Lifestyle

09 Apr 2020, 16:21 PM

STA, 9 April 2020 - A survey has found that slightly less than a third of Slovenians continue to go to work as they used to before the measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic were introduced, and a similar proportion work from home. More than half of the respondents think that the epidemic poses a great risk for their jobs and companies they are employed in.

In the survey carried out by Aragon, 29% of the respondents said they continued to go to work as usual, 28% said they worked from home, while 16% have been temporarily laid-off.

Some 9% of the people polled are on annual leave, 5% work short time, and the same percentage are on sick leave. Only a fraction of the respondents are on leave because they have to take care of small children as schools and kindergartens are closed.

Men are in the majority among those who continue to go to work as usual, and women are in the majority of those who have stayed at home to take care of small children. The share of women who are on temporary lay-off is slightly higher than that of men.

"All this implies that the coronavirus crisis, if it persists for a long time, could result in economic inequality between genders," the pollster said.

The survey also shows that Slovenians think that the number of persons who are actually infected with Covid-19 is four times higher than the number of officially confirmed cases.

It has been projected based on the survey that on 10 April, the number of officially confirmed cases is to stand at 1,470, which would put the number of perceived cases at around 6,600.

More than half of the respondents (56%) would take a vaccine against the coronavirus if it existed, with men being more inclined to vaccination than women (62% to 50%).

The survey was carried out between 28 March and 2 April on what Aragon said is a representative sample of 1,031 members of the online panel Plusplet.

08 Apr 2020, 15:48 PM

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 what are you doing in Slovenia?

Hi, my name is Anya Piatkowska. I am Polish and moved to Slovenia two and a half years ago after living for two years in Ireland and 12 in London. I live in Medvode with my husband and two children.

I am an International Life Strategy and Transformational Coach and Founder of 'Art of Life' model. The title might sound a little bit abstract but is actually very simple. My work is all about guiding people to their potential, supporting them through life changes and reminding them how to shift energy and enjoy life even more, from inside out! This kind of work with people is the absolutely best thing, I believe, you can give to people to help them have an exceptional life. You can contact me or read about it on www.anyapiatkowska.com . Or you can find me on Facebook at my fan page, or the group Grow International Slovenia for people interested in self-development and networking with other open-minded international and local people. Mum of 2 and Explorer, Nature and Conscious Living passionate. 

Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

I am doing well. Just a little bit insane about home-schooling (especially when still not so fluent in Slovene). Despite teaching skills for a living, home-schooling seems to be a real challenge for me. I want to say a huge thank you and show my respect for all teachers, who take care and teach our children every day. Especially in Medvode, we have really great one! Being a transformational coach - a person who guides people through life changes and growth – I am not only taking care of myself and my family’s sanity but also that of other people who turn to me for support, boith on social media and in 1-on-1 sessions

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What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business?

Apart from being a transformational coach, I also work for a company. And I was just informed about the government help which will support people in full-time employment like me. Which is not the same as full salary, but very helpful in times like we have now. My main concern is people who are without any income at all. 

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

This pandemic has been a big issue for me since last week. As a coach who works on holistic life wellbeing and transformation, I am getting more and more messages about people’s mental states. About real daily life situations and the difficulty of managing one’s feelings. People are waiting for things to going back to normal and not feeling good about such a huge change in their lifestyle. In my opinion, we should start to learn how to adapt instead of thinking about when will things be like before coronavirus. As they never will be. Plus what we resist, persists. 

I am writing a book called Art of Life-Human Mini-Guide, which hopefully will help people after the pandemic calms down. Help to build a new reality in the new circumstances we are all in. In my opinion, this guide will be the essence of what I wish my children and everyone should know for an exceptional life. Which might be hard to imagine right now. And what I think is worth mentioning is that my target group are other expats, as a group who often uses guidebooks to know, plan and enjoy their next move and journey. I want to do the same thing in Art of Life-Human Mini-Guide,but guiding how to strive as a full human, instead of just surviving as a lone sailor. And also to give people some practical tools for daily life, and beautiful art to help them to connect with their heart and soul. I hope they at least wish to consider things from a different perspective. And open themselves to take the responsibility to adapt to new circumstances in a more conscious way.

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

I am quite impressed with the people I know. They really care and listen to what's advised in the current situation. I am also very impressed with the precautions and disinfecting customers hands and trolleys before entering the supermarket. And the small number of people who can enter it at the same time. 

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How it compared to Poland?

My home country Poland has similar but even more strict rules. Poland is a big country, which means more people. This means the population is not so easy to organize (I do not like the word to control) in such serious circumstances. As my mother said, "young people who do not have studies now, they decide to socialize and party even more because they have time", so the rules got even stricter recently. I believe that here in Slovenia we reach and inform each other more effectively because there are not so many people. 

