and we as a nation can be very proud of them. But are we?

Behind these powerful stories of people like Dr France Rode, the lead inventor of the first sophisticated pocket-size HP-35 calculator, or Ed Repic, the leader of the Rockwell’s Space Exploration Team and major contributor to the design of Apollo 11, the first spacecraft from the Earth that landed on the Moon in 1969, there is a certain unease. Do we really care about these people and their successful careers? Do they really have the potential to become the source of our national pride?

The high achievers presented in this book, to which we can add a list of very successful Slovenians in the Australian society, are people who left Slovenia themselves or were born overseas to Slovenian parents. While nobody denies or disputes their contribution, their achievements on the American or Australian soil are considered first and foremost American (Australian). This is only natural as their new country financed their achievements and reaped the benefits.

Slovenia, however, could potentially gain some moral credit from their high position and status - but remains fairly mum and numb. There was no real interest in the publication of this remarkable book by Dr Gobec. The author subsidised the publishing cost of only 1000 copies by giving up his right to royalties. The Office for Slovenians Abroad  - the institution whose main area of work, as its name tells us, are 'Slovenians abroad' -  in its press releases has not mentioned the book.

The main daily paper Delo published an article about the book by Lidija Pavlovčič on 16 May 2015 with a telling heading "American provocation" and subheading "Is the worldwide celebrity of individuals of Slovenian background the medicine for our collective pain for not being recognisable enough as a nation and a country?"

Why are Slovenia and its government sponsored agencies in particular so reluctant to embrace the great achievements of these distinguished Slovenians? How can the main Slovenian newspaper see successful people of Slovenian background from America as provocative? What have they done to provoke Slovenians?

Is leaving Slovenia in search for employment and a better life a provocation?

When I was in school we used to read Mile Klopčič's poem "Mary se predstavi", a sad picture of struggles in American mines many migrants had to endure. Nobody thought their suffering was provokative. On the contrary, we were sorry for the poor migrants and pleased that we were so much better off. Apparently the problem are not the poor, uneducated and struggling migrants, the last illusory remnants of which the Office for Slovenians Abroad is still trying to hang onto.

Successful migrants, though - that's a different story. They are the real provocation. Their competence, their abilities, their fearless move from the safety of their homeland into the unknown - and succeeding, this is the challenge the Slovenian official politics could never quite accept.

But in fact most of us who have moved out of Slovenia have successfully settled in our new country. Some have become prominent, others have just managed to live well. Sure, it was tough, even very tough for a while, but after the initial adaptive period most of us got the hang of it and succeeded. This gives us confidence and a feeling of achievement.

Let us celebrate those among us who have been able to show the world how smart Slovenians as a nation really are and feel also proud of our own, no matter how small, steps into the brave new world.

Thank you, Dr Gobec, for your remarkable work!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Is Derry Maddison still Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia for Victoria?


Opening of the Consulate in 2014
According to reports in Glas Slovenije and the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenija, (No. 33 of 11 May 2015), Mr Derry Maddison was relieved of his duty as the Honorary Consul of the RS on 2 April this year. The official decision was signed off by the Prime Minister Miroslav Cerar.

However, on 15 May - four days after the publication of the Official Gazette - Mr Derry Maddison gave an interview for SBS Radio in which he is claiming (4:07 minute) that "if and when there will be a change in my position, I promise that you will be notified on time. Until then, however, rolled-up sleeves and hard work go on. In short, the Consulate is operating." The whole interview is conducted under the impression that Mr Derry Maddison still holds his position and agreed to give this interview to shut up the rumours of his resignation.

Mr Derry Maddison was appointed the first Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia for Victoria a little more than one year ago and the new Consulate was formally opened on 7 March 2014. As you may remember, the guest list for the opening ceremony became the focus of considerable controversy, leading to the recall of former Ambassador to the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra, Dr Milan Balažic.

In his interview with Lenti Lenko for SBS Radio as early into his appointment as on 23 May 2014, Mr Derry Maddison  seemed to be particularly unhappy about the financial side of his situation. Apparently unaware that the position of Honorary Consul was unpaid by definition, he complained to the interviewer: "Lenti, I can tell you that this Slovenian Government is so stingy!"  And continued: "... my work is absolutely totally unpaid. Every expense that occurs goes from my pocket. Even when, say, a member comes from Canberra, I pick them up at my expense. (...) That's why this position is called 'honorary'. I hope they will change this - not because I am doing it but because in the future there will be consuls in all Australian states and then these very people will do much more work than Canberra and they would really deserve some payment..."

