STA, 6 August 2020 - Police have seized 2,650 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of around EUR 2 million in the Lendava area in the north-east in what is the biggest cannabis bust in the Pomurje area in recent years. Three middle-aged men were arrested and face up to ten years in prison.
The plants were grown on an island on the Mura river on a plot measuring 100 X 300 metres. The land has multiple owners, with the biggest being the state, and is just next to the Croatian border.
According to Dejan Ravš, the head of the organised crime unit of the Murska Sobota police department, the bust was made following a tip-off to the Lendava police.
Police occasionally laid in ambush at the site but it was only this Monday morning that three men, aged 40, 45 and 48, appeared at the plantation.
A view from the air of the plantation
All three were arrested and police also confiscated their vehicle.
Since the water level of the Mura is high these days, the cannabis plans were transported from the island by a police helicopter.
The plants were 80-110 centimetres high and could be used to produce at least 600 kilogrammes of high quality marijuana with an estimated street value of around EUR 2 million.
They will be dried and used as evidence before being destroyed. The suspects face from one to ten years in prison.
According to Ravš, this is the biggest cannabis bust in the Pomurje area in recent years. This year, five illegal marijuana growing operations were discovered along with two indoor growing facilities.
STA, 6 August 2020 - One in two 29-year-old Slovenians was living with their parents in 2018, whereas in 1991, the year Slovenia gained independence, only 20% of youths had such live-at-home arrangements. In 2018, most young people worked as service or sales workers, with some 80% of those aged 29 having a job.
At the beginning of 2020, there were some 310,000 youths in Slovenia, aged between 15 and 29, which compares to 430,000 in 1991, show the Statistics Office data released prior to International Youth Day, observed on 12 August.
According to recent projections, the number of youths will drop to the lowest level after 2080, when the figure is projected to stand at roughly 280,000. The downward trend will thus soften compared to the decrease seen among young population since independence.
When it comes to young people in Slovenia and their professions, two factors stood out in 2018: they seemed to be less interested in farming - the number of young farmers was down by 31% on the average, and a relatively small share of youths were managers or occupied top positions in the public administration compared to the average across all professions.
Out of the generation which was aged 22 in 2011, more than 90% remained in Slovenia seven years later. More than half of those who had emigrated were students in 2011. Most of the emigrants, aged 22 in 2011, live in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina now.
Taking a look at the financial position of those aged 29 in 2018, the data shows that the median annual gross income for those employed that year was near EUR 16,150, for the unemployed EUR 6,400, for students EUR 5,200 and for other inactive persons EUR 5,800.
The median annual gross income of 29-year-olds, including taxable and non-taxable income, in 2018 was EUR 14,800, which compares to EUR 15,700 for 34-year-olds. The median gross income for the 24-year-olds was meanwhile EUR 9,200. Fewer than half of those aged 24 in 2018 were employed.
29-year-old Slovenians with tertiary education exceeded the average income of those with secondary education by almost 30% in 2018.
International Youth Day was declared by the UN in 1999 to raise awareness about youth issues and stress the role young people have in society. The theme of 2020 International Youth Day focuses on the ways the young engage at local, national and global levels to contribute to institutional politics.
STA, 6 August 2020 - The Slovenian subsidiary of the Italian banking group Unicredit saw its consolidated profit plunge to EUR 1 million in the first half of 2020 compared to EUR 16 million in the same period last year.
Pre-tax profit for Unicredit Banka Slovenija and its leasing arm Unicredit Leasing in the first half was meanwhile down by 94.8%, from EUR 20 million to EUR 1 million, shows a report released on Thursday.
Net operating profit decreased 83.6% to EUR 4 million, and operating profit was down from 19 million to 11 million (-41.9%).
While operating revenue was down almost 22% to EUR 33 million, operating costs were down only 5.1% to EUR 21 million, with payroll costs decreasing by 4% to EUR 12 million.
Net interest revenue was up slightly to EUR 23 million, but net fees and commissions were down by 15.3% to EUR 11 million.
The bank saw a 2.2% drop in customers loans in the first half of the year to EUR 1.9 billion, while deposits by customers were up by 3.7% to EUR 2.08 billion.
