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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Long shadow of Dražgoše

By: Franci Kindlhofer

These days, between January 1st and 11th, we remember the difficult days that the inhabitants of Dražgoše spent eighty years ago. There was a war and the country was groaning under the occupier’s boot. People suspected of opposing the dictatorial regime were imprisoned, sent to camps, or even shot after a short procedure as hostages or supporters of the Partisan movement. It was a great art for the people in the country to make twine between the strict eye of the occupier and the Partisans, who gathered in the woods under the guise of the liberation struggle and demanded, especially from the farmers, to supply them with food. This supply of Partisans was very dangerous and had to take place in complete secrecy so that the occupier would not notice it. Otherwise, it ended badly for those affected.

In 1977, the book NATIONAL LIBERATION WAR IN SLOVENIA 1941 – 1945 was published. Because I wanted to know more about the so-called war of liberation, I included it in my book collection. Based on what I learned about this topic in school and what I heard from people, as well as my own experience with the revolution, I embarked on a book with my curiosity and restraint at the same time.

On page 201, I found the chapter Defensive Struggle in Dražgoše and the Suppression of the Upper Carniola’s Uprising. After reading a good five pages of a long report, I was stunned. I could not believe that the Partisans were capable of doing such a thing. Cankar’s battalion under the command of Commander Stane Žagar simply invaded the village, settled there and the Partisans behaved so conspicuously that it was only a matter of time before an enemy appeared who was already involved in various Partisan attacks in the valley.

Upon arrival, on January 1st, the Partisans organised a large gathering at Sokolski dom, where the villagers heard Partisan songs for the first time. The book says that the news of the “Dražgoše Republic” spread throughout Upper Carniola, and on January 4th, many people from villages in the Selška Valley were expected to come to Dražgoše. Already here, false or at least inaccurate reporting on events in Dražgoše can be seen. On the one hand, they write that the news of the “Dražgoše Republic” has spread throughout Upper Carniola, and on the other hand, they write about informers who were supposedly informing the Germans. If the conscience spread throughout Upper Carniola, then what did the informers serve for? In the meantime, Alojz Kobe, a member of the KPS Provincial Committee for Upper Carniola, also came from Kranj to Dražgoše to discuss further conduct with the headquarters. That is to say, everything has been agreed on before. Another source mentions Alojz Kobet as the political commissar of Cankar’s battalion.

The report mentions Dražgoše as a “small liberated village”. What a sarcasm. Before the arrival of the partisans, the village lived in peace and without any visible pressure. When the partisans came, it meant doom for you. Although the villagers begged the Partisans to leave the village and that they will deliver food to them to their hiding places, the Partisans persisted in the village and assured the villagers that they would defend them. If the Partisans took this seriously, they would fortify the defences in front of the village so as not to endanger the villagers and the buildings. But no, the Partisans chose their houses and buildings as shelters. Thus, the consequences of such a defence were already known in advance.

I will not describe the details of the course of the fighting until January 11th, because it is all widely known. The following paragraph from the book, not really taken from Pavliha, speaks most eloquently about the end of the operations: “Due to the heroic defence of the left wing in the hamlet Na pečeh, especially the battalion reserves, the battalion gained time to withdraw, so that at dusk it retreated without casualties and ended its three-day battle victoriously.”

The price of the “Dražgoše Republic” paid by the villagers:

41 hostages shot and taken to the Šentvid prison near Ljubljana, all 81 surviving villagers. Village burned. 245 buildings destroyed – churches, houses, farms, chapels and cable cars. Farmers who were well equipped lost everything: about 230 machines, 90 to 130 carts and sledges. All food supplies, about 200,000 kg, were destroyed. 180,000 litters of various beverages, 300 tons of animal feed and 658 animals. In short, the existence of an 800-meter-high mountain village was completely destroyed.

EPILOGUE:

Are all those of you who come year after year, this year it will be January 9th, to Dražgoše to demonstrate communist cruelty and ruthlessness in the name of revolution, aware of what you are doing with it? You are opening old painful wounds of the villagers, not to allow them to bury their dead with dignity in the cemetery and to leave them to rest in peace once and for all. A fake ideology that you go to worship in Dražgoše is more important to you than the honour of the people of Dražgoše. Do the villagers really have to wait for you with pitchforks and scythes to sober you up? Where is your slogan now: “Let’s not worry about the past, let’s look to the future.” What kind of future is sown with bones? Let’s put them away once and for all. The participants are mostly younger people. Why burden yourself unnecessarily with the sins of your ancestors. Be aware that inciting hatred only brings misfortune. Become curious and look back unencumbered and think soberly about the things that have plagued our nation. Think about what you will tell your children. Do you also want them to be lied to like you were?

ZB NOB Škofja Loka, cancel this infamous act. There is still time until Sunday.

Sources:

Dr Tamara Griesser-Pečar: Razdvojeni narod

Ivo Žajdela: Življenje in smrt mita o dražgoški bitki

NATIONAL LIBERATION WAR IN SLOVENIA 1941 – 1945, Ljubljana 1977

Franci Kindlhofer is a publicist, vice-president of the Association of Political Prisoners and Other Victims of Communist Violence.

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