STA, 23 July 2019 - This year's traditional memorial ceremony at the Russian Chapel (Ruska kapela) under the Vršič Pass, which honours Russian POWs killed during WWI, will be focused on the post-war period. It is expected to be attended by several thousand people, including high-profile guests from Russia, the organisers have announced.
Taking place on Saturday, the ceremony marking the 103rd anniversary of the construction of the Russian Orthodox chapel will see the keynote address by parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan as the honorary sponsor of the event.
Addressing the ceremony in front of the chapel built by Russian POWs engaged in forced labour in the area during WWI will also be Ljubljana University Chancellor Igor Papič, as this year's event is connected with the 100th anniversary of the university.
It was Russian immigrants who helped establish the university one hundred years ago, the organisers noted at a press conference in Ljubljana on Tuesday.
The ceremony will be attended by official delegations of the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, the former headed by Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Konstantin Noskov.
The memorial mass will meanwhile be celebrated by Bishop Siluan, the rector of the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy.
The organisers announced that the road between Kranjska Gora and the chapel under the highest pass in Slovenia will be closed, with free bus rides organised for visitors.
After the ceremony, which will start at 10am, a traditional meeting of members of the Slovenia-Russia Association will be held in Kranjska Gora, and several other events will be held, including in Ljubljana.
On Friday, a concert of the Russian jazz band Vadim Eilenkrig Quartet will be held in Ljubljana's Congress Square, while the mixed choir of the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy will perform in the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation on Sunday.
Urban Ocvirk of the Slovenia-Russia Association said that they wanted to give this year's ceremony a positive note and focus on the post-war period.
"The emphasis is on putting all the accumulated hatred, suffering and conflicts aside and transforming it into remembrance, reverence, into a possibility of creating something new in the dialogue between cultures, nations, people."
According to Ocvirk, the post-war period was ground-breaking time for people who needed to again find humaneness in themselves, which is why the ceremony should not only mark the tragedy of Russian soldiers.
"In more than 100 years, the chapel has developed into a legend, being transformed from a symbol of war and victims of injustices into a symbol of peace and the friendly relations between the Russian and Slovenian nations," added the association's president Ivan Geržina.
Russian Ambassador Doku Zavgayev said at the conference that the Slovenian-Russian relations had been progressing in various fields.
Zavgayev noted that Russia had recently donated to Slovenia a monument honouring Slovenian translator Davorin Hostnik, who compiled the first Russian-Slovenian dictionary. It was unveiled in his native Šmarje pri Jelšah at the end of May.