On 9th of March, in front of the Congress Centre in Brdo pri Kranju, in honour of the 90th anniversary of Dr Jože Pučnik a group of people gathered on behalf of all those who respect and appreciate the huge role of Dr Pučnik at the independence of Slovenia. Along with a rich cultural programme, a bust of him was unveiled. Minister of Culture Dr Vasko Simoniti emphasised: “The memorial reminds us of a man who knew what personal freedom is, what a homeland is and what a free, democratically organised state is. That is why it is still: about Slovenia.”
In his address, Minister of Culture Dr, Vasko Simoniti pointed out: “Let us remember the famous sentence of Dr Jože Pučnik, pronounced on December 23rd, 1990, which is also engraved on the monument here: ‘Yugoslavia is no more, now it is Slovenia.’ He saw the future in an independent Slovenian state, and we can say with certainty that he remained one of its central pillars. With his fearlessness, insight, and dignity, he maintained his faith in life, in today and tomorrow. Here Pučnik is connected with Prešeren in a time arc. Connected to history and looking to the future. Memory is stronger than transience. Memory is life.”
Janez Janša: “He dared!”
In his respectful address, Prime Minister Janez Janša first recalled the war that was taking place in the middle of Europe at the time. He said that when he was driving to Brdo, he was talking to one of the European diplomats who was returning from Ukraine. He told him that there was a lot of traffic towards the Polish border, but that there was also a lot of traffic from the Polish border to Kiev, because thousands of younger men who worked in Western Europe were returning home to defend their homeland. “When I listened to this, I especially remembered Dr Pučnik. He, too, came from a comfortable foreign country to the turbulent sea of the beginning of the Slovenian spring, returning to uncertainty, to the homeland that deported him. He did not return only in the role of someone who will help, but someone who will lead,” Janša said in the introduction.
And he went on to say that Dr Jože Pučnik, with his life destiny, was ideal for that time: “His attitude, to return from a comfortable professorial position in the west, to help the homeland, to come to risk, to a country ruled by the same people as when he was sent to solitary confinement. That was courage!”
Janša also expressed his satisfaction that in the last 15 years we duly repaid Dr Jože Pučnik in some places. The main Slovenian airport is named after him, as well as the streets and squares all over Slovenia, but at the same time he could not help but be disappointed with the city of Ljubljana: “One big exception is our capital. I think that a few days ago the Commission for the Naming of Settlements and Streets in Ljubljana refused to name one square after Dr Jože Pučnik on his anniversary. This shows the incredible small size of some political options.”
At Brdo Dr Pučnik convened a decisive meeting of the Demos people
Many are wondering why the bust, made by the academic sculptor Metod Frlic, was placed next to the Congress Centre in Brdo. Janša explained: “Because he was here when one of his main initiatives was adopted, even though many doubted at the time that there would be nothing to do with independence. Then Pučnik convened a meeting of key Demos people here and asked everyone firmly if we were moving forward. After two rounds, Demos’ coalition left the meeting united. From then on, everything was easier… This was one of those moments when Dr Pučnik was key. He knew how to express faith from the inside and outside that we would succeed in independence. Those words that Dr Jože Pučnik said in Cankarjev dom after we learned about the results of the plebiscite, are eternal. Especially in these times when many things are on the scales, we must repeat them every day – It is about Slovenia!”
The event was rounded off with a cultural programme; Igor Pirkovič, who wrote a special song about Pučnik; Tone Kuntner, who recited Prešeren’s Toast; the Slovenian Army Orchestra, etc.
For a conclusion
Dr Jože Pučnik decisively marked Slovenian history. First with his suffering and sacrifice when he was imprisoned and sent to prison in totalitarian times, then he had to go into exile. In the period of Slovenian democratisation and independence, Dr Jože Pučnik played a central role. In the first half of the 1990s, he indelibly contributed to the Slovenian reconciliation process, as he chaired a commission to determine responsibility for post-war illegal killings. When the life and work of Dr Jože Pučnik is brought together as a whole, we get before us the true greatness of this exceptional personality, to whom Europe paid homage by naming the hall in the European Parliament and who certainly has a place of honour in front of the Brdo pri Kranju Congress Centre.