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

My husband is working with well-informed people, while I am not watching any news, just for some mental hygiene. But of course I know and support all restrictions and precautions we are advised now. I read Total Slovenia News updates though, and often share them in my Facebook group Grow. International. Slovenia. So people can understand how important it is to focus on positive things and mental hygiene – which might be challenging for people who were not interested in self-development before – along with the greater hygiene we need with our behaviours and daily routines. 

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

I’m always eager to learn and grow more every day, so I’d probably take more books. I still prefer to feel a paper book over a Kindle or other reading app, though I appreciate them a lot, too.

What’s one thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis?

I actually talk about this on my website, but definitely I’ve learned to trust the process and that everything is happening for the reason. Even if it sounds brutal thinking of all the people who are dying now. But with a much bigger perspective this is a huge lesson for humanity. Which we might or might not learn from. We are all equal and connected, and we can see it right now perfectly as we all face the same situation, no matter who and where we are.

We can also focus only on the problem or, like I always say, we can start to focus more on the solution and on what we need to do now to protect ourselves as a species. So we can not only survive but also thrive from this life challenge. Hopefully we will focus more on a healthier, less stressed and more cooperative society. More connected to each other, nature and our hearts. Instead of chasing things which are not so important anymore. 

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.

 

08 Apr 2020, 15:18 PM

STA, 8 April 202 - The coronavirus pandemic has profoundly changed life in Slovenia and the rest of the world, a change perhaps best reflected in language, which has reacted fast to put the new reality into words. Slovenian has thus made room for social distancing, coronahumour and coronaidiots.

More than three weeks into the lockdown, Slovenian has a plethora of new words to deal with the epidemic and its fallout, some borrowed from foreign languages, some given a new meaning, some brought back from oblivion and some brand new.

The novel words are so many that the www.fran.si platform of web dictionaries, run by the Fran Ramovš Institute of Slovenian Language affiliated with the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts, released a special version called Fran, Covid-19.

The words admitted range from alpha coronavirus (alfakoronavirus) to helicopter money (helikopterski denar), corona package, corona law and corona bond (koronapaket, koronazakon, koronaobveznica) to corona crisis (koronakriza) and corona time (koronačas).

Slovenians have embraced the corona greeting (koronapozdrav) and even various types of isolation (samoizolacija, samokarantena, samoosamitev), while they look down on corona idiots (koronaidiot) and corona panic (koronapanika).

Interestingly enough, the Slovenian word for infectious (kužen) derives from plague (kuga), which is perhaps why most have been so good at keeping their distance from each other.

08 Apr 2020, 14:22 PM

STA, 8 April 2020 - The coronavirus crisis has raised fears about a spike in domestic violence, which has been detected in many countries during the pandemic. The latest data from Slovenian police do not show a significant increase in such cases since lockdown was put in place, but activists as well as authorities warn that could be misleading.

Mounting evidence shows that the Covid-19 pandemic has been fuelling domestic abuse across the world in the wake of lockdown restrictions and heightened stress, exacerbating cases where such incidents were already common before and prompting new instances of violence against women and children in particular.

The current situation may hence cause a spike in domestic violence in Slovenia as well, an issue that may be considered a pandemic in itself due to its systemic and widespread nature, according to experts.

One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, mostly from their intimate partner, show the World Health Organization's (WHO) global estimates. "This makes it the most widespread, but among the least reported human rights abuses," the organisation has said.

Concerns have been raised by activists that measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus are leaving victims of domestic violence essentially trapped at home with abusive partners. Perpetrators of domestic violence are likely to strike more during times of crisis, said the WHO, with lockdowns cutting off escape routes and making it easier for the abusers to isolate and exert control over their victims.

Such extreme situations may also lead to never-before-seen outbursts of domestic violence, with families and couples being isolated in a time of worries and fears amid the epidemic. Emotions running high, tensions can escalate quickly.

More time would have to pass for experts to gauge the actual impact of the crisis, however domestic violence hotlines and NGOs have already detected that things have taken a turn for the worse.

The Association for Non-violent Communication has reported an increase in helpline calls since the start of the epidemic, pointing out that most of those calls are coming from abuse victims who have already sought help with the NGO before.

Numerous callers report that they are experiencing issues concerning special care arrangements in shared child custody cases.

There have been women calling in for the first time, but not as many as the association would expect during such a time. This relatively low number is a cause for concern, the NGO has said, highlighting that coexisting at close quarters often leads to a spike in conflicts, but it also makes it harder for the victims to make an emergency phone call.

"In times when there is more cohabitation, the victim is left with rare or zero moments when they could call," Tjaša Hrovat, a counsellor at the NGO, told the STA.