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Voice of Slovenian Australians



A new forum. Voice of Slovenian Australians, has opened on Facebook for and about younger generations of Slovenians. 

Will the younger generations remember their Slovenian roots? Will they keep baking potica and playing the accordion? Time will tell. In an effort to encourage them the Slovenian Australians of Sydney started a new Facebook page where young people can post their thoughts, ideas, photos, music, etc.

Good luck and all the best!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Interview with Peter Krope, long-standing President of Slovenian club Triglav in Sydney

Photos by Florjan Auser
When and why did you come to Australia?

I arrived in Australia with my wife Ivica and ten-month-old son Marko on 19 February 1971. At the airport we were greeted by our fellow villager Alojz Moge and his wife Danica. I remember this as a genuine and friendly meeting on an extremely warm morning. In Vienna we boarded the plane in cold and freezing conditions, and here it suddenly hit us: Where have we come to? Why we came I really can't say. At home in Maribor both my wife and I had a job; Ivica was a hairdresser and I worked as a toolmaker in the car manufacturing company. At times we lived in Maribor and occasionally at my mother's home in Kidričevo. I lost my father at an early age, when I was six years old.  

The advantage of youth is that you are curious about the world, something drives you into the unknown and you don't even realise what the consequences of your decisions might be. It dawned on us how deeply we upset our parents - at the time Ivica's parents were still alive - her brothers, my mother and sister and relatives soon after our arrival in Sydney. Was it the feeling of guilt, were we homesick? Whichever the case, our feelings were mixed and unpleasant.  

Initially we stayed with our fellow villager Lojze. After a few weeks of searching for suitable accommodation and on recommendation of Marička Ritlop we were taken in by a kind Prekmurje family of Irma and Feri Matus.

Two days after our arrival I had a job. Ivica followed a few weeks later, having found employment in the same company. Our new life began. We found ourselves at the beginning of a road which we didn't know where it led.

What to do about Marko who couldn't even walk yet was the first painful trial which I refused to admit. I just know that I kept glancing at airplanes that flew back home. I don't know whether this was good luck or our destiny, but Marička Ritlop reappeared like a good fairy and found us kind family Velišček where Marko could spend his days in the safe and warm home of mother Marija of whom he grew very fond.

You have long been the president of the Slovenian club Triglav. Can you tell us why and how the club was founded, considering that the Slovenian Association Sydney already existed at the time?

In 1970-71, there was an uproar in the Slovenian community in Sydney. People started talking about founding a new club called Triglav. Due to my poor understanding of the situation in the Slovenian community in Sydney I was initially only interested in how my family would survive the two years for which we signed the contract - or pay back the travel expenses to the promised land and go back to our homeland. But as it often happens in life and as the old saying goes, the physician treats, nature cures. After 44 years of living in Australia, I can certainly say that it applies.  

After work and on weekends I often found myself in company of new friends who kept discussing the new club, Triglav, and the reasons for secession from the existing Slovenian Association Sydney. A group of members wanted a new Slovenian organisation called Triglav. One of the main reasons, as I understood them at the time, was that this group of people wanted co-operation with our homeland Slovenia and subsequently also Yugoslavia of which Slovenia was a republic at the time. The co-operation was to be be exclusively in culture and education through Slovenska izseljenska matica in Ljubljana, an organisation for maintaining ties with Slovenian migrants all over the world. The guiding principle was the concern that if we did not maintain contact with our homeland regardless of its political system we might fall off the tree like a dried branch and our existence as a national entity would be obliterated. There was another group which was totally opposed to any kind of co-operation with Slovenia. They saw Slovenia as a communist country and as such ideologically unsuitable and for some even hostile and politically unacceptable.  As a newly arrived migrant I was becoming more alert to the happenings around me and I soon joined these discussions and was willing to tell what I liked and what I didn't like. We are what our era, education and upbringing make us; we are a product of the era into which we are born. I was born after the WWII. It is therefore not strange that I thought and was entirely convinced at the time that co-operation with our homeland was the right way.  

