Made in Slovenia

23 Nov 2020, 12:23 PM

STA, 23 November 2020 - The Slovenian Book Fair will get under way on Monday, this time moving online for the first time in history. The week-long event will feature a virtual fair presenting 97 publishers, while the schedule also includes over 100 online events. Spain is the honorary guest country this year.

The 36th iteration of the country's main book event, which is usually hosted by the Cankarjev Dom arts centre, will open with a literary event whose keynote will be delivered by Niko Grafenauer. The poet is celebrating his 80th birthday, which will be marked with a special ceremony on Tuesday.

The virtual fair segment will run under the slogan Apart But Together Nonetheless. The Chamber of Book Publishers has joined forces with Cankarjev Dom to organise an online exhibition that will include the possibility to buy books and a diverse programme for the general and expert public.

Exhibitors will be able to present themselves in an e-catalogue and on a calendar of virtual events. The visual design is based on an illustration made by Chinese-Slovenian artist Wang Huiqin for a book about traveller and author Alma Karlin (1889-1950). Originally the fair, if held at Cankarjev Dom, was meant to be dedicated to Karlin.

The featured Slovenian city at the fair this year is Novo Mesto, while Spain is the honorary guest country. The programme includes debates with Spanish authors Olga Novo and Juan Bonillo, both recently celebrated with national honours for poetry and prose. Publisher Družina will moreover host an online talk with Catalan writer Pilar Rahola.

Moreover, in cooperation with French Institute and publisher Mladinska Knjiga, a talk will be organised with French author David Diop, while the Italian Institute and publisher Totaliteta will host Italian author Paolo Cognetti.

Several more foreign authors will participate at the fair, including Ruediger Wischenbart, Carlo Carenho, Arunas Gudinavičius, Alma Čaušević, Miguer Barrero, Tore Slaatta and Helge Ronning.

A number of awards will be conferred, including the award for the book of the year, for the best debut, and the Schwentner Award for exceptional contributions to publishing.

According to the head of the fair's managing board, Zdravko Kafol, this is the first time in the fair's history that the organisers were faced with the dilemma of what kind of a fair to hold. Originally the idea was to have a hybrid event, intertwining online and live events but this became impossible as the epidemiological situation deteriorated.

Kafol said their role models had been the Göteborg and Frankfurt fairs, although the latter received EUR 6 million to develop a digital platform. What has been conceived as the biggest Slovenian online fair, will now host more than 100 events prepared by 97 publishers on a special YouTube channel.

Kafol told the STA the organisers expected at least as many visitors as the live event attracts and 20-30% of the "live" sales. Given that the participants have no other costs, this would be a "good result", he said, noting that a recent Croatian fair without any accompanying events exceeded all expectations by generating a third of "live" sales.

Kafol's message to the book industry is to join forces in what is arguably the toughest time in the last 50 years. Bookshops were closed for 50 days and they are closed again, 600 booksellers are on furlough, he said.

"Online sale is becoming increasingly important but it cannot replace the loss of revenue. In the first, spring wave of the epidemic, the industry lost EUR 2.5 million, about 160,000 fewer books were sold. Only through cooperation and connectivity, joint projects, can we be stronger," he said.

The official website is here

22 Nov 2020, 13:15 PM

Looking for gift ideas for Slovenian products and experiences? We put together a selection of the best #MadeInSlovenia gifts for Slovene-lovers – with prices from a few euros, to a few hundred euros.

This year, more than ever before, it’s important to support our local Slovene brands, companies and products. So – why not vote with your wallet and choose one of these great Made In Slovenia products for your next Christmas or birthday gift?

Whilst most Slovenian gift lists stick to the tried and tested Slovene salt, honey and lace products, we’ve dug deeper into what Slovenia has to offer to bring you a range of interesting and original Slovenian gift ideas that might surprise you – from beer to books, backpacks to bikes – all made here in The Sunny Side of the Alps.

Under €10

Slovenian-made Masks
Dali is a long-running family company founded by a former professional parachutist that makes pro-level ski-jumping, rowing and running gear. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have added an additional product to their line: masks. Show your support for Slovenia with one of their fun and colourful masks for kids or adults. Price: from €4.50. Buy: https://www.dalisport.com/shop-1

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Natural Slovenian Creams, Scents and Soaps
Nona Luisa handmakes cosmetic and health products, with a philosophy of eco-friendliness in the beautiful Brda area. Selling a range of products from soap bars to bath bombs, all products are made in small batches, with carefully selected ingredients and minimal packaging. Price: Face creams start at €2.50. Buy: https://nonaluisa.com/home/shop/?lang=en