STA, 5 August 2020 - The registered jobless total in Slovenia stood at 89,397 at the end of July, which is almost unchanged compared to June but due to unemployment growth in April and May the figure is 24.4% above that from July 2019, show data released by the Employment Service on Wednesday.
There were 84,717 persons registered as unemployed on average in the first seven months of the year, 12.2% more than in the same period last year.
The number of newly registered unemployed persons was 8,222 in July, up by 8.2% on June and by 32.4% in the year-on-year comparison.
Among the newly registered, 4,042 had seen their fixed term contracts expire, 490 were first time job seekers, 127 became unemployed because of receivership and 2,221 were long-term redundancies.
The new number of newly registered redundant persons was up by 0.9% compared to June and by 197.3% year on year.
Of the 8,202 persons that were removed from the unemployment registry, jobs were found by 6,487, a 95.7% increase year-on-year.
STA, 5 August 2020 - Covid-19 patients in Slovenia are primarily treated with support measures that target symptoms, meaning they receive oxygen and fever-reducing drugs if necessary. Those with severe symptoms are given remdesivir, favipiravir and dexamethasone, drugs that research shows can be potentially effective.
Remdesivir, an antiviral agent, is administered to those who need intensive care or have a rapidly increasing need for oxygen supply, Mateja Logar, an infectiologist at the UKC Ljubljana hospital, has explained for the STA.
Those with slightly milder symptoms and in the starting stage of the disease but with coexisting conditions are administered favipiravir, a drug so far used to treat the flu.
With those who need oxygen but have been receiving it for a period where favipiravir is no longer a viable option, the drug of choice is dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that has been used for decades, mostly to treat various kinds of inflammations.
"These are drugs that multiple studies have shown to be potentially effective while also having a relatively favourable safety profile," Logar added.
Slovenian doctors do not use hydroxychloroquine, an arthritis medicine that also can be used to prevent malaria, nor do they use the antibiotic azithromycin or drugs for HIV, as these have been proven ineffective in multiple studies.
The Slovenian Blood Transfusion centre is also collecting the plasma of those who got through a Sars-CoV-2 infection in the spring months and is storing it in case the need arises to use it for treatment. Plasma treatment has so far not been used at UKC Ljubljana for Covid-19.
There has been no treatment with stem cells either, given that this an experimental type of treatment that involves a number of technical difficulties.
UKC Ljubljana has so far not participated in clinical trials, since the studies also involved certain drugs that were not deemed appropriate. The hospital did share data on treatment with the producer of remdesivir.
This summary is provided by the STA:
18 new coronavirus infections, one more fatality
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's daily count of new coronavirus cases hit 18 for Tuesday as the combined death toll from Covid-19 rose by one to 124, according to fresh statistics from the government. The latest cases come from 974 tests, and bring the combined tally to 2,208, of which 202 are active cases. Twenty-two Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, three of them in intensive care. Three of Tuesday's cases were confirmed in Šmarje pri Jelšah, in the north-east, and two each in Ljubljana and Kranj with the rest scattered across the country.
Interior Ministry welcomes Italy's plans for stricter border control
LJUBLJANA - The Interior Ministry welcomed Italy's decision to send an additional contingent of soldiers to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region to help monitor the border with Slovenia due to an increase in illegal migrations. "Every additional measure on any side of the border is welcome, as this can reduce the appeal of a migration route." The ministry said this had been one of the topics discussed by the Slovenian and Italian interior ministers in relation to the surge in migration on the Western Balkan route.
Slovenian troops in Lebanon safe as officials express condolences
BEIRUT, Lebanon/LJUBLJANA - All four members of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) serving in the UNIFIL and UNTSO missions in Lebanon are safe and well following a series of massive explosions in Beirut that claimed at least 100 lives. Announcing their being well, Defence Minister Matej Tonin offered his "sincere condolences" to the victims' relatives. Likewise did the the Foreign Ministry, which tweeted: "Slovenia stands in solidarity with the people of Lebanon at this difficult time."