And again appeared Marička Ritlop . One evening she dropped in with membership application forms for Triglav. Whoever wants to become a member is welcome, she said.  By then I had heard enough and I must admit that I was pleased that my wife and I were invited to become members. I only remember being concerned whether we were suitable for membership in the new organisation due to our short period of living in Australia and our red Yugoslav passports - I heard that some people didn't like that. Her answer was categorical: we were more than welcome. We became members the same night.

To be a foreigner in a new unknown world is something every migrant is familiar with. By becoming members we felt we were no longer alone; we became part of a group of people that wanted to remain connected with the old country even though they migrated for a wide range of personal reasons. They went into this new world regardless of the political system back home - a system that was recognised as part of Yugoslavia by the United Nations, the English Royal House and Vatican.

I was brought to the newly acquired block of land for Triglav by Lojze who introduced me to many other members. Among them was Jože Čuješ, a well-known educator and event organiser in the Slovenian community. Jože invited me to come again which I did and my path in Triglav was set. First we had to take up shovels and other tools to clear the land and prepare it for meetings and family picnics which were gradually attended by more and more young families and their children. We soon erected temporary shelters where different interest groups started their activities, such as a Slovenian language school, a drama group, folk dancing, men and women choirs, bocce and later basketball groups. All these activities, other works and financial support were in the hands of the club Committee into which I was invited fairly quickly. At first I was Committee Member, then Event Officer and a few years later I was elected President of the club. In a way I was afraid of this appointment as I didn't quite know what it entailed and whether I would be up to this position. Looking back I can see I was quite brave.  I accepted a great responsibility and a lot of additional work which took a lot of my time. My engagement with the club took all my spare time and Ivica and I had to give up lots of things. Many times I asked myself whether this was the right way and whether working for the club was more important than my family life? I don't know why I never found out which answer was correct; I only know that something in me drove me to continue and once on this path I felt I had to persevere. And this is how it was.
 
Peter Krope in Triglav
The club went through good times followed by hard trials which required from the club leadership and its members a lot of good will and perseverance. Triglav gradually became a well-known club in the homeland and around Australia. Over the years we were hosts to many guests, from religious dignitaries to political personalities, many musical and sports groups as well as representatives of Slovenska izseljenska matica which donated the statue of Ivan Cankar, and so on. Everyone was welcome, even if we were labelled some kind of communist club, a club that one should be afraid of. I don't know whether to cry or laugh when I think how very mistaken those who spent so much energy on trying to sideline us in the community were by insisting on this label. We were just not afraid of the word 'politics'. After all, even having coffee or tea with somebody is political in a way. 

We just kept going regardless of what some people said.

Going into details of what happened in Triglav in the beginning and later on would take too much time. A whole book could be written on this. Actually I think it would be an interesting reading and I hope one day somebody will do this.

There were certain differences between the two Slovenian organisations (and the Slovenian church in Merrylands)  in Sydney in the era before Slovenia's independence. Would you say that those differences have been reconciled since the independence?

They say that time heals all wounds. This also applies to our community. Over the years the mutual distrust among Slovenian organisations and individuals started to wane and we came to realise eventually that it would be better for us all if we left our differences behind and became friends. In many cases this actually happened, mainly on the personal level. However, despite many attempts it was not possible to bridge the gap and reunite with the Slovenian Association Sydney. I can only say that unfortunately this did not work out as many would wish. Today it would be unfair to point the finger and start looking at why, how, who and so on. Perhaps history will one day look at this as all documents relating to the reunion of Triglav and SDS are available at HASA NSW.

A great hope that times will change and that the Slovenian community will find a common language arose at the time of Slovenia's independence. At that moment, Slovenians in Slovenia and overseas came together like never before. The Slovenian Australian  Congress organised its first meeting at the premises of our club.  Representatives arrived from all Slovenian organisations, hands were shaken in reconciliation even with those who were never expected to do so. And yet they did. The new Slovenian flag was raised, the new Slovenian anthem Zdravljica was sang, we listened to the address of the first democratically elected President Mr Petrle. The atmosphere was indescribable.  

After this I can say that things turned for the better for the Slovenian community. Members of all organisations started to attend functions and gatherings - wherever they were organised. Dances, functions, trips by bus and similar. This continues and has become a tradition. I just hope it will stay this way in the future.

Can you tell us about the function Triglav organises in June 2015?

To commemorate Slovenia's independence Triglav organises a function on Sunday, 14 June this year. Additionally, we will  award Slovenian women and men who have unselfishly contributed their time to do work for the welfare of the community. There are awards in many different categories, among them also for the younger generation and their achievements in primary education, at universities, in business or culture.   