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Environmental-friendly Slovenian Cosmetics
Madres is a Slovenian company that makes cosmetics, oils and deodorants, using only natural food-quality ingredients and are vegan, biodegradable, free of harmful chemicals and bear the ‘cruelty free’ label. Price: travel-size oils start at €10. Buy: https://madres.si/collections/vsi-izdelki

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Slovenian Cheese
Like most European countries, Slovenia has a long history of cheese-making. Pustotnik Farm offers one of the best selections of Slovenian cheeses, both young and mature, made from cows’, goats’ and sheep milk. They also sell other delicious dairy products including whey, yogurt and butter. Price: from €3. Buy: https://www.kmetijapustotnik.si/en/products/

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Slovenian Craft Beer
The craft-beer scene in Slovenia has exploded over the last decade, and Slovenia now has over 100 microbreweries making top stuff, such as Human Fish, Tektonic and Lobik. With far too many options to discuss here, your best bet for getting the finest amber nectar is to head to one of Ljubljana’s speciality craft beer shops where the knowledgeable staff can advise you on buying an interesting brew or two. They deliver too. Price: €3 and up. Buy: Visit Primoz (http://pr-primozu.si/ ) or Craft Room (https://craftroom.si/en/ )

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€25 or under

Slovenia-inspired Apparel
BREG Design is a new Slovenia-inspired t-shirt and apparel company that makes Slovenia designs that are different. Though there’s no arguing that Slovenia is a beautiful country, much of Slovenia’s merchandise is cliché and overly-cute. BREG is the antidote to that, making original artwork based on Slovenian culture, cuisine and language that avoids the sickly-sweet stereotype. The latest design is the TR3 Ljubljana shirt, that celebrates the ‘brutal beauty’ of Slovenia’s TR3 tower block. Each design is available on various garments, in several colours, and ships worldwide. Price: from €25. Buy: www.BregDesign.com

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A Slovenian-made Backpack
Created by Slovenian sisters Dominika and Katarina Bučar, the BOO brand started with a simple drawstring backpack, back in 2015. Their popular line now includes handbags, bum bags, t-shirts and tops – all made in small batches in Slovenia. With complete focus on style, quality and an eco-friendly ethic, BOO offers a lovely range of gifts for women. Price: Microbags start at €25. Buy: https://www.boopacks.com/collections/all-products
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Slovenian Non-alcoholic Gin
As the global gin-market has exploded in the last 10 years, we are now seeing an interesting move into non-alcoholic spirits. Slovenian distiller Vera Spirits are based on Slovenia’s Adriatic coastline and use botanicals from the area and spring water from the Julian Alps to create their range of non-alcoholic spirits. An ideal gift for gin-lovers who don’t want the hangover. Price: bottles start at €23.90. Buy: https://veraspirits.com/collections/gin

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Speciality Slovenian Coffee
Speciality coffee has long-since arrived in Slovenia and there is now no shortage of great places to buy your bean-flavoured black stuff. At Crno Zrno café, Slovenia’s best-known Columbian - Alexander Nino Ruiz - imports beans from his homeland to Slovenia where he roasts them and serves it up at his café in Ljubljana. Fans of interesting, delicious and complex coffee flavours will love his bags of brilliant beans. Price: starting from €11.50. Buy: https://www.crnozrno.com/trgovina/

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A Slovenian Mini-Adventure Game
Mini-adventures make sight-seeing games based on Slovenian (and other locations). Each adventure will take you on a journey to explore the sights of each place, whilst hunting for magical items and finding and solving clues. These are a lovely way to engage children, families and friends, by solving a quest and digging deeper into locations such as Koper, Kamnik and Kranj. Price: €25. Buy: https://www.strideandseekminiadventures.com/buy-mini-adventures

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Slovenology – the book
Penned by Slovenia’s celebrity American – Noah CharneySlovenology is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in Slovenia. Part autobiographical, part travelogue, part academic, this brilliant book explores many aspects of Slovene culture, from marriage to movies and is a must-read for anyone living in or loving Slovenia. Price: €19. Buy: https://www.slovenology.co.uk/buy-the-books

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The Slovenia Book
‘The Slovenia’ are a Slovene publishing house who produce a steady stream of quality books about Slovenia but their flagship tome remains: ‘The Slovenia Book: Top 100 Destinations’. Now in its 3rd edition, it features detailed descriptions and beautiful pictures of the best Slovenia has to offer, along with interesting interviews with renowned Slovenian characters. This is a great gift for Slovene-fans, serving as both an inspirational coffee-table book, as well as a practical travel guide. Price: €19. Buy: https://the-slovenia.com/product/the-slovenia-book-top-100-destinations-3rd-edition-2/