Covid-19 slashes combined H1 profit of banks
LJUBLJANA - The effects of a weakened economy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have started to reflect with increasing intensity in Slovenia's banking sector, as the most recent data from the central bank show the combined half-year profit of banks was just a third of the figure in the same period last year. Interest and non-interest revenue has been dropping, while the cost of impairments and provisions has increased. In the first six months of the year, Slovenian banks reported a combined profit of EUR 132 million.
Jobless total flat on monthly level in July, but up 24.4% y/y
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's registered jobless total stood at 89,397 at the end of July, which is almost unchanged compared to June but due to unemployment growth in April and May the figure is 24.4% above that from July 2019, show data released by the Employment Service. The number of newly registered unemployed persons was 8,222 in July, up by 8.2% on June and by 32.4% in the year-on-year comparison. Of the 8,202 who were removed from the unemployment registry, 6,487 found new jobs.
Adria Mobil braving new circumstances with optimism
NOVO MESTO - Caravan maker Adria Mobil plans to partly make up for the coronavirus fallout by the end of the year. Speaking to the STA in an interview, director general Sonja Gole said the company was not planning any cutbacks on its 1,100-strong workforce as long as the epidemiological status remained favourable. She was pleased to report a recovery in consumer demand since late May. The company's market share in Europe currently stands at 6.6% or above 8% in terms of holiday caravans, the highest in 20 years, said Gole.
Questions raised in the wake of boy drowning
SOLKAN/LJUBLJANA - The drowning of a ten-year-old at a popular bathing spot in the Soča river last week has raised a series of questions, even more so after the parents accused the social services and the police of making the family tragedy even more unbearable. The accident happened on 28 July, when the boy, holidaying with his grandparents and two siblings, was swimming at a bathing spot in the Soča near Solkan, when he was swept downriver by a sudden surge in the water level. The spot is situated just over a kilometre downstream from a hydro power station, which regulates the flow. There had been drownings at this spot before.
Rapid coronavirus tests only for critically-ill patients
LJUBLJANA - While coronavirus tests usually yield results in a few hours, rapid tests for determining SARS-CoV-2 infections in an hour are used in Slovenia only for urgent testing of patients with life-threatening diseases. Such tests are harder to access and costlier so their widespread use is not on the cards for now, according to the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food, where the swabs are analysed.
Retrial ordered in Cimos EU funds fraud
KOPER - The newspaper Primorske Novice reported that the Celje Higher Court had ordered a retrial in the case that sent former managers of car parts maker Cimos to prison for EU funds fraud. Former CEO France Krašovec was sentenced to five years by the Koper District Court in 2018, with long prison sentences for three other management members. A retrial was ordered because the ruling was based in part on the guilty pleas of Cimos subsidiary executives, which the Higher Court said may create doubts about impartiality of the trial.
More tick-borne diseases so far in 2020 than in entire 2019
LJUBLJANA - Ticks in Slovenian forests seem to be particularly active this year. The National Public Health Institute has received almost 4,500 reports of infections with Lyme disease and some 110 reports of infections with tick-borne encephalitis so far, more cases than in the entire 2019. Last year, 3,938 cases of Lyme disease and 112 cases of tick-borne encephalitis were recorded.
If you're learning Slovenian then you can find all our dual texts here
STA, 5 August 2020 - Led by Ljubljana, where the average price of a used flat rose by 40% to EUR 2,800 per square metre between 2014 and 2019, Slovenia has seen one of the fastest housing price growth rates in Europe in recent years. The Ljubljana Public Housing Fund (Javni stanovanjski sklad Mestne občine Ljubljana) is hoping to ease the pressure with some 240 new subsidised rental units in the coming two years.
The fund announced that 174 flats being built at Brdo on the western edges of the capital are in the final stage of construction, while work has also started on 156 units emerging as part of the Rakova Jelša II project in the south of the city. The target year for completion is 2022.
Moreover, next year is planned to see the start of construction for Jesihov štradon, a housing estate south-east of the city centre that will have 44 units, and the Litijska Pesarska project in the eastern part of Ljubljana, which will feature 95 non-profit rental flats.
Additional relief is meant to come with the help of 88 flats in the eastern borough of Zelena jama. The fund said it is in the final stages of the talks for the project and hopes to start with construction this year already.