Some victims have confided in her that they cannot dare or even imagine to plan ahead for a safer life during such precarious and anxious times.

In 2018, Hrovat told the STA that one in four to five women in Slovenia had suffered domestic violence, a much higher figure than one would have expected.

Meanwhile, the SOS Phone for Women and Children Association is hearing from an increased number of neighbours or closed ones who are trying to help because they have noticed "something was not right". The victims would even send their neighbours a text calling for help and the latter would then seek support at relevant helplines.

Epidemic-related distress must not justify violence against loved ones, Maja Plaz of the SOS helpline highlighted for the STA, urging neighbours and relatives to be extra vigilant and report any possible cases of domestic abuse.

She also warned about violence against children and the disabled, who may also more than ever experience rapid escalations of violence due to extreme circumstances.

The police have called on persons facing abuse at home to report such incidents, regardless of the lockdown, and called for a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence.

In the first three months of 2020, the police recorded a nearly 25% surge in domestic violence reports - an increase from 333 cases in the same period last year to 415 offences against partners, family members and children; the growth rate slowed down during the last two weeks in March after anti-coronavirus restrictions were introduced.

This could imply that domestic violence has not been swelling, but the police have warned that based on their experience, it could well be that the circumstances themselves are thwarting reporting of such emergencies, with victims being less able to phone and report or even to contact a friend or relative.

Whereas domestic abuse services are mainly providing support online and via telephone, safe houses have been faced with the dire need to keep operating as they did before the crisis amid ramped up health and safety concerns.

A domestic abuse shelter for women drug users is keeping its doors open during the epidemic, with almost all of its available spots occupied.

Being a survivor or victim of any kind of abuse may correlate with using illicit drugs, Neva Faninger, a social worker working at the safe house has said, adding that women who seek help at the shelter are often stranded in a state of semi-homelessness, which only further marginalises them, particularly during the lockdown.

Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the shelter has also seen the situation aggravated by tensions running high and such women finding it even harder to get help due to movement restrictions and the stigma revolving around addiction.

Due to the safe house's high hygienic standards and rules required in such an environment to reduce the impact of drug use, there has been little need to additionally ramp up disinfection efforts during the epidemic, added Faninger, finding a silver lining in the situation.

The shelter, a safe space for women caught in a vicious circle of drug use and violence, is the only such facility in Slovenia and one of the few in general that does not expect its residents to be completely drug-free upon entering it, said Faninger.

Instead it aims to help them without judging and mitigate damage caused by drugs gradually - a policy that got some recognition in March when Sabina Zorec, the initiative's manager, received a Women on Women award for feminist heroines.

08 Apr 2020, 10:37 AM

STA, 7 April 2020 - More than five years after deciding the state must provide equal funding for public and private primary schools, the Constitutional Court has specified that this applies only to the mandatory part of school curricula at private schools but not to non-mandatory curricula, such as morning and afternoon care, or remedial tutoring.

Announcing its decision on Tuesday, the court said that legislation stipulating that non-mandatory curricula at private schools get 85% of the funds provided for public schools was not unconstitutional.

The right to free primary education only applies to the mandatory curricula, which pupils in all primary schools must complete in order to finish school, the court said in the decision adopted on 12 March.

The state is obligated to allow a choice of different types of education, but it is not obligated to fund all the different types of education, the judges said.

They moreover said that private schools were not in the same legal position as public schools, because public schools must accept all pupils applying, while private schools do not.

The decision was the product of deliberations of several requests filed by parents of children attending private primary schools.

The decision was passed in a 6:1 vote, while two judges were recused. Judge Marijan Pavčnik meanwhile issued a dissenting opinion.

The nine-member court also criticised the National Assembly for failing to enact the court's late-2014 decision on the funding of private primary schools in a one-year period.

However, this has proven impossible, because the left-leaning parties opted to interpret the 2014 ruling in a way that could lead to a full scrapping of state funding of non-mandatory curricula, while the right-leaning ones want full state funding for private primary schools.

Although it believes parliament has violated the principles of the rule of law by failing to enact the court's decision, the court rejected the parents' request to define the manner in which the 2014 decision be implemented, meaning setting down the share of state funding for private school curricula.

Under the legislation still in place, the state provides 85% of funds for private primary school curricula, both mandatory and non-mandatory, as opposed to 100% for public schools.

Responses from political parties have been mixed. The senior coalition Democrats (SDS) believe the decision opens new questions. The party wonders why the court left out other curriculum activities, such as optional courses and activities, while expressly mentioning only morning and afternoon care, and remedial tutoring.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) is happy with the decision, saying it reflected its position on funding, while the conservative New Slovenia (NSi) welcomed the decision for being a step closer to equal funding for all schools.