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Handmade Slovenia Leather Bags
Gloria Bags is a one-woman show who makes beautiful, one-off, high-quality handmade leather bags and accessories. A Slovene artist, based just outside of Ljubljana, she personally designs and makes every item, using leather supplied from vendors who treat animals humanely and use them for food purposes and not just for leather. Price: zip purses from €20; bags from €35. Buy: https://www.gloriabags.com/shop

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Under €50

Access to the world’s greatest farmers’ market
For foodies and anyone interested in supporting local food production, a subscription to Cultisan – ‘the world’s greatest farmers’ market in the palm of your hand’ is a great gift. Though not exclusively selling Slovene produce, there are many made-in-Slovenia products featured and the CEO and Founder – Jason Hartley – is a long-time Slovenaphile based here in Slovenia. A subscription will get you access to their exclusive online farmers’ market, with top-quality and rare food items bought direct from the farmers and makers, all curated by the Cultisan team and celebrity chefs, shipped to your door for free. Price: Taster Subscriptions start at £25 (€28). Buy: https://cultisan.com/

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Slovenian Alcoholic Gin
If you’re looking for some ABV with your G&T, then consider a bottle of Broken Bones Gin. They offer a range of gin varieties, all made in Slovenia using Slovene botanicals such as rose-hip and linden flower. Broken Bones have won several prizes for their gins so a bottle of this Slovene spirit will be warmly received by any lover of a good tipple. Price: from €34.95. Buy: https://www.brokenbones.si/shop/gin

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A Good Luck Slovenian Fairie
Handmade by a Slovene mother-daughter team, Rozinka make fairies, wooden mushrooms, floral headbands, decorations and jewellery at their small workshop in Slovenia. The duo have been crafting their creations for 20 years, which make an ideal gift for lovers of cuteness. Price: from €27 Buy: http://www.rozinka.com/

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Slovenian Scenery: prints, pictures and posters
Ian Middleton is an English photographer based in Slovenia. His work includes incredible shots of Slovenia’s lakes, coastline, mountains and marshes. One of his beautiful prints is an ideal gift for anyone who loves and lusts after Slovenia’s gorgeous landscape. Price: Posters start at €28. Buy: https://ianmiddletonphotography.com/photo-galleries/standard-photo-galleries/photos-of-slovenia-standard-galleries/

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Under €100

Coffee Roasting Course in Ljubljana
In addition to offering their own brand of coffee from their café in Ljubljana, R&B offers a coffee-roasting course where they take you on the journey from ‘green to roasted bean’. This is the perfect experience for coffee lovers who want to learn more about how quality coffee is made. Price: €60 for 2 hour course. Buy: https://www.rb-cafe.com/store/coffee-roasting-course/introduction-to-roasting-class/

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Under €200

Forge your own Slovenian Blade
Slovene blacksmith Emberborn runs courses where together, you’ll design and make a beautiful and completely unique knife. The entire experience takes around 8 hours and includes lunch and coffee at his forge in Cerknica. This is a fantastic gift experience that will leave you with a beautiful Slovenian ‘knife for life’. Check the Emberborn Instagram feed (https://www.instagram.com/emberborn_blades/ ) to sharpen your interest in these truly beautiful blades. Price: €160 for one person, dropping to €120pp if three people attend. Buy: http://emberborn.si/

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Latte Art Workshop in Slovenia
The Mariposa Coffee Roasters offer several coffee-themed workshops including one on Latte Art. This is a brilliant and unusual gift for latte-lovers where you’ll be schooled in the finer points of the process including how to create contrast and symmetry, and how to perfect your ‘microfoam’. Price: €120. Buy: https://mariposacoffeeroasters.si/en/product/latte-art-workshop/

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Over €300

A Slovenian Bike
The legendary Ljubljana bike brand – Rog – has returned and is producing several redesigned variations of their most-famous model: The Rog Pony. The fact that hundreds of original Rog bikes are still being ridden around Slovenia (despite the original factory closing in 1991) is testament to the build-quality of the Rog brand so if you want some true two-wheel Slovenian style – get yourself one of these new models. Price: starting €329. Buy: https://rogbikes.com/

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A Slovenian Snowboard
Who knew that Slovenia had one of the most interesting and unique snowboard-makers around? Moonchild make beautiful, handmade snowboards and splitboards, in highly unusual shapes. With some very experimental one-off designs as well as more standard production models, you get a uniquely Slovene snowboard when you purchase a Moonchild. Price: starting at €399. Buy It: https://www.moonchildsnowboards.com/

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Sam Baldwin is the creator of BregDesign.com: Slovenia-inspired t-shirts, founder of the Small Business Slovenia group [ https://www.facebook.com/groups/smallbusinessslovenia ] and owner of GrowMyStartup [https://GrowMyStartup.Business] consultancy.

