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Friday, May 24, 2024

(SPEACH) Vili Kovačič in Mala Gora: “TIGR is returning from exile, and let’s restore the rightful honour to the Primorska patriots”

By: Vili Kovačič

Dear all present and those following us through the media, I am very pleased with the large turnout I see here, both at the holy mass and at the celebration in memory of TIGR. Our celebration is different from others and previous ones, starting with its title, which this time reads: TIGR Returns from Exile, with the subtitle Let’s Restore the Honour a to Primorska Patriots, which is also the subtitle of the book prepared for printing and will soon be released in Trieste under the pen of our honorary member of the society, Mr. Milan Gregorič, who also spoke at this celebration years ago and is the author of the new book with the quoted title – TIGR Returns from Exile, Let’s Restore the Righful Honour to Primorska Patriots.

At the same time, through the name of our society – Slovenian TIGR May 13th – we want to once again convey to the public that TIGR is not only Primorska-based but is pan-Slovenian and even European, and therefore deserves broad recognition, although many of our people on the left try to reduce and diminish it to a local, municipal level.

Through the holy mass and worship, we communicate to people that TIGR, like all of Europe, is grounded in Christianity, and the spiritual foundations of TIGR were based on the Christian social movement in a secret organisation of priests called the Priests of St. Paul, whose leading protagonists were Janko Kralj, the painter Tone Kralj, and the famous priest and politician – practically a Church dissident, Catholic priest, and politician Virgil Šček, whose life story is excellently described in Ivan Sivec’s book “I Loved the Slovenian People”.

Therefore, today with even greater joy and satisfaction, I announce a new book titled “TIGR Returns from Exile”. However, it is widely known that TIGR is not just Primorska-based but is a pan-Slovenian and even European phenomenon. This is evident from the fact that before the Second World War, tens of thousands of Primorska locals sought asylum from fascism and found refuge in the homeland, primarily in the area of Maribor and Styria – then part of Yugoslavia. Among them was the military commander of TIGR, Danilo Zelen, who has a commemorative plaque in Ljubljana near Bežigrad. However, that is all, or almost all, that testifies to him. Therefore, we call upon the current government, which struggles with the nation’s memory, to erect a monument to the members of TIGR in Republic Square, at the place where shapeless workers followed their leader Edvard Kardelj, who – it must be clearly stated – together with Kidrič did everything to erase TIGR from the nation’s memory, and due to their efforts, it was not collectively accepted into the Liberation Front. Their motto was, in fact, “accept individuals, DESTROY THE ORGANISATION”. But let’s leave that aside for now.

Therefore, it is even more important that the day commemorating TIGR becomes a national holiday, a day off work. Instead of May 2nd, which is not observed as a public holiday by any EU member state. In short, it is time to fulfil our debt to TIGR and the nation’s memory with this holiday, which is yet another unfulfilled task of the DEMOS coalition, which should have been realised back in 1990. At that time, it was proposed by the leader of the liberal party in Kranj and the mayor of Kranj, Mr. Vitomir Gros, whom I also see here today and warmly greet.

A particularly special task and an unpaid debt lie in the relationship between TIGR to Europe, or rather, Europe to TIGR. Therefore, I call upon all candidates for EU Parliament members in the new EU Parliament to advocate for the erection of a monument to the first anti-fascism movement in Europe in the heart of the EU, in Brussels. This will ensure that EU bureaucrats and politicians finally understand what they are talking about and learn how, where, and why anti-fascism emerged. Instead of begging for a seat on the balcony during Allied commemorations of the end of the Second World War, as Western allies do, with TIGR, we can easily take a prominent place in the front row.

And a few words about the monument at this place where we are today. What remains of the monument is slowly disappearing and is doomed to complete disappearance. Therefore, we propose to the state that this site be reconstructed with the installation of a new version of the so-called Lovšin Lodge according to the plans of that time, which still exist, thus making this space a unified memorial complex, with the land transferring to state ownership. Regarding the chapel where the holy mass takes place, we would prefer to have it within the narrower area of ​​the monument, but since it cannot be moved, both points must be visibly connected. This intervention could lead to a unified memorial park, which TIGR, as the unique site of the first confrontation with the occupier, truly deserves.

At the same time, let me remind you of the monumental monument at Cerje, which has lost its meaning and purpose. Instead of being called DEFENDERS OF SLOVENIAN LAND, it is now called the MONUMENT OF PEACE. Why, might one ask?! Therefore, we propose, and at the same time expect from the government, that they promptly remove the pacifist debris from the interior arrangement of this unique and magnificent monument and arrange it according to the original plans of Evstahij Pregelj and the great fighter for it, the tragically prematurely deceased Primorska patriot Karel Kocjančič.

