By: Vinko Vasle
The year 1991 was not only extremely politically active and tense, it was also the time when the so-called Slivnik’s little company in Delo already began to face an internal destructive “opposition”, which, of course, also speculated about what might happen with the announcement of Slovenian independence.
On this other side, in fact, all those who did not belong to Slivnik’s little company were – one consciously organized under the leadership of Marjan Sedmak, Vesna Drčar Murko, Janko Lorenci and Mija Repovž, and the other, the majority, as humble silent sheep.
“Slivnik’s little company” and “socio-political workers”
Slivnik’s small company was not the (expanded) group that later founded the Mag magazine; In addition to Danilo Slivnik, only Jože Biščak, Vesna R. Marinčič, Igor Guzelj and I were included in the project at Delo. In fact, these were individuals on whom the top management of Delo − Tit Dobršek and Danilo Slivnik − could rely on completely. All others played double and triple games, some also played the role of collaborators in the worst ordeal of the Ten-Day War, especially when they argued that Delo journalists should collectively approach the signing of the Declaration of Peace as though it was treason, and announce it to the public as such. It was first signed by the then President of the Presidency, Milan Kučan, and then by all members of the Presidency with the exception of Ivan Oman. Of course, this could not have happened at Delo, although Jože Školč at least twice tried to convince me to sign, because if not, someone else would, and Slivnik also received phone calls from the presidency urging him to sign. The Great Wall of Slivnik’s small company was too mighty at the time. Later, the former correspondent in Moscow, Marjan Sedmak, became a kind of driving force behind the disintegration of the plural Delo, newspaper, which had an extremely well-sold circulation. He also became the president of the Slovenian Journalists’ Association, and because he did not like the writing of Slivnik’s small company, he even publicly announced that individuals should be imprisoned because it would not be sufficient to simply quit journalism. Due to his outbursts, the following people left the Association of Journalists: Vesna R. Marinčič, Igor Guzelj, Jože Biščak, Danilo Slivnik, the editor-in-chief of Delo Tit Dobršek and myself. Sometimes it even went so far that, for example, the then editor of the editorial, Boris Jež, came to the domestic political newsroom in a “special state”, shouting that we should be banned from writing, arguing that he could write, because he was on the right side, but that we did not have that right. Well, there were many more such and similar violent anecdotes.
Even then, it was at least being quietly mentioned, who was cooperating with Udba at Delo, and who coincided with military intelligence, but even though there was no evidence, there was indirect evidence in the conduct of individuals. Viktor Blažič, a journalist who was taken from his job in the editorial office by members of Udba and was later sentenced to two years in prison for a verbal offense under Article 133, told me a lot about Mitja Meršol and some others. Namely, at Blažič’s home they found private notes about the communist regime in a drawer. Evidence against Meršol came much later. On several occasions, Delo‘s later management received an initiative to apologize posthumously to Blažič, but this still has not happened. Udba does not forgive.
Actors of independence, cowards and party apparatchiks
Regardless of the internally destructive situation at Delo, we have remained firm and stubborn that this phalanx − which became increasingly associated with the anti-Demos opposition, and especially with the successors of the League of Communists − in these fateful times, would not get Delo into their hands. Although Slivnik was considered a great editorial democrat at Delo because he was aware of the importance of the plural newspaper, he made it clear that Delo‘s opposition would not have the opportunity to influence the fateful historical events. And so it was. When it was most difficult during the war, Slivnik bade farewell to Miran Lesjak, especially when one day he brought a text that was full of weeping fear, and in a way was in fact an attack on the defence against aggression. I believe that his anti-militant twist came after he had met a few times with LDS leaders Jože Školč, Mile Šetinec and Vika Potočnik, all of whom tried to prevent the adoption of defence independence laws. On around the third day of the war, Lesjak suggested that I go to an important meeting with him. In fact, in a completely quiet Ljubljana that was expecting an attack, we met Školč in the garden of the Holiday Inn hotel. At that time, Školč was telling us, trembling and completely pale, about what would happen, how the YPA would literally trample and kill us, of which he said, he had reliable information. He thought there was still time to make a wise decision. I was outraged that this vile hanging of the white flag on the pole of the homeland was unfolding before my eyes.