14 Nov 2020, 16:34 PM

STA, 14 November 2020 - Legendary Slovenian inventor Peter Florjančič has died aged 101, the Bled municipality confirmed for web portal Siol.net. Florjančič patented about 400 inventions, of which 43 reached the production phase. Some of his most popular inventions include plastic slide frames, a perfume atomiser and a plastic injection molding machine.

Born on 5 March 1919 in Bled, Florjančič lived in a number of countries, including Mone Carlo, Monaco, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the US. He spent the last year of his life in a care home in Radovljica.

Apart from being an inventor known around the world, he was also an active athlete, musician and a film actor. At sixteen, he was the youngest member of the Yugoslav skiing team in the 1936 Olympic Games. He also appeared in The Monte Carlo Story, a 1956 Italian comedy-drama film featuring Marlene Dietrich.

"An inventor must have a cool head, always observing everything around him. Ideas are born in different ways. One can be born in a second and developed in a few days, while there are also ideas that need years to develop," he was quoted as saying on his website peter-florjancic.eu.

He thought his "best and most complex" invention was the perfume atomizer, followed by a plastic slide frame and a plastic injection molding machine.

His career started when he invented a loom. His other successful inventions include a work-out bed and plastic ice skates. He also invented the plastic zipper (1948), and the airbag (1957), neither of which were successful at the time because of the quality of the materials available. Both were perfected at later dates by other inventors.

The Technical Museum of Slovenia marked his 100th birthday with an exhibition Living a Dream, celebrating innovators. In 2007, Florjančič published his biography, Skok v Smetano (Jump into the Cream).

His life was also presented in a documentary directed by Karpo Godina Zgodba gospoda P.F. (The Story of Mr P.F.).

06 Nov 2020, 12:08 PM

STA, 5 November 2020 - SPACE-SI, the Slovenian Centre of Excellence for Space Sciences and Technologies, posted on Thursday the first images made by their satellite Nemo HD, which was launched into space in early September.

The microsatellite, launched together with another Slovenian satellite on 3 September, will circle the Earth for the 1000th time this weekend, says SPACE-SI's website.

The centre posted what it termed "the first, historic image" the microsatellite made above eastern Slovenia on 18 September.

Although the image only shows clouds, the team is very happy that the sensitive optic system survived the pressure and acceleration during the launch.

The centre said that all of the satellite's vital systems were working well.

Nemo HD is producing panchromatic and multispectral images, helping monitor the Earth for agricultural, forestry, urbanist and maritime transport purposes.

The launch and calibration of the 65-kg satellite is expected to be completed at the end of December, to be followed by technological demonstrations.

Nemo HD and Trisat were launched as the first Slovenian satellites to be ever launch in space after a series of delays due to poor weather.

They are seen as an important milestone for Slovenia's and European space technology efforts.

The launch, which took place in French Guiana, was part of a project by the European space company Arianespace.

05 Nov 2020, 18:06 PM

The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory acknowledges the exceptional achievements of curators, art historians, theorists, art writers, and critics whose work supports, develops or investigates visual art and culture in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.

The award is named in honour of the distinguished Slovenian curator and art historian Igor Zabel (1958–2005). It has been conferred biennially since 2008 in cooperation with ERSTE Foundation (Vienna) and the Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory (Ljubljana). With total prize money of €76,000, it represents one of the most generous and prestigious awards for cultural activities related to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.

This year Zdenka Badovinac, the curator, art writer, and director of Ljubljana's Moderna galerija has been is named the Igor Zabel Award laureate. On 4 December 2020, at the biannual ceremony in Ljubljana, Badovinac will thus be awarded for her outstanding institutional leadership as the director of the Moderna galerija/Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM) in Ljubljana, as well as for her radical curatorial work and significant contributions as a writer and editor to international discourses on the geopolitics of contemporary art in Eastern Europe and global art history. Igor Zabel Award Grants will also be given to Slavcho Dimitrov, Katalin Erdődi, and Ivana Bago.

The award comes at an interesting time for Slovenian cultural institutions, which are currently under threat of new staffing arrangements to promote the current government’s agenda, with some NGOs also losing their premises in Metelkova, Ljubljana’s cultural quarter. And it’s in this politically charged context that the Igor Zabel Award 2020 jury has recognized Zdenka Badovinac as one of the most important and rigorous locally rooted and globally connected professionals in the field of cultural production in recent decades.