The opposition parties meanwhile welcomed the decision because they understand it as drawing a divide between public and private education. Former education minister and vice president of the Social Democrats (SD) Jernej Pikalo said the decision addressed existing unclarities and that it confirmed what the SD had been striving for all along.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) is also happy with the decision, while the Left said that the court only highlighted the decision it had already made in 2014. It believes that a solution would be to amend the Constitution so as to say that the state takes care of the public service, while private initiative is a matter of one's own responsibility.

While the Education Ministry told the STA it is yet to look into the decision, the Montessori private primary school in Ljubljana and a parents' civil initiative want the decision about 100% funding for mandatory curricula to be implemented as soon as possible.

Pavel Demšar, the headmaster of the Montessori school, said the decision announced today only confirmed the 2014 decision. He hopes the school's mandatory curricula will be fully funded as soon as possible, while saying that he needs more time to look into what the court said about non-mandatory curricula.

07 Apr 2020, 10:23 AM

STA, 7 April 2020 - The real estate market has slowed down as measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus epidemic have been introduced, with deals concluded only retroactively and property inspected only on-line. Real estate agencies have seen a significant drop in turnover, which they hope will be compensated after the epidemic ends.

Agencies say that clients have not abandoned their intentions to buy or lease real estate, and that the true impact of the crisis would depend on the duration of the epidemic and the purchasing power after it.

Boštjan Udovič, the head of the Real Estate Association at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), has told the STA that real estate agencies are currently only providing services which could be provided without physical contact with clients.

Some real estate agencies have completely suspended their work, and "turnover has dropped significantly", he said. It will be possible to compensate for this after the epidemic ends, but this will depend on the general economic situation and purchasing power.

The real estate agency Stoja Trade is concluding contracts retroactively for deals agreed on before the measures were introduced. "Instead of inspections in person, we send interactive video clips of real estate to our clients," director Zoran Đukić has told the STA.

Zoran Veleski of Mreža Nepremičnin added that the number of calls from potential clients and demand in general had dropped in comparison with recent months, "which is understandable, as people are dealing with other priorities".

While the number of transactions is dropping, prices remain stable. "Everybody is waiting for quarantine to end, and prices will depend on the duration of quarantine," he assessed.

The short-term lease market is practically dead, as tourist visits have ground to a halt. "Many real estate units, which had been intended for temporary lease to tourists, are now empty. Some of them have already been placed on the market," Udovič said.

He believes that this, if the state fails to take quick measures, will not result in growth of the long-term lease market, as owners still almost exclusively decide to rent their real estate for less than 12 months for one reason or another.

Đukić expects a slight market correction when it comes to rental real estate because of the apartments which used to be leased via Airbnb. "There will be no major changes in the prices of rents, but the crunch will ease."

According to Udovič, the key will be the developments in the first months after the end of the epidemic, as turnover on the real estate market largely depends on the economic and financial state of the country and consumer confidence.

"If they reduce their consumption out of caution, the real estate market will suffer a huge blow," he said, adding that the state had taken measures aimed at preventing such consequences relatively quickly.

Stoja Trade has established that clients have only postponed the planned transactions, as a majority of clients are waiting for quarantine to end, and "if this does not take too long, major changes are not expected due to the specifics and small size of the market".

Đukić also expects that, considering the situation on stock markets and financial markets, people will continue to opt for safer investments, including real estate, which keeps its value in the long run.

Veleski agreed that real estate is one of the safest investments, but he also assessed that the situation on the market will depend on the duration of the lockdown measures and the drop in GDP.

"We can only hope that the government will support the economy with measures similar to those in other EU member states and that it would not leave the construction sector high and dry again," he added.

The experts have assessed that the measures from the EUR 3 billion legislative package to aid the economy and individuals will be useful, adding that it is understandable that it was not able to tackle all issues.

Udovič expects additional measures in the coming weeks, which would be focused on keeping the economic activity running. "From the aspect of real estate, care for an investment momentum after the end of the epidemic will be of particular importance."

He also expects that if the situation permits, the government will start easing up on the restrictions related to certain services, including real estate agencies.

Veleski noted that in addition to wages and social security contributions, companies have many other costs which they are not able to cover for months if their turnover is zero.

"The passed legislation is certainly beneficial also for our activity. I have concluded based on talks with agents and many others who are not part of our team, that they will be able to survive these few months," he added.

06 Apr 2020, 19:05 PM

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.

 

06 Apr 2020, 13:29 PM

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?