The internal political editorial board of Delo was very interesting. The fact that it included, for example, Veso Stojanov and Marko Pečauer, two people who later became executors of Mag. Pečauer is particularly interesting – a grey mouse, without his own self-determined will, a journalistic little bureaucrat. But when he became the editor of the domestic political newsroom, he showed that he was a real boss: all weekend he and his wife and mother-in-law were rearranging his new office – curtains, flowers, moving cupboards and the like. He was also known for avoiding conscription at all costs during the war for Slovenia. Veso Stojanov, who was close to Sedmak’s opposition brigade, was given the glorious position of correspondent in the United States, where he was sent by Slivnik in order to get rid of him. Prior to that, the editor of internal policy was Jana Taškar, who had, in only seven years, progressed from typewriting to secretary of the editorial board and then to editor. At Delo, this was actually the rule, because education did not matter; however party recommendations were important. But all of them just did their boring daily tasks. On the other hand, Slivnik’s small company worked entire days, even late at night, to prevent at least some conspiracy and to maintain an independent Delo for an independent Slovenia.
War for Slovenia; from Trzin to Medvedjek
I know of so many adventures from that time that I could even write a book about them. Let me just mention how, after it came to light that Ciril Zlobec had given the Italian consul in Ljubljana information on when Slovenia would take over effective power (it was a state secret of the highest level), I extracted an admission from him at his home. Later, this was confirmed by documents anyway. One afternoon, for example, Slivnik was looking for a volunteer in the newsroom who would go “to the front in Depala vas”, where our blockades were, which the YPA wanted to break. Of course, I volunteered, and the photo reporter Joco Žnidaršič went with me, but he “dug in” a few kilometres before the event, as it was obvious that one house was already on fire due to the shelling and that it was a major clash. After the action of the territorials, I helped the three of them to take some captured YPA soldiers to the police station in Črnuče, so that they could tell me their stories. For example, about having been told in the barracks that Yugoslavia had been invaded by Italians and Austrians, and similarly. Since I did not return to the newsroom until 2 a.m., Slivnik was very worried. In one house, they managed to connect me to the newsroom by phone and Danilo was relieved that I was still alive, even though I was doing stupid things there that could cost me my life. That is when the anecdote was born at Delo that someone heard a boom on the phone – it was a shot in the dark, in my head.
I remember how at Delo, and earlier in Tivoli, I attacked Spomenka Hribar, who organized three other women to distribute carnations on buses. These buses were full of women from Serbia who had come to Slovenia to rescue their husbands and sons, as they had heard horrible, false stories from the media, the worst being from the Politika Ekspres correspondent, Aleksandra Plavevski. The women, all dressed in black, of course resented the flowers indignantly, even insulted them, but Spomenka thought she was doing humanitarian work. But it was complete nonsense. Of course, she did not forgive me for that, but it did not worry me.
As the Serbian press wrote a lot about what our side was supposed to be doing with the captured or the soldiers who had surrendered, journalist Majda Vukelić and I received permission from the Minister of Justice Rajko Pirnat to visit all prisons and locations where soldiers were detained. And of course, we exposed Serbian lies. An interesting story is how Slivnik and I came across a secret YPA document about YPA intelligence officers, some of whom tried to impersonate “us”. We published everything successfully, but unfortunately among these YPA officers was one that actually worked for us. But our secret services secured him in time.
I was near Medvedjek, where there was a massacre of truckers, but I will end here – it was just too horrible to mention.
The essence of my story lies in the fact that even then, at Delo and in politics, we faced opponents, even the five-columnists, when it was really severe. Just like today, back then the enemy was visible and it was easier, but today, the enemy is like an invisible virus.
About the author:
Vinko Vasle is a long-time journalist, editor, writer and satirist.