Badovinac became the director of Moderna galerija in Ljubljana in 1993. According to the jury, since she was appointed to this post, and through her curatorial innovations, Badovinac has made Ljubljana's Moderna galerija into one of the most progressive, critical, and referential art institutions worldwide. The jury also emphasized Badovinac's important contributions to new paradigms in art theory, the politics of art, curatorship, practices of exhibiting, institutional critique, and strategies of solidarity within the (institutional) contemporary art field. Her remarkable achievements prove that the subversive potential for radical change lies not only in professional expertise, but also in combining this expertise with personal devotion, a sense of solidarity, and a commitment to building alliances.

This year's Igor Zabel Award Grant recipients selected by the jury are:

Slavcho Dimitrov (Skopje), activist, cultural theorist, and curator, in recognition of his contributions to reimagining the cultural and social life of the Western Balkan region, and for bringing LGBTQIA+ and women's rights and struggles to the heart of that vision.

Katalin Erdődi (Vienna/Budapest), curator, dramaturg, and cultural worker, in recognition of her locally embedded and inclusive curatorial practice, distinguished by its scope as well as its critically reflexive and joyful qualities.

The third grant recipient was selected by the laureate.

This year Zdenka Badovinac selected Ivana Bago (Zagreb), curator, art historian, and art writer, in recognition of her excellence and insistence on the art historical research, writing, and exhibiting of Yugoslav and Eastern European art.

You can learn more about the award, and related events, at the official website. You can see more of Igor Andjelić's work here

02 Nov 2020, 17:07 PM

Dyslexia week was in October, when this story was supposed to run, but take too much work, add a little kitten and set against a background of all the news in the world, and things get forgotten.

Luckily, the KOBI app isn’t a time limited offer, but a full made in Slovenia tool to help children with reading difficulties. Intended for those aged 6 to 12, it provides an essential suite of tools, including the proven technique of coloured letters,  to help poor readers (re)gain confidence and independence, and learn to love the worlds opened up by books. 

We got in touch with the team behind KOBI, and they were kind enough to answer our questions

What problem does the app address?

Reading is still the foundation of learning and everyday communication. Many intelligent children with reading difficulties fail to acquire sufficient reading  fluency to succeed academically and even have problems in everyday life. Research has shown that a lot of psychological issues in children and even a large portion of minor suicides stem in learning difficulties. Moreover, when a child is not learning to read as expected this oftentimes becomes a source of conflict between the parents and the school, which leads to an even more stressful environment for the child.

Our clients are thus parents of children with moderate to severe reading problems between the ages of 6 to 12. The school system requires parents to read with their child, but does not direct them how best to do this.

And here we should not that we’re talking about children who don’t like to read. Reading is painful for them. Even short sessions often end with anger, stubbornness and tears. Their parents are looking for ways to motivate and make reading easier. There is still a stigma attached to the problem of learning to read, which is why parents and schools often wait until problems become intolerable. 

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In contrast, we’re positioned in the “early aid” segment. Our solution does not require any diagnostics because it supports the learning process as it happens with all children. It therefore closes the gap between the first signs of problems and the conclusion of a typically long lasting diagnostic process.

Learning to read is a tough job. It requires a lot of repetition, training and patience. We believe that parents and educators must work hand in hand to support a child as long as it is necessary to gain this skill of life-long importance. And as any skill you only master it by doing it. 

KOBI is focusing on reading connected text, which is a crucial part of the learning to read. Many parents cannot afford to hire a professional tutor and thus they are challenged to become reading tutors themselves. They need evidence-based, easy to use, efficient solutions, that can be adopted to any reading curriculum.

So how does KOBI it work?

KOBI is a mobile app. You install it on your phone or preferably tablet. You can pick a book from our growing library or simple take pictures of a book you have at hand. Then you let your child choose modifications of the text. The main feature of  KOBI are the “coloured letters”. 

By giving a certain colour to a letter or letter combination the brain receives additional sensory input that helps the child with some specific issues. For example, one of the things kids struggle with are so-called letter reversals. They mix up similar shapes such as b/d/p/q, u/n, e/a. However, with colours the brain can very quickly learn that a b is red, so the problem is solved. Since letter reversals are a developmental issue it will disappear with time, but in the meantime the use of colour will prevent a lot of frustration, and help the child to read more fluently.

KOBI also has tools such as focus frame and word-to-speech, and it tracks the reading practice. All these tools together help the child and keep them motivated, so they continue to improve

What special features does it have compared to the competition?