I’m Andy B and I’m originally from New York City.  I’ve been living in Slovenia for the past 12 years with my Slovene wife (who I met in the US) and our two boys who are 8 and 12.  Our oldest was born in the US and the youngest was born in Ptuj (a place I still have a problem pronouncing).  I met my wife when she was living in Detroit, MI and attending school.  After finding out where Slovenia was and visiting this lovely country two times, we were married and soon decided to move to Slovenia since she has a larger family here than I do back in the US. Currently I am working as an English teacher with a large language school and teaching both adults and children… now in a virtual environment.

Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

I am with my family, my wife, our 2 boys and our cat, in a relatively large apartment with a balcony in the lovely border town of Rogatec.  Although we are mostly at home, we are able to take walks and we have 2 supermarkets within walking distance.  During the week our boys get school work and are occupied with it for a good part of the day. My wife and I are both working from home, but we have enough computers for everyone. We’ve got conversation, books, board games, PlayStation, phones and other things to keep ourselves entertained.  Am I going to tell you our kids are angels who are playing well together and making creative project together without parental influence? Nope, I’m not. 

My and my wife’s sanity levels are very good. We are calm and managing to approach each day to get what needs to be done. We are not freaking out nor are with putting that kind of stress on our kids. We have the opportunity to go outside and there isn’t a lack of food in the supermarkets.  Quite honestly, I’m looking forward to sitting on the balcony with a nice cold beer as the weather gets warmer. I know my kids are bored and they miss playing football with their friends, but luckily their friends are just a phone call away and they can play video games with them online.

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

I realized it was going to be a big issue when the media started making it a big issue.  Soon after that, the governments around the world started closing schools, restaurants, restricting public gatherings and all the news was focused on death counts in various countries.  Now most of the conversation is about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 because there is not much else to talk about when you see an acquaintance at the supermarket or on a walk.

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

I feel very safe. Living in the countryside, there is more space (even though one of the outbreak’s hotspots is two big towns away, in Šmarje Pri Jelšah) and in the town of Rogatec, where I live, the supermarkets were very quick to provide hand sanitizer and gloves to its customers.  I think Slovenia is dealing with the crisis relatively well, but I think that has more to do with the character of its citizens than the government.  People here seem to be very resourceful and they seem to be able to easily adapt to a situation like this.  I found it funny that in the US there was a lack of toilet paper and here is Slovenia, there was a lack of yeast.  It just goes to show that Slovenes were thinking of how provide food for their families during this crisis. I mean, without food, there really is no need for toilet paper…right?

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How are things compared to your home country?

That is a really hard question to answer.  The US is a country of 330 million people vs Slovenia, a country of 2 million. Each state in the US has its own government and the concentration of people is much higher in the major cities.  Slovenia has a relatively homogenous population with the general attitude of helping each other out, or at least following instructions. I would imagine that it is much harder to make sure that the varied population in the US is following the guidelines to help stop the spread of the virus.

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

 I believe that because of its size, it is easier for the communication to be quickly passed on to the population. In the evening, my wife watches the news for the latest information and I can rely on publications like this one to provide me with the information that lets me know what is going on.  Again, it’s hard to compare the US and Slovenia. In the US there is 24 hour news channels that are recycling the same stories over and over and probably stressing out people that are constantly watching it.  The communication from the US government is constantly questioned and argued over which just adds another level of stress and confusion to the situation. 

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

I suppose since I’m in a village and not a city, I don’t feel like I’m in self-isolation.  So it’s not so dramatic for me and my family.  We can go and get food when we want, we can go for a walk/bike ride, we’ve got TV/internet/video games/books… I’ve got my guitars, etc. We’ve got everything we need. What we miss is the ability to go to a restaurant or travel somewhere nice for a day trip as the weather gets warmer. Oh, I know… I wish we had bought and installed a dishwashing machine.

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

I haven’t learned anything new about myself because of this crisis. This is just another situation that is part of life that we need to figure out a solution for or to manage how to deal with it.  I approach this problem as I would any other… rationally and trying to figure out what needs to be done to keep life for my family as relatively normal as possible.

My high opinion of the population of Rogatec was reinforced by the way that everyone is working together to make sure that we make our day to day interactions limited and safe for everyone.  I’m impressed with the stores, and especially with the people who work in them, that they are still doing business as usual, albeit from behind a Plexiglas partition and everyone wearing gloves and masks.  This small town solidarity is something that I’ve never really experienced before moving to Slovenia, and I appreciate it.

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.