While data by the Surveying and Mapping Authority suggested that housing prices growth in Ljubljana came to a halt already before the coronacrisis, data by the Statistics Office showed the prices of used flats were still up in the first half of the year by 4.7% year-on-year and by 1% compared to the last quarter of 2019.
According to OECD data, housing prices in Slovenia rose by 24% between 2015 and 2019, which compares to a eurozone average of 14%.
Meanwhile, efforts addressing the lack of supply in the capital amid favourable loans have also come from private investors, a large portion of whose projects has however also been targetting the well-heeled.
Recent examples include the emerging Schellenburg project at the site of Kolizej, an Austro-Hungarian-era army housing complex that was pulled down in 2011, and the Šumi project opposite the Drama theatre.
Major residential tower projects are also in the making, in particular in the northwestern borough Šiška. Slovak developer Corwin announced just today that construction work has begun on its EUR 45 million Kvartet project that involves four 15-storey towers with a total of 221 flats.
A similar project, estimated at EUR 40 million and featuring two 21-storey buildings with around 220 apartments in total, was announced for Šiška last year by Spektra Invest, which is connected to businessman Izet Rastoder and Zetagradnja, the biggest investor and builder in Montentegro.
STA, 5 August 2020 - The death of a ten-year-old who drowned at a popular bathing spot in the Soča river last week has raised a series of questions in Slovenia, even more so after the parents accused the social services and the police of making the family tragedy even more unbearable by preventing communication.
The accident happened on 28 July, when the boy, who was holidaying with his grandparents and two siblings, was swimming at a bathing sport in Soča near Solkan, when the water level suddenly rose and he was swept downriver.
The bathing spot is situated just over a kilometre downstream from a hydro power station, where the water flow is regulated by means of gates. There had been drownings at this spot before.
The police said the next day that a couple of bathers downstream tried to aid him immediately, but could not swim fast enough to reach him.
Kayakers nearby also stepped into action immediately, trying to catch up with the boy but to no avail. He was found by the rescue services two hours later and could not be revived.
The parents revealed their harrowing side of the story yesterday. In a letter, they said it took hours before they were informed that their child had drowned and that they were not allowed to see his body for days.
They denied media reports that they were present when the accident happened. The police report said that the boy had been swimming in the company of an adult as part of a five-member family.
They said that the boy and his two brothers, aged six and 12, were staying with their grandparents, while the mother and father were in Ljubljana with their youngest child.
They said that the brothers on shore had asked people who were present to contact their parents after the accident, but police officers and social services disregarded the requests.
Moreover, after the parents learnt there had been an accident they were unable to contact the grandparents and their two sons, saying in the letter that this was prevented by the social services.
The social services said in response to the letter that they had followed the instructions of the police and provided psychological support to the grandparents and siblings who were in great shock and were unable to speak.
The social services experts thus tried to mitigate the distress of the children by trying to divert their attention. Moreover, the social services said that when the grandparents' phone rang, they did not answer due to shock.
Social services said that two of their staff stayed with the children and grandparents until the parents arrived. They wanted to see the body of their diseased son immediately and the staff told them, based on what they had learnt from the police, that the body had been taken to the Nova Gorica hospital.
However, no pathologist was on call there and the boy's body had been taken directly to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Ljubljana. The parents said that they were able to see their son only three days after he drowned.
STA, 4 August 2020 - Due to an increase in illegal migrations from Slovenia to Italy, the government in Rome has announced it will send an additional contingent of soldiers to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region to help monitor the border with Slovenia, Tatjana Rojc, the ethnic Slovenian senator in Rome, said on Tuesday.
Rojc met today with Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, who presented the government's plans. The Italian government is closely watching the developments and wants to strengthen cooperation with Slovenia in the fight against smugglers, Lamorgese was quoted as saying by the Austrian Press Agency (APA).
Rojc told the APA that the stricter controls in Trieste and Gorizia are leading an increasing number of migrants and Ukrainian smugglers to try to enter via the smaller border crossing in the Udine area. The smugglers are transporting the migrants to Italy with small buses, camper vans and lorries, the senator added.