Overall, the key advantage of KOBI is its mix of functionalities and the fact that it can be used to support any school curriculum. Selective colouring of letters is one of the unique features, and while the interface is in four languages – English, Slovene, Spanish and Dutch – but you can import books in any western language. The interface that’s used by the child is completely icon-based, and can be easily operated by a seven year old.

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How is it being used in the real world?

In Slovenia KOBI has already been widely adopted  by special education teachers and, of course, parents. Abroad it’s mainly used in a home setting to help with reading practice, required reading materials or simply to adjust any materials that the child would like to read but the print is not suitable. The letters are too small, for example.

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What feedback have you had from users?

Users tell us that KOBI is a game changer for children who struggle with letter reversals, as well as lack of motivation for reading. Parents get very emotional when they see that their child can not only suddenly read, but wants to read. Still, the secret of success here is perseverance and grit. Learning to read requires a lot of practice, especially for kids, even with the support of technology.

Who works at the company?

There are four cofounders. Andrej Peršolja, with a background in journalism and who is responsible for content and growth, Marko Fornazarič, our all-round developer, Auke Touwslager, designer and visionary, and Ursula Lavrenčič, a designer who five years ago took a deep dive into the pedagogics of reading.

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What's next for KOBI?

We have many goals ahead. We are working on the next big update of the product, putting in everything we have learned. We are fine-tuning the business model and target number one is to get a foothold in English-speaking markets. Our mission is to build a product that will be in the toolkit of every family of a child who struggles with learning to read, and to help them become enthusiastic, independent readers.

You can find out more about the app, and download it for Apple or Android devices, here, with the website offered in English, Slovenian, Spanish and Dutch. You can also follow the project on Facebook

29 Oct 2020, 16:58 PM

STA, 29 October 2020 - Stories from the Chestnut Woods (Zgodbe iz kostanjevih gozdov), an award-winning debut by director Gregor Božič, has been selected by a group of experts as Slovenia's submission for a nomination for best international feature film award at the 93rd Oscars, set to be held on 25 April 2021.

The Union of the Associations of Slovenian Filmmakers believes that the film, which premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, captures a timeless, almost archetypal spirit of Benečija, an area in eastern Italy populated by ethnic Slovenians.

Stories from the Chestnut Woods brings to life a poetic nature of the region, telling the stories of people "who are still defiantly inhabiting the remote borderlands, as well as ubiquitous traces and memories of all those who have already left in pursuit of their wish for a better tomorrow", reads the justification.

Božič's debut is an outstanding work boasting brilliant cinematography, scenography and sound effects and creating a dream-like rhythm to depict a specific area, said the experts. It speaks to the universal need in individuals to leave places frozen in time, they added.

"Božič displays a mature and at the same time fresh and in-depth understanding of film narrative, a characteristic seldom seen in debut films."

Stories from the Chestnut Woods, a Slovenian-Italian co-production, written by Božič and Marina Gumzi, also the film's producer, was filmed between 2012 and 2019. It is a fusion of dreams, phantasms and recollections portraying a disintegration of a small community near the Slovenian-Italian border after the Second World War.

The film bagged most Vesna Awards last year, Slovenian equivalents to Oscars, including the award for best film, best director and the audience's darling.

It also recently won the jury prize for best film at the Nara International Film Festival in Japan as well as the critics prize at the CinEast festival of Eastern and Central European film in Luxembourg.

RTV Slovenia currently has the whole film online, in Slovene with Slovene subtitles

28 Oct 2020, 12:12 PM

STA, 26 October 2020 - The Stigma safe house for women users of illicit drugs marked its 10th anniversary this year. Neva Faninger and Sabina Zorec, social workers working at the house, have told the STA that the facility is a shelter for women who have fallen through the cracks in the social system.

The safe house was set up by the Ljubljana-based Stigma association, which aims to mitigate damage done by drug use. The shelter strives to be something similar to a home where women can put life on the street behind them.

It is one of the few such facilities in the world, and the only one in Slovenia, that does not expect its residents to be completely drug-free when they enter the programme.

The organisation however endeavours to keep the house as drug-free as possible. In the facility and its surrounding area drug use is banned, said Zorec and Faninger. Any illicit drugs brought to the house have to be put away and placed in special lockers.

The association came up with the idea for the shelter having seen how many women who were caught in a vicious circle of drug use and violence had nowhere safe to go, most notably released women prisoners. Their families were often a source of problems and did not provide a safe space.

Stigma stepped in and has since housed women with various stories, including those who do not have a drug problem but have ended up in a situation where the house was their only option.

"The system is rigid, everyone has their own fief and wants specific users, whereas people are complex," said Zorec, calling for a more flexible approach that would acknowledge people's different stories and needs.