 

05 Apr 2020, 10:05 AM

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

Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

 I am traveling with my wife, Rachel. We are healthy. We both retired last year and decided to spend some time traveling around the world. We have been traveling since mid-January, and we arrived in Slovenia on March 1. We have an apartment in Ljubljana with a full kitchen, a washing machine, and a balcony. We expect to stay here until at least late May, but if we can extend our tourist time here, we will because it is safer here than in our hometown of Washington, DC. We are staying sane because we have developed routines. We read news or watch videos on our computers in the morning, we try to go for a walk in the park mid-day, then we have a late lunch (on our balcony if the weather is nice enough), and we read books on our Kindles in the evening. I also take photographs and sometimes amuse my wife by Photoshopping them. For example, I changed the name of the restaurant, "Landerik" to "RachelandErik" in Photoshop. In general, though, it's like we are living the movie "Groundhog Day!"

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

 We realized the coronavirus was going to impact the whole world in a serious way when the northern half of Italy was locked down in early March. Then, when concerts and events here in Ljubljana were starting to get cancelled, we realized that strict coronavirus restrictions were going to soon be imposed here in Ljubljana, which would change our holiday here to be more of a "staycation."

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

 We are impressed by how the Slovenian government is handling the coronavirus crisis. The general consensus of experts around the world seems to be that if the restrictions seem like too much, they probably are appropriate, and it appears to me that Slovenia is following that example. I wish restaurants were open, or that I could get a haircut, but I understand that these businesses must be closed for the greater good. We feel completely safe here in Ljubljana. With rare exception, people give each other enough space when walking past each other, and the queues inside and outside the shops are orderly.

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 Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it.

 We live in downtown Washington, DC, less than 2 kilometres from the White House. Washington, DC and the two states that surround it -- Virginia and Maryland -- all have coronavirus, and they all recently locked down. There are several differences between how Slovenia is handling the crisis versus the USA. Different states in the USA have had different responses to the coronavirus crisis; some were quick to lock down, and some still have not. In the absence of clear advice from the federal government in the USA, the states have had to try to figure things out for themselves and some of the results have been disastrous. In contrast, Slovenia promptly decreed restrictions, and all municipalities and towns were bound to follow them. Simply by comparing the curves of the rates of infection in Slovenia versus the USA, Slovenia's method seems to have been more effective.

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

 We do not receive communications from Slovenian authorities. We check Slovenian news websites to stay up-to-date on Slovenian news related to the coronavirus. We receive regular updates from the US Embassy here in Slovenia, and the ambassador recently hosted a Zoom video call for all Americans in Slovenia, where she told us what the Embassy is doing to help, and she answered our questions. We also receive daily emails from the U.S. Embassy here with news and infection numbers in Slovenia.

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

 More pajamas! Yes, seriously. We are in our apartment many hours per day, and I stay in my pajamas for much of the day. I only brought two pairs of pajamas. I wish I had others because it is getting old wearing the same ones most of each day, and I assume my wife is tired of seeing me in the same ones every day, too!

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

 My wife and I have learned the importance of health over everything else. You can have all the material goods in the world, but if you get sick or worse, they won't do you any good. And we have learned about the deep goodness of most people. Slovenians have been so kind to us during this time of crisis. It warms our hearts.

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Erik and Rachel Cox are retired lawyers from Washington, DC. In their spare time, Erik enjoys running and photography, and Rachel enjoys studying homeopathy and healthy living. Follow Erik on Instagram at @erikcoxphotography and follow Rachel on Facebook at www.facebook.com/homeopathyexplorer

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.

 

04 Apr 2020, 15:00 PM

Four weeks ago, I was prancing around Istanbul, wining and dining, merrily catching up with old friends and students – and mercifully, getting my haircut by my favourite hairdresser. Invitations flew back and forth, and promises to visit Ljubljana in spring and summer ensued.

I returned joyously to the clean air and green of Ljubljana, and settled down to fine tuning my first English Immersion Experience, an English course, scheduled for the 20th March. We had optimum numbers and it was all systems go .

Then a friend working in China emailed to say she couldn’t come skiing, she was in compulsory quarantine and couldn’t leave China, because of a virus. I was disappointed, but put it down to Chinese politics, and decided to go skiing to Italy after the course.

Then a week later, on Monday, a FB friend in Trieste started writing posts on FB which read like something out of Camus’ Plague, and I investigated The Virus a bit further. It wasn’t deadly, and it was restricted to Northern Italy, so I continued at my usual hectic pace, unconcerned. Then on Thursday, we got our first cancellation for the course, and by Thursday afternoon I had got notice that all my corporate classes would be postponed until the rather ominous sounding- further notice. Schools were shutting, and companies were instigating a  working from home policy. I was left with no option but to postpone our course – a double whammy  for a self-employed (SP) teacher!

The next day, I leapt out of bed at 7am and whilst hurriedly performing my ablutions, I suddenly remembered that all classes were cancelled. My blood pressure plummeted and I passed clean out, whacking my head  on the bathroom tiles. I came to, dazed, with a throbbing and bleeding head and a strong sense of pending doom. I was in Phase 1 – Shock.