The plans of the Italian government seem to come in response to a letter sent to it last week by the regional authorities in Friuli Venezia Giulia, which called for fast and targeted action.
This summary is provided by the STA:
Nine new coronavirus cases confirmed on Monday, one fatality
LJUBLJANA - Nine new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections were confirmed in Slovenia in 890 tests on Monday, while one person died, according to the most recent data provided by the government. This brings the total number of confirmed infections so far to 2,190 and deaths to 123. According to the data from the Hrastnik municipality, a hotspot of Covid-19 at the moment, the diseased was a resident of the local care home. Moreover, three of the new confirmed infections are residents of the home.
Geneplanet ventilators supplied to thirteen hospitals, one private clinic
LJUBLJANA - Thirteen public health institutions and a private concessionaire have received the much discussed Siriusmed R30 ventilators ordered through Geneplanet. Although the Health Ministry decided in May that they could be kept only if additional equipment is supplied to make them suitable for Covid-19 patients only two hospitals received this equipment.
Huawei seeks to discuss 5G security with govt
LJUBLJANA - In the wake of Slovenia's announcement to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security with the US, China's Huawei said it is willing to discuss 5G technology security issues with the Slovenian government as well as sign a non-spy agreement with the country. "Signing the Slovenia-US joint declaration on introducing 5G in Slovenia will not contribute to greater cyber security," said Radoslaw Kedzia, Huawei Technologies vice-president of central Europe and Nordic states. The Chinese tech giant believes that labelling certain 5G providers as highly risky without any proof is another in line of baffling decisions by the US.
Youth drinking in Slovenia down but still above intl average
LJUBLJANA - Alcohol consumption among young people in Slovenia declined in 2017/2018 but it remains high by international standards, the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) said, as it presented the results of international survey Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) for Slovenia. The survey, conducted in Slovenia every four years, showed that 71% of 15-year-olds and 86% of 17-year-olds have tried alcohol, while 27% of 15-year-olds and 52% of 17-year-olds have been drunk at least twice in their life.
Fierce storms hit western Slovenia on Monday
KOPER - Fierce storms with winds exceeding 120 km/h hit western Slovenia Monday afternoon. The coastal region seems to be hit hardest, with locals clearing debris, fallen trees and pumping water out of buildings late into the night. Storms raged over Primorska, Notranjska, central Slovenia and as far east as the Drava valley, Environment Agency data show. Most of the calls for help to the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief hotline were made due to fallen trees, damaged roofs and flooded basements, while two lightning strikes were also reported. The heavy rainfall triggered two landslides and flooded roads.
NSi established 20 years ago
LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia - Christian Democrats (NSi) celebrated its 20th anniversary, but a major ceremony, to be attended by the head of the European People's Party, Donald Tusk, is scheduled for 4 September. NSi head Matej Tonin said the party should grow stronger to fortify the healthy and rational political centrum in Slovenia. The NSi has evolved into a modern centrist western European Christian Democratic party, Tonin said. The NSi received congratulations from European People's Party (EPP) president Donald Tusk and EPP group leader Manfred Weber.
Lake Bled promenade displays iconic images
BLED - Paintings of the National Gallery capturing the beauty of lakeside resort Bled have been put on display along the Bled waterfront. The area has been a source of inspiration for numerous painters and is one of the most famous images of Slovenia. Running between 1 and 23 August, the exhibition, titled Images of Paradise, displays depictions of the lake, Bled Island, the castle towering above the lake and surrounding mountains. It features captions in the Slovenian and English languages.
If you're learning Slovenian then you can find all our dual texts here
A follow-up story to our interview with Margaret Walker about her novel His Most Italian City.
By what convoluted route did an Australian come to write an historical novel about Slovenian Trieste? It’s a long story.
Asking my birth mother Silvana (1920-2020) for her family history was like getting blood out of a stone and, when at last she began to reminisce about her earliest days in Istria at the age of 90, it was a race against time to record it. Nevertheless, I discovered that her father came from Trieste and her maternal grandmother, Marija Matiasić, had run away from a village in Slovenia aged 16 sometime in the 1870’s. I began to write His Most Italian City so that these memoirs might not be lost, in the process uncovering the history of Slovenian Trieste that ran parallel to it.