"Recently, we admitted a girl who just turned 18. The moment she came of age, she arrived at the house from a youth crisis centre. She does not have an acute drug problem, but her only options were the safe house or the streets," said Zorec, noting that the shelter does not admit minors.

The average age of the residents is 37. Aside from drug use, homelessness and experiences of street or domestic violence, one thing they usually have in common is trauma. They were often either victims of child abuse or sexual abuse later in life. Lack of education and mental disorders are also frequent characteristics of the residents.

"A behavioural disorder label is considered a consequence of drug use, although it is often the other way around," said Zorec.

"They make up for that as much as they want and can in the house," said Faninger, adding that education is the best way out of the vicious circle, even though for many it is also the most difficult path. Residing in the house can be a stepping stone for shelter programmes that require complete abstinence though.

Women may stay at the house for a year and a half with the possibility of extension. Since 2016 the organisation also has two support flats of the Ljubljana housing fund at its disposal for residents who have achieved a certain level of stability.

Zorec and Faninger have noted certain changes during the past ten years; there are more young residents who are barely adults and new psychoactive substances have emerged. Ten years ago, heroin was the drug of choice, now anything that is available counts as long as it serves the purpose of escaping reality.

"Drugs are a way of survival for them, they mitigate struggles that usually stem from childhood," said Faninger.

The facility can admit up to eight women, however the number has recently been reduced to seven since one room has been turned into a potential quarantine space in the event one of the residents is infected with the coronavirus.

Due to the shelter's high hygienic standards, there has been little need to additionally ramp up disinfection efforts since the outbreak, said Faninger.

The safe house hosts workshops and endeavours to get its residents involved in volunteering or to find them work. The staff accompanies and supports them during doctor visits, court hearings or when maintaining contact with their children.

Seven persons are employed at the 24-hour shelter, including three men, which has turned out to be a positive feature. Women can thus see that not all men are perpetrators of violence. The staff members are of different educational backgrounds, ranging from social workers and graduates in comparative literature to engineers.

Discrimination and a social stigma are common features experienced by the residents. Even the staff are often a target of discrimination, especially when they accompany or assist the women in the outside world, said Faninger, adding that prejudices are present among experts as well.

Marking the 10th anniversary, the organisation decided to release a publication by the residents to present the project and show that there are positive aspects, opportunities to change for the better.

You can learn more about Stigma at the group’s website

20 Oct 2020, 14:52 PM

STA, 19 October 2020 - Slovenian writer Goran Vojnović has received the Angelus Central European Literary Prize, conferred to works by Central European writers translated into the Polish, for his 2013 novel Yugoslavia, My Fatherland (Jugoslavija, moja dežela).

The annual award is conferred by the Polish city of Wroclaw to writers who take up the most important topics for the present day. It comes with a cheque for 150,000 Polish zloty (roughly EUR 33,000). The translator, Joanna Pomorska, received a 20,000 zloty (EUR 4,400) cheque.

According to the portal Polish News, the jury short-listed seven titles out of 105 entries for the final stage of the award.

The chairman of the jury, Mykola Riabczuk, emphasised that the books that made it to the final selection were "very Central European".

He said each of them had a history that continues. The jury ended up deciding between two books that were both about war and voted four to three for Yugoslavia, My Fatherland.

Vojnović, who attended Saturday's ceremony via video call, said Angelus was "undoubtedly the most important recognition I have ever received."

He noted that past laureates and this year's nominees were among authors whose avid reader he is. "Just being in their company has been an exceptional honour."

The novel talks about a young man searching for his father, who turns out to be a war criminal.

It received the Kresnik Prize for best Slovenian novel in 2013.

Interview with Goran Vojnović: Writer & Filmmaker, Gateway to Contemporary Slovenian Culture

09 Oct 2020, 14:13 PM

STA, 8 October 2020 - Two years after the end of World War I, a Slovenian minority would end up on the other side of the Karawanks following a plebiscite in Carinthia that determined the border between Austria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. While the outcome of the vote was the product of several factors, what followed was a period of revanchism.

The plebiscite was held on 10 October 1920 under the provisions of the Treaty of Saint-Germain, signed a year earlier by the allied powers that won World War I on the one hand and the Republic of German-Austria on the other.

While parts of Carinthia now in Slovenia (Meža Valley and Jezersko) were to be incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the fate of southern Carinthia down to the Klagenfurt basin was to be determined by a plebiscite, under the principle of self-determination championed by US President Woodrow Wilson.