What are your plans for the future of Triglav? What are your personal plans?

In regards to the question of future I can confirm that Triglav will support every attempt no matter how small of the second generation to maintain the Slovenian presence on the fifth continent. This of course doesn't mean that we will no longer take care of the needs and entertainment of the first generation for as longs as they keep attending the club. 
Like it or not, we have to admit that the first generation of Slovenians is shrinking and departing. A new world is opening up, it is now the time of the second and third generation. The hope that Slovenian identity  will continue with younger generations and remain alive in the diverse mosaic of Australian multicultural society  is a quiet wish of all of us who have put in our best efforts until now.
And my personal plans: I will try to pass on my experience to young people who show interest and willingness to maintain their Slovenian background and cultural heritage. Whether I succeed or not is another matter. I have 40 years of work in Triglav behind me. I must say that I am not sorry and that I learned a lot in this time. I experienced many exceedingly beautiful moments. There were ups and downs and in between an occasional thunder and lightning.  
I would only like to add that if I knew what I know now at the beginning of my work back in 1972 I would be much less concerned with who was who and on what side they were. Instead I would be much more interested in whether you are Slovenian and one of our tribe.  

Thank you for the interview.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Constitutional Court annuls judgement in former Prime Minister Janez Janša case

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia unanimously decided that the judgement in the Patria case against former Prime Minister Janez Janša was unconstitutional. According to the SDS website, it "found clear violations of the Constitution and the violation of the right to a fair trial." Judgement states that "no individual can be sentenced for a supposed act that is not defined by a law as a criminal act." 

In other words, former Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition Janez Janša was charged and subsequently imprisoned for no apparent reason - one month before general elections in 2014. The Patria case was assessed and judged at different court levels by eight judges who all eagerly sentenced him without any evidence of wrongdoing.

It is now not only apparent but also proven that Janez Janša was sentenced for political reasons by biased judiciary with extensive help from equally biased mainstream media.

Something is rotten in the state of Slovenia.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Who was Ljenko Urbančič?

Photos by Beverly Anderson
Recent events when sculpture Črtomir and Bogomila by Ljenko Urbančič was demolished at the Slovenian Association Sydney brought to the surface different views on our fellow Slovenians and their legacy. As they pass on, what is it that  we can remember them for? Who was Ljenko Urbančič?

There is no doubt that Ljenko Urbančič was a prominent and somewhat controversial figure in the community. His involvement with and the position in the Liberal Party of NSW present a man who was able to transcend the confines of our Slovenian community and make a mark on our broader environment. His books show an observant and educated man interested in details, and someone who deeply cares about the Slovenian language. His sculptures provide an insight into his creativity and the broad range of his talents. His photos show a tall elegant man who cares about handkerchiefs in the breast pocket and the colour of his tie.

His wife Beverly describes him as " a true gentleman, kind, principled, urbane and a pleasure to live with. He had many talents, played the violin, produced several sculptures and  was the author of  six books." And continues: "He loved Slovenia especially its literary culture and very much appreciated the writings of Prešeren.  It was Prešeren’s writing, "Baptism at the Savica" that inspired Ljenko to create his imposing sandstone sculpture, "Črtomir and Bogomila".

Retired Honorary Consul General for NSW, Mr Alfred Brežnik, AM, calls Ljenko Urbančič his friend. Nevertheless, he adds: "Our friendship developed gradually. Initially we didn't care for each other. I knew about his involvement with domobranci and I didn't care for domobranci. I come from Štajerska, occupied during WWII by Germans who burnt Slovenian books, installed German teachers in schools, killed people or sent them to concentration camps, burnt down their houses, terrorised us all. How could anyone collaborate with people like that?"

This is the question many people ask. Indeed, what is the justification?

Ljenko Urbančič was born in 1922. His family could be described as lower middle class. At the beginning of WWII, he was nineteen. Urbančič as a young student held very strong opinions on nationalism and patriotism which stayed with him to his last day. He best explains his involvement with domobranci  and their collaboration with Germans himself (in article In the Nest of the Slovene Falcon by Ervin Hladnik-Milharčič and Ivo Štandeker, Mladina, 8 December 1989):

"Today the decisions of yesterday seem very clear, but in 1939, 1940 or 1943 they were not so clear. I was always a nationalist. As a student I demonstrated when the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia. I solidarized with the Poles when the Germans attacked them. As a member of Sokol I was a fervent nationalist. In the spring of 1941 I was among the first volunteers in the Yugoslav Army when the Germans attacked us."