In common with Sydney, where I come from, ports are multicultural places and in my novel I have drawn Trieste this way. It is a city perched at the crossroads of Slav, Latin and Germanic peoples and, before World War One, served as the port of Vienna. Half its population spoke a dialect of Venetian, like my mother, and the Slovenes, who made up one quarter, were the largest ethnic minority. When I wrote on page 117 of the novel that ‘half his friends came from mixed marriages,’ you can easily see this ethnic diversity in the nineteenth century marriage records of Trieste.
Trieste in 1919. Wikimedia
“Repressed by Austria no more! Viva l’Italia!” page 65. Austrian tolerance of multiculturalism was a threat to an Italy only recently united, and deeply resented by its intellectuals and politicians who had been the driving forces of the Risorgimento. Declaring themselves the inheritors of Ancient Rome, they envisaged an Italian Empire, and developed a movement involving land claims where Italian ethnic or language groups lived, called ‘irredentism’. Its definition varied from reasonable to extreme. For example, in the novel my Istrian grandmother Dolores is half Slovenian and half Croatian, speaks Venetian but considers herself Italian. If a town contained enough people like her (or even if it didn’t) an irredentist might claim that the town was Italian. For the Slovenes in Trieste the movement signified that irredentists considered Austrian Trieste to be ‘unredeemed Italy’.
Piazza Oberdan by Boris Pahor begins by chronicling the growth of the irredentist movement in Trieste and its effects on the Slovenian population. The book is the collected memoirs and stories of a particular place at a particular time by an author who was frequently an eye witness. It is essential reading for anyone who is interested in Slovenian Trieste. Unfortunately, I could only find it in German and Slovenian. (Translators, please note: when can we expect an English edition?)
The irredentist movement became particularly significant in Trieste after 1870 with the Italian occupation of Rome and the Vatican. The Irredentists so strongly influenced public opinion that gradually the citizens began to give way to it… This was not in harmony with the Slovene population….The irredentists, therefore, turned their attention to the Slovene middle class and often provoked clashes between Trieste citizens of Slovenian descent and Italian agitators.
Apart from the fact that they wanted to shake off German dominance, the Italian nationalists had an additional motive for connecting the city to Italy: resistance to the economic and cultural growth of the Slovenian people, a population that had been an integral part of the city for twelve centuries. It consisted of peasants in the suburbs, but in the city itself it consisted of carters, waterside workers, cooks, nurses, masons, labourers, and small merchants…In 1848, as in Vienna, so in Trieste, people demanded the recognition of their Slovenian identity, and so gradually began to form a Slovenian middle class.
The construction of the Narodni Dom in 1904 was, according to Pahor, a great provocation to the anti-Slovenian Italian agitators, accustomed to seeing the Slovene community composed of small karst farmers, dairy maids, housewives and labourers. When, after the end of the war, Rome seized control of the city and its surroundings, the Narodni Dom became one of the main targets of the hate that had hitherto been suppressed.
The burned out hall. Wikimedia
Pahor then records its destruction:
On that afternoon of July 13, 1920, the sky had turned blood red before sunset, and at the same time we learned of the fire… we ran downhill in the direction of those dull voices that came up from the piazza. We were actually witnesses of the events when we stopped at the corner in front of the coffee house Fabris. Everything in front of us was as if it were on a stage: that screaming crowd, over which the flames were zipping out of the windows of the Narodni Dom. We were shocked, held each other's hands, and stared at the firefighters. The attackers refused to allow them to direct their streams of water at the burning building… I probably wondered, as was the case later, why this fire, what was this crowd, this assault on the fire hoses, so that the water did not shoot up but poured itself on the ground? I learned later that people from within the Narodni Dom had doused it with petrol from the barracks, and that two people had jumped out of a hotel room onto the street.
In what has been termed ‘Trieste’s Kristallnacht’, a great deal of other Slovenian property in the city was also attacked.
Pahor continues, “As the editor of the newspaper Il Piccolo, Rino Alessi, put it in his article ‘Trieste has placed itself at the head of fascism.’” He goes on to detail the violence towards the Slovenian community in Trieste and in the Slovenian territory given to Italy after World War One.