Dear all, I have outlined the main suggestions. Next year will mark 20 years since the first national celebration held at this site on May 13th, 2005, with a live TV broadcast that deeply and indelibly impressed many – including myself.

Much has been missed, but much can still be accomplished!

All useful ideas are welcome to help make this place known and worthy of remembrance. It should become internationally recognised and show Europe where fascism began and who were the first fighters against it. I can say that today, the EU structures or their representatives have no clue about this. We must correct this situation. And for this, our foremost call goes to our representatives in the EU Parliament, regardless of their political or ideological affiliations. Therefore, I urge them to dedicate their assistance – even by contributing to the realisation of these proposals and ideas – now before the elections and then in practice. Initially, we need help in devising plans on how to arrange this area.

TIGR contributed significantly to Zone B being assigned to Yugoslavia. However, I will not delve into how we lost Zone A and its core, Trieste, today.

Therefore, immediately after this event, and still within this month, we will resubmit to the National Assembly the already drafted legislative proposal to declare May 13th as a national holiday – a day off work.

We call on members of all political parties to support this proposal, thereby showing honour and allegiance to the idea of freedom embodied in the poem recited by Tone Kuntner at the beginning. At this site, in the battle, Danilo Zelen fell, deserving a permanent monument in Republic Square in Ljubljana and the declaration of Danilo Zelen as a national hero, a proposal we made a decade ago.

I also call upon Primorska’s TIGR or Tigr of Primorska and all its members to support the establishment of the national holiday and invite them to promote Milan Gregorič’s book, “TIGR Returns from Exile”. The mere fleeting mention of TIGR in the context of World War II by political leaders – during other national celebrations – by the President of the country is not sufficient. We must contribute to its rehabilitation and positive promotion at the national level, and let’s not forget the European level either. Our debt in this regard will certainly not be fully repaid, but it will at least provide symbolic comfort and satisfaction to many, especially to those who, as relatives or descendants, suffered in any way due to TIGR’s activities.

Dear all, let’s be realists, let’s demand the impossible, or as Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Let’s do something concrete, even the members of this current National Assembly.

Thank you for listening to me. When we return home from here, let’s not forget why we came to this event. I hope that when we return in a year’s time, we will be in a joyful mood, having succeeded together in achieving the seemingly impossible: restoring the national celebration with RTVSLO broadcasting and establishing May 13th as a national holiday.

Finally, let me remind you of other important anniversaries of significant Slovenes that lie ahead. In short: in the European Capital of Culture, Gorizia, and Nova Gorica, we must seize the opportunity to promote in Europe the first victim of fascism among Slovenes, Bishop Anton Mahnič, a great thinker, philosopher, and leader, who wrote down three principles in his agenda: Truth, Beauty, and Kindness.

And finally, let’s not forget that in three years, in 2027, it will be the 100th anniversary of the establishment of TIGR on the sacred mountain of Primorska, on Nanos. This commemorates the day when the founders of TIGR gathered around Little Mary’s altar at the beginning of September 1927.

Let me also draw attention to Ivan Sivec’s book about Virgil Šček, a Primorska politician, popular national awakening figure, and priest, titled “I Loved the Slovenian Nation”, which is now translated into Italian and awaits publication. We are currently striving to include this book in a joint project between Slovenia and Italy, namely the European Capital of Culture.

Dear all, with this, I conclude my contribution to the celebration. At the same time, I invite all participants and everyone with good intentions to the Hunting Lodge above the village of Struge, where we will celebrate and exchange ideas, hoping that the thoughts and ideas written and read will also come to fruition. Or, as they say, “words will became flesh, dwelling among us”.

I am confident that we will soon have holidays and monuments that we will not be ashamed of but will proudly respect. We should have started celebrating them at least 33 years ago, but better late than never. Sometimes, a small thing is needed for great things to happen. That time is now here.

I conclude with the greeting SFSN – death to fascism, freedom to the people, which is the original TIGR greeting, just as the song “Bazovica” is the original TIGR anthem, now adapted into the anthem “Vstala Primorska”. Unfortunately, it seems that everything in this land has been stolen.

Vili Kovačič, President of the Slovenian TIGR Society, May 13th

Mala Gora, May 12th, 2024

Postscript, added after the end of the ceremony: Because many ideas and proposals written here may seem like complete utopias under the current executive authority and balance of power in the National Assembly, this cannot be a reason to abandon them; on the contrary, we must emphasise them even more loudly. Because no authority is eternal. And we must prepare for a period of new beginnings. Some things simply need to be done and thought out in advance!

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