"You, no doubt, are asking how can such a man then cooperate with Germans, are you not? We looked from the point of view of Slovene interests. As nationalists we were anticommunists. Communists were endangering our lives. Our judgement was that the Germans are a lesser evil than the communists. And as they were prepared to give us the guns, we took them. We, in Ljubljana province, did not fight WW2 but rather a civil war against the communists. We knew the Germans would lose the war, but we did not want the communists to win."

Mark Aarons, the author of Urbančič's obituary published in Sydney Morning Herald on 4 March 2006 under an unfriendly title 'Ardent Nazi took Liberals to extremes'  makes no concessions though. For him, Urbančič is an ardent Nazi and anti-Semitic extremist, full-stop.

However, the British government actually  investigated  Urbančič's case. Their Consul in Ljubljana sent them the following report on 21 June 1946 (extract from Background Briefing of ABC, radio 2FC, Sunday May 4, 1986, 10:10 am):

“His Majesty’s consul in Ljubljana has made both direct and indirect inquiries about Urbanchich.  His information stated that he (Urbanchich) was known to be opposed to communism before the war and this seems to be the real reason why his surrender was requested.

None of them were aware that he denounced any of his fellow countrymen to the fascist execution squads or in any other way laid himself open to charge of being a war criminal.  They added:  If this man collaborated with the enemy it would have been by force of circumstances rather than by inclination.”

Yet the campaign against Urbančič in Australia, started in the early 80s, continued which shows that he obviously was a powerful political figure. It is ironic to see the uncompromising determination that verges on hatred with which his opponents pursued him. But in pursuing their own biased and political agendas, his opponents were quite happy to sacrifice the truth.

His wife Beverly sent me a long list of vindications of Ljenko Urbančič:
  • in 1982 the State Council of the Liberal Party defeated a motion that he be expelled from the Liberal Party. This vote was taken after several months of investigations by the Liberal Party hierarchy in which he was cleared;
  • The renowned war-criminal hunter Simon Weisenthal  in Vienna stated that he was not interested in Urbančič;
  • In 1986 the Menzies Commission report was tabled in the Senate of The Australian Federal Parliament . The report found the allegations  by the ABC and Labor’s Frank Walker to be without proof; 
  • In 1989 Urbančič reluctantly took defamation action in the Supreme Court of Australia.  He won the defamation case and was awarded damages;
  • In 1991 the Communist government of Yugoslavia stated that he was not guilty of any war-related accusations;
  • The government of Slovenia in 1997 invited him at their expense to attend a Slovene writers conference.  On that same visit to Slovenia Ljenko was given a civic reception in the village of Logatec.

To which Beverly adds: "Ljenko had a clear conscience which sustained  him.  He had the support of many friends who believed in him. Even though Ljenko was vindicated  by several highly respected authorities here and abroad the  left wing media chose not to report it."  
Ljenko and  Beverly Urbančič in 2005
Perhaps this is a good opportunity to reflect on how we view people and our past. We are only too happy to allow predetermined ideas and assumptions to colour our views. It is easier to see people as black or white, good or evil, villains or victims. But people are not as simple as that: we are all black AND white, good AND evil, villains AND victims - there is just a difference in proportions and situations. Some people may be more one or the other, but we all have seeds of both opposites in us.

Politicians like to paint life in view of their decisions as black and white because they assume we are not smart enough to understand the nuances. Media like to follow suit because this approach makes life so much more dramatic. The victim is the truth. Our lives, however, cannot be built on extremes, lies and semi-truths.

We too, as a Slovenian community, have to learn to live with the truth and with acceptance of both sides of the story:
  • Yes, domobranci did collaborate with Nazis at the end of WWII. They justify their collaboration with their anti-communist stand. Can we accept that?
  • Yes, communists did slaughter tens of thousands of their perceived opponents without trial after WWII and covered up their mass graves. Can we start living with that?

Progress is only possible on the basis of truth and acceptance of truth. We have to face our fears that block our views. Someone who wrote fervent articles to please Nazis is not necessarily a war criminal. However, someone who was on the "right side" but ordered killings of people without trial perhaps is.

These questions won't go away. We'll have to face them and look at them as a nation in order to move on.