In order to record a balanced judgement, it’s important to put this historical period into context. Fuelled by misinterpreted Darwinism, racism was in vogue not only in Germany and Italy, but even in Britain. This meant that, in response to Italian demands at the secret Treaty of London, which in 1915 brought Italy into the war, Britain had few qualms about incorporating one third of small Slavic Slovenia into an enormous Italy already on the brink of Fascism. After the war, the single voice for the national self-determination of the Slavs was US President Woodrow Wilson who addressed this issue in his Fourteen Point Plan. Unfortunately his suggestions were ignored and Mussolini, who was soon to take power, was a vocal anti-Slav racist. What followed were the ravages of Fascism as it stretched its tentacles far and wide.
The best referenced article I have read about this time was written by Gianfranco Cresciani. ‘A clash of civilizations? The Slovene and Italian minorities and the problem of Trieste.’ Italian Historical Society, Australia. Volume 12, No. 2 July-December 2004.
Dr Cresciani writes that within Trieste and Istria the Fascist regime “progressively shut down most Slovene or Croat institutions. Between 1918 and 1928, 488 primary schools were closed, as well as some 400 cultural, sporting, youth, social and professional organizations and libraries, three political parties, 31 newspapers and journals, and 300 co-operatives and financial institutions.”
One day when Silvana, my birth mother, was 97, we were out for a walk when suddenly she said, “My father was very unhappy. The government wanted to move him all over Italy.” This was Romano Tonon (1886 -1956), born in Trieste to an Italian mother and Venetian father, but apparently limited in his career choices because he was educated in Graz rather than Italy.
On page 138 of the novel, my great uncle (1896 – 1984), who was Slovenian and Croatian and also educated in Austria, was denied promotion at the University of Florence. Silvana deplored the discrimination he suffered. She mentioned it on many occasions. I have a photograph of Zio Lin, as she called him, still lecturing about a mosquito that attacked olives at retirement age. In 1928 his family’s name was Italianised. The original Italian in the birth register reads: ‘Il controscritto cognome di Micatovich è stato corretto a quello di Di Micheli con decreto del Prefetto di Pola.’ ‘The countersigned surname Micatovich has been corrected to that of Di Micheli with the decree of the Prefect of Pola’. In the same register a further round of Italianising Slavic names occurred in 1933.
Synagogue in Trieste. Wikimedia
I believe that any article about Slovenian Trieste needs a reference to Britain. There are several of these in my novel. “Britain, in particular, will back Italy as harmless if it serves British interests” – page 24. “Istria was given to Italy after the war by the winners because the Italians asked for it, and to reward it for fighting on their side” - page 174.
In 1923 King George V “conferred upon Mussolini the insignia of the Order of the Bath and congratulated the country for emerging from its recent crisis ‘under the wise leadership of a strong man of government’”. (Fascist Voices by Christopher Duggan, Vintage 2012.) And according to my father-in-law, who was an Australian soldier in Italy between 1942 and 1945, it was fear of the communism of the Italian Partisans (not Yugoslav) that led Britain to approve of General Badoglio as Prime Minister following Mussolini because, despite his Fascist war crimes, he was anti-communist. Douglas Walker received the Certificato al Patriota for his work with the Italian Partisans, but he continually stressed the importance to the Allies of stabilizing Italy.
Lastly,Trieste Goes to Australia by Gianfranco Cresciani (Padana Press, 2011) documents the fate of so many Slovenians in Trieste when the city was returned to Italy in 1954 after nearly a decade of being a freeport under Allied occupation. Particularly poignant are the photographs of the Audace Pier crowded with thousands of forced emigrants, ten percent of Trieste’s population. After their departure, depression fell upon the city.
Today is a time for understanding and healing between these two nations. Italy has thirty times the population of Slovenia, and at least that number again living around the world claim Italian heritage. We are far enough removed from Mussolini for these Italians who may not know of his excesses to study them objectively. So my last words will come from an Italian: “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain forever a child.” – Cicero.
You can learn more about Margaret Walker's work here