Foreigners Self-Isolating in Slovenia: Do You Feel Safer? Melinda Hajdin, from California

By , 06 Apr 2020, 19:05 PM Lifestyle
Foreigners Self-Isolating in Slovenia: Do You Feel Safer? Melinda Hajdin, from California All photos Melinda Hajdin

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Do foreigners in Slovenia feel more or less safe sitting out covid-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? All the stories in this series are here. If you' like to contribute, see here or at the end of the story

Who are you, and how did you come to be here?

 My name is Melinda Hajdin.  I am an artist from San Jose, California. I now live in Hrastik in Zasavje.  I came to Slovenia to do plein-air painting.  I have a BFA in Spatial Arts from San Jose State University,  and I am considering doing my master's degree in art here in Slovenia as well, at either ALUO or AVA.  My website is www.melindahajdin.com and I also have a Facebook artist page, melindahajdinart.  My degree is in sculpture but I am currently focused on the pictorial side of the arts, on drawing and painting.  I love the Slovenian countryside and small towns.  The peace and beauty here inspires me.

Tell us a little about your situation and sanity.

I am naturally something of a hermit, so you'd think the lockdown wouldn't get me down too much, but it's been more stressful than I bargained for.  I live alone in a country where everyone is very social and likes to do everything in groups.  I am used to feeling different from everyone else, so it's pretty weird to find the whole world unwillingly living the same kind of life as I do every day.  My sanity levels are okay, though like everyone else I am nervous about getting the virus and I don't want to die.  I would love to be able to say that I'm churning out masterpieces every day here in lockdown, but I am often finding myself creatively blocked and lacking in energy.  Nevertheless, as much as I can, I am practicing my skills and learning new techniques.  I'm not able to paint plein-air right now, but I am compensating for this by developing other projects.  Luckily, there are a couple of art supply stores in Slovenia who deliver by post, so at least I can get materials.

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When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

I live in my own little world, so I realized it a bit late, only after a lot of people in Italy started to die and the Slovenian government started shutting things down, stopping public transport and other restrictive measures.  I had not been much in the habit of keeping up with the news.  That's changed; I read the headlines every day now.  

What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis?

I’m disabled and technically a vulnerable person, so I would be worried about getting sick wherever I lived, but I think Slovenia has done an excellent job in shutting everything down to slow down the spread of the virus.   The low death rate we have compared to other European countries is a testament to the success of those measures.  I would rather be in Slovenia than any other place on earth right now.

What about how your home country is handling it?

Santa Clara County, California, in which my hometown San Jose is located, is particularly hard hit by the virus.  The governor of California is doing his best, but there is a critical lack of good leadership at the federal level in the United States.  I am very worried about my friends and former classmates there.  I definitely think the U.S. situation will get a lot worse before it gets any better.  By contrast, Slovenia acted swiftly and comprehensively, and with compassion for the most vulnerable in society.  During the initial wave of panic buying, I was really afraid of running out of food, but luckily, I only had to endure that for a few days. I have benefited from the special shopping hours set aside for the elderly and disabled, and am grateful those measures are in place. 

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One of Melinda Hajdin's sculptures

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

I only understand a little bit of Slovene - I had been about to enrol in a government-sponsored language course when the coronavirus hit - so I can’t really speak directly to that.  The English language versions are keeping me reasonably up to date, though one always wonders if there's anything left out, or lost in translation.   From the U.S., there's a never-ending barrage of official communications, but it only demonstrates how chaotic the situation is over there.

What’s the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

CHEDDAR CHEESE.  I will happily accept donations.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

I moved into my building in Hrastnik only a few months ago, and I don't really know many people except to say “dober dan” in passing.  As an American one is raised to be an individualist, first and foremost.  Gradually I am getting used to living in more of a collectivist society, and learning to appreciate the closer social bonds that people have here.  I have learned that people here can really be very kind. 

I'd like to give a few shout-outs, if I may:  Thanks to the manager of my building, Mrs. Haberl, for giving us all free masks and for doing a good job in general managing our building.  I'd also like to thank the Upravna Enota in Hrastnik for giving me the opportunity to live and develop my art in Hrastnik.  I had planned to stage an exhibition of paintings at the Delavski Dom gallery in Hrastnik this fall, with the public warmly invited, but the gallery had to close due to the virus.  Hopefully the show will happen before next year.

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If you’d like to contribute to this series please answer the following questions and include a paragraph about yourself and where you’re from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum (including at least one of yourself) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject: Corona Foreigner.

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Slovenia doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

 

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