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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

[30 YEARS OF INDEPENDENT SLOVENIA] CHARACTERISED BY SIRENS

By: Zlata Krašovec

It was a sunny summer Saturday. I was hanging my laundry in front of the apartment block. At noon, the sirens sounded. A routine test, I thought and reached for another hook when the front door of the building opened and I saw Bor, not yet six years old, holding a transistor and a blanket in one hand, and Lan, his 4-month old brother, in the other. I immediately understood the situation. 

The child thought that he would have to go to a shelter, so he had grabbed the essentials. Some say that the war was a short, almost insignificant episode for Slovenia. But spontaneous childish behaviour testifies how it had embedded itself into people’s emotions. After all, when it started, who knew how long it would last? 

The independence bonfire 

On the evening of the day when the independent Republic of Slovenia was solemnly proclaimed on the Trg republike square in Ljubljana, our family went to Gabrovica near Črni Kal to visit our friend Niko, who had opened a tavern there. »We will light a bonfire and have some fun now that we are getting our own country,« he said enthusiastically. And we really did light it. We were not the only ones. As night fell, fires were lighting up on the neighbouring hills. We remembered the events that led to this moment, thinking about what awaited us. No, we were not afraid that we would have to eat grass or end up without passports, unlike some who had been trying to spread panic would have us believe. It did not seem likely to us that this would happen. But even if it did, in life we have to choose the path that is right, not the one that is most comfortable. When we returned home to Koper late at night, we had no idea what was happening very close to where we were, in Črni Kal. 

The memory of the war days 

We woke up to a fresh, sunny summer morning. I turned on the radio to hear about the solemn declaration of independence from the night before. However, instead, we learned that we had been attacked by the YLA. That we were at war. It seemed so unreal. Like the death of a loved one. The mind realised that this was indeed the case, and the feeling – unprepared for sudden shocks – persisted in the mood of the previous evening. Fortunately, a person has to think about practicalities. On the first day of the war, we bought a new oven. The old one was broken and since we produced flour from our own wheat, it would not make sense to not bake our own bread. 

At the time, I was the correspondent for the Primorska region Kmečki glas. I do not remember writing anything during the war. I was most likely off during those days. But even if I had not been – what can a reporter of a weekly publication write during a war? Even the daily newspaper had become outdated before it was even printed. We watched TV to see what was going on. Nevertheless, the radio undisputedly held first place among the media. We had it on all the time. What if there was a power outage? The transistor had to be ready. I sent my son Črt, not yet thirteen years old, to a nearby battery shop. But after a few minutes, the sirens sounded. My husband was at work. Now what? Should I go to the shelter only with my younger children? Should I run after the older child, so that we can be together? I ran after him and fortunately found him quickly. Being together in such moments is extremely important. You cannot hide in a shelter and think about what is going on with the child who is missing. But sometimes, that is the only option. It must have happened to some mothers. I have a hard time imagining what they had to go through. 

Every afternoon, I took the kids to the city beach. I am not exactly a fan of the sun. But it was necessary to go, because it may not have been possible to go the next day. Who knows if Breda, a young teacher who had taught Črt in the first grade years ago when we were still living in Ljubljana, also thought so. She brought her baby for a swim. When we met, she told me that her husband was with the Territorials. Of course, she was scared. But not in a way that she would want that somebody else would replace her husband in the fight for the homeland. I admired her. I admired her husband, even though I did not know him, because he certainly helped Breda with her attitude. The calm way in which he accepted a poet’s words, »Not only what the state tells him; what he can do, he is obliged to do,« which were also passed on to her. 

The fact that the war for Slovenia was short is not simply a happy coincidence. It took a lot of courage, many good decisions of those who led the fight, and a lot of heart from ordinary people who understood the significance of the situation. We will never know all the people to whom we should be grateful and why in the following months, the Slovenian battle for independence continued in peace, without military conflicts. 

The dinar is replaced by tolar 

At the beginning of October, Bor and I took the early morning train to Ljubljana for an examination at the paediatric clinic. I did not take any cash with me as I was convinced that I could withdraw it at the nearby ATM. However, no ATM in the country was working. The Yugoslav dinar was replaced by the Slovenian tolar that day. At that time, contactless payment and smartphones were still a long way off. It was awkward to pay for city bus tickets with a cheque, thus a friendly salesperson in a shop on Kolodvorska Street exchanged my cheque for a small amount of cash. It was necessary to improvise, but I did not regret the rejection of the dinar even for a moment. At the end of October, the ship’s sirens sounded late at night. The last YPA soldier was leaving Slovenian territory. I cared for him even less than for the dinar. 

Conversations with Pučnik 

Seven years later, in December 1998, in the Portorož Auditorium, Jože Pučnik and I – before we took the stage – recalled the time before the first democratic elections, when in 1989 I had moderated a conversation with him in front of a much smaller audience in the modest hall of the Koper dormitory. We agreed that, at the time, social changes had seemed inevitable, but that they might take time before they could really happen. But on this second meeting, we had already had a country for seven years. 

The topic of conversation in the Auditorium was »Sediments of the past and our view of the future«.  The invitation read: “The decades-long brainwashing, which is still not over, has left deep traces in the minds of Slovenians. It happens that intelligent and educated people make completely inappropriate decisions, and the public does not seem to notice it at all. What obscures our view? What should be done to overcome this state of mind, which would be necessary to allow us to develop normally and democratically? Why is multiple truth theory essentially manipulation? Spiritual deformity is not just a political problem, so it cannot be normalised only by political means, but by a comprehensive cultural renewal, of which politics forms an integral part.« 

I am wondering what I would ask Jože Pučnik today. [] 

Zlata Krašovec is a long-time journalist and publicist.

Before the first democratic elections in December 1989, I had a conversation with Dr. Jože Pučnik in the modest hall of the student dormitory in Koper. In December, almost a decade later, it was completely different in the Portorož Auditorium. 

I turned on the radio to hear about the solemn declaration of independence from the night before. However, instead, we learned that we had been attacked by the YLA. That we were at war. It seemed so unreal. Like the death of a loved one.  

 

 

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