I passed rapidly from shock, into Denial, phase 2, mounted my trusty bike, and pedalled furiously into town, where it was quiet but shops were still open. Foolishly I didn’t stock up on my favourite chilli coffee and Japanese tea – in fact, I didn’t shop at all, but stopped off at various  coffee shops along the river and tried to absorb the implications of what was unfolding around me. That night I met a friend in the pub, and we lamented our losses, but decided it would only be for a week or two and started planning summer holidays.

The weekend was eerily quiet, and I cycled out into the country, stopping by at Levada for a late lunch. Halfway through my mushroom risotto, they politely asked me to eat up and pay up, they were closing early, and I was the only customer. They would be shut until further notice.

As I was preparing to leave,  my friend from London called to say how much she was looking forward to coming on the 1st of April. I explained what was happening, and that it looked like everywhere would be shut. She hesitated with disbelief, and then announced she would come anyway. We could cycle and hike, and she would cook.

Meanwhile, the increasingly gloomy Facebook posts from Italy continued, and my old schoolfriend from Spain rang to say that she had bought the last cans of disinfectant from the village shop, and had spent the day disinfecting her house, while her rather portly partner had been stocking up on red wine and beer. She was panicking. He had heart problems and she wasn’t letting him loose. I tried to calm her by explaining that it wasn’t lethal, unless you had health complications, like heart problems, and that old people died from flu every year, and after all, SARS had been much more deadly. After every platitude, her voice grew shriller, and I could feel the terror in her voice. I realised that my platitudes were having the opposite effect, thanked my lucky stars that we weren’t in lockdown, and hung up before we both fell out.

Back home, my landlady informed me of the latest restrictions, that on Monday public transport would cease, and only food shops and pharmacies would be open. She didn’t think it would really affect her and her husband at all. Seeking sanity from London friends, I called them with my woes. They responded with tales of going to the West End, playing tennis, and socialising as normal,  and my actor friend informed me that his show would go on – and he expected me there on the 4th April!

On Monday, I woke early, it was eerily quiet, not even the usual birdsong. As I lay in bed calculating my losses, as by now almost all my Slovenian students had ‘postponed’, my denial moved on to the next stage in the cycle, Anger.

My anger increased exponentially as more and more draconian restrictions were imposed, fertilized by the misinformation and meaningless statistics being spewed over social media and the gutter press. Facebook  abounded with fear-induced threads which spread the panic faster than the virus.

I was also angry at the rapidity with which my once carefree and full  life had been so abruptly curtailed, and that I was, in effect, abandoned in solitary confinement, indefinitely.

Thanks to copious phone calls from loyal friends I’m not yet lonely, but I am alone. And deep down I am a little frightened – not so much by the virus, but by my hypotension caused by the nagging anxiety about work and money, compounded by the fact I have no one to hug, pat me on the back and tell me it will all be better soon.

Meanwhile, my friend  from London was still playing tennis, having dinner parties and going to the West End, but the shutting of Ljubljana airport had made her realise that Slovenia was serious, while in the UK, Boris, the tousle haired buffoon – along with most of the UK, was still in Denial stage.

All over the world, friends were going into lockdown and disbelief. My phone was getting clogged with silly videos, and ‘how are you’s?’ , and one could almost feel the fear spreading its tentacles, while the virus watched and laughed.

Then came the Detachment (not bargaining, as I am in isolation) phase, as I ceased looking at the FB posts and chain messages of amateur epidemiologists and doom-laden soothsayers, and focussed on Prince Charles and George Aligayha, the BBC presenter and erstwhile friend. They had both posted  encouraging video messages of their recovery, despite Charles being 73, and George, 64, being in the middle of chemo. Back in the UK, several medic friends in the ‘front line’  in their 50s and 60s caught it, and reported mild symptoms followed by a week-long recuperation.. Flu is never pleasant, but fear undoubtedly lowers the immune system and will make it worse. Let’s have some positivity, please.

So currently in Detachment phase, made easy by my imposed solitary confinement – I am slowly getting my focus back, and have almost lost that discombobulated feeling I had in the first two weeks.

For physical sustenance, I am experimenting in cooking Jamie Oliver’s  ‘quick and easy’ meals, with mixed results, and I made myself a wonderful immune booster called Firecider, a strong tasting brew comprising ginger, garlic, horseradish, turmeric, rosemary, onion and cider vinegar. After two weeks ‘resting’, it turned out looking like urine, but with a ‘kick’ that both stimulates the immune system, and also doubles up as a rather fast acting laxative. Well, mine did!

For mental sustenance, I’m stampeding through courses on www.futurelearn.com , and I’m currently so caught up in my screenwriting course that I worked last night till 4.30am. I’ve  signed up to BBCi player and binge watch ancient episodes of Porridge with increasing empathy. I cycle deep into the countryside for two hours every day, eternally thankful for the natural beauty surrounding me, and pine quietly for the tantalisingly snow-capped mountains so near, but so out of reach.

But I yearn for the friendly ambience of riverside cafes, and long cool swims in Jezero with laughing, healthy friends and the vitality and joy of the back-flipping twins I once taught. People look so preoccupied, so serious, no one is smiling and the newly introduced masks make it impossible.

However, the next phase is Depression – but if I can remain in actively occupied Detachment phase, and the government grant removes my S.P. contribution angst,  I am hoping to stave off the depression and bypass it to the stage after which is acceptance, and let’s face it – with or without a goodnight hug, a comforting smile and a shared dram – we are all in this together, even if we are living alone. Onwards and upwards!

You can find out more about Carol Jardine at her website, SpeakEasy English.

04 Apr 2020, 10:15 AM

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

Rick Harsch is an American writer with a voice of his own who lives in Izola. You can learn more about his life and work, pre-coronavirus, in this previous interview.

Firstly, how are you? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

I’m lucky because I was already in relative isolation. Now I have the company of my children. They have phones to keep them in contact with the world. My wife does some editing across the apartment from me. Nobody gets on anybody’s nerves. I am a writer and editor, so the only thing that is affected is that with the suffering I am aware of, for so long in Italy, now in the US, and I fear the coming crisis in India, I can’t write as I would normally. I just understood this yesterday.

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

I came to know this was dangerous sometime in February, I suppose, following a sane doctor on YouTube. It might even have been in January. The decision-makers in the US were a week ahead of me at least, but as we know they did nothing. Now the country of my origin, where my parents live, both of them 88, and my brothers, 63, 63, and 62 live, and where all the brothers and sisters I picked up along the way live, will soon have three times the number of infections as China and twice the deaths. That won’t be the end of it, either.

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

What the hell can I say about Slovenia, with what's happening in America? Am I happy with the response to the virus? Surely they should be testing more aggressively, but otherwise people have seemed sane and intelligent. The government is doing what it is forced by circumstance to do. Maybe Janša will try his hand at Orbanism later; for now he’s sane enough to know he has to take care of his people. I feel safe and feel that though I would have closed the schools a week earlier, the government has been doing a good job of following most of the best international protocols.

I have no idea about the economic provisions here in Slovenia. It’s difficult to get social help in the best of cases. The process is absurd: they look at your bank accounts for the previous three months and decide—they don’t interview you to find out what your true circumstances are. I was rejected once because they day they decided I received a check for 2,700€. That was from four months of work that began six months previously. I had been out of work two months and would be for another six. They gave me nothing. Will I get something now? I doubt it. What will have changed? Would it be worse in the US? Absolutely. 70,000 homeless in New York at least. And that’s a cold city.

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How do you feel about the broader response in America?

I awoke too early this morning—which is relevant in that I had no control over my psychomental flux, which allowed thoughts of the prison known as Riker’s Island to stage a break into my mind. The place is a death trap and the virus is raging within. The US likes to put people in jail. The oligarchy quietly banned Foucault.

Riker’s, if you don’t know, is an island more or less in New York City. Let it be representative of all the prisons in the US, including the brains behind the bars of US propaganda, which has led prisoners of the US, from Trump to Harvey Weinstein, from yer average feller to your local hero, to believe they are a special breed of human—so in Wyoming a virus in wide open country of free men is raging against the moronism inherent in the live free and fire your rifle at anything that moves mentality.

Yes, this is the country in which just recently the ‘left’ came together in Oligarchic Panic to defeat Bernie Sanders, whose Medicare for All, would have made the US a nation of re-tooling insurance salesmen but paved the way for the wealthiest nation in the world to have the best health care system in the world.

There is nothing to say about Trump—for one thing, 40 years ago Reagan was equally buffoonish in context, paving the way for Trump, and a growing wealth gap. No, not Trump, but the array of cowards, from his fellow politicians to the media that sits dumbly as he insults them. ‘Fake News’ had falsely, insidiously, virally, insinuated itself into the global lexicon. We had a term for it already: propaganda. “Fake news” is fake news.

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

I don’t wish for anything I don’t have in isolation except for maybe a small monkey.

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

I can’t be sure I have learned anything about myself, as I have had things relatively easy compared to too many others. Regarding others? I’m 60 years old, so it would take more than hoarders and heroes to surprise me.

You can read more of Rick Harsch by getting one or more of his book, available from River Boat Books, with this link taking you to Skulls of Istria, a tavern confession novel st in front on a bottle in Piran.

skulls of istria.JPG

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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