Before the vote, the Klagenfurt basin was divided into two zones; Zone A in the south with a predominately Slovenian speaking population and the smaller Zone B, which comprised Klagenfurt and its surroundings. Zone B was to hold a referendum only if a majority of voters in Zone A would have opted for what had already at the time been known as Yugoslavia.

However, with the turnout at almost 96%, 22,025 ballots or 59.04% of the vote cast was in favour of Austria, against 15,279 or 40.96%, who opted for Yugoslavia.

In their 2003 textbook, historians Dušan Nećak and Božo Repe estimate that at least 10,000 Carinthian Slovenes voted in favour of Austria, while some historians estimate a majority of the Slovens eligible to vote opted for Austria.

Despite having posted military victories ahead of the plebiscite, the Slovene side suffered a diplomatic defeat at the Paris peace conference and another one at the ballot box.

Wikipedia austria plebescite 761px-Plakat_ob_plebiscitu_Pojdimo_vsi_k_glasovanju_1920.jpg

Poster in Slovene ("Let us go and vote! It is our sacred duty, our homeland is calling us. You are Carinthians, and you should remain Carinthians!"), featuring zones A and B. (Wikipedia)

A mix of factors and interests decided the outcome

Historian Andrej Rahten, a former Slovenian ambassador to Austria, says that several factors were at play in the outcome of the plebiscite, however the battle for Carinthia had already been lost during the Habsburg monarchy.

"Even before World War I, Slovenians in Carinthia saw an adverse demographic trend, going from one quarter of Carinthia's population in the 1900 census by speaking language, which was biased methodologically, to a good fifth in 1910, and then, in the first post-plebiscite census in 1923, to one tenth."

Rahten, talking with the Slovenian and Austrian press agencies, STA and APA, in a joint interview, says the key role in the decision for the plebiscite was played by US President Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

If it had not been for France's support of Yugoslavia, the demarcation would have been even more harmful for Slovenians, he says; if you asked the Americans, they would have assigned Carinthia north of the Karawanks to Austria even without a plebiscite.

This was because of the belief that Austria, which had to accept secessions of some other border territories with practically no referendum rights, should be given some territorial concession lest it should become part of some great Germany.

Rahten believes the plebiscite result would have been very different had it not been for the Karawanks mountain range, which represented not only a physical but also a psychological barrier.

"The decisive element was economic reasons"; for centuries Klagenfurt and Villach had been traditional markets for Carinthian farmers, while now they were supposed to be replaced by Ljubljana.

Similarly, British historian Robert Knight offers economic interests as one possible explanation why Slovenians opted for Austria, along with the appeal, or lack thereof, of Yugoslavia with respect to Catholicism or the monarchy.

The Austrian propaganda played an important role; it emphasised economic benefits of the undivided Klagenfurt basin, regional identity, links between Slovenian- and German-speaking inhabitants and the cultural differences between Catholic Austria and Orthodox Serbia as the leading nation in Yugoslavia.

Historian Tamara Griesser-Pečar, in one of her articles, also notes the significance of the Carinthian Slovenians' attachment to their land, as well as social, economic, religious and political reasons and their bad experiences with the Yugoslav authorities.

Carinthian_referendum_results_by_municipality,_1920.png

The results by municipality. Paasikivi CC-by-SA-4.0

After plebiscite, broken promises and revanchism

A vital factor why Slovens opted for Austria would have been Austria's pledge to protect the minority's rights, passed by the provincial assembly in Klagenfurt in September 1920.

However, as early as 25 November 1920, Arthur Lemisch, the head of the province's provisional government, publicly advocated in the provincial assembly for Carinthian Slovenians to be Germanised within a generation.

The nationalist sentiment in Austria only grew between both world wars, resulting in further assimilation of Carinthian Slovenians. It was not until 1955 that they had their rights guaranteed in the Austrian State Treaty but they are yet to fully enjoy them.

Rahten and Knight, a historian from University College London who has studied the fate of Carinthian Slovenians, have talked to the STA and APA about the dark period in the wake of the plebiscite, about revanchism, persecution and scaremongering.

The Slovenians who voted for Austria were expected to assimilate, become German, while the others had to be induced to move south through a mixture of "pressure, persuasion and structural coercion", says Knight.

There were also opposing forces as for example in Social Democracy, "but by and large, Carinthian politics was also aimed at intolerance, exclusion and ethnic homogenization", although Knight does not see that as something distinctly Carintihan.

"The plebiscite definitely made the tensions only worse and it took decades, through change of generations, for those first months of revanchism to be gradually and slowly put behind," Rahten says.

He notes physical assaults on people accused to have voted for Yugoslavia, even if they may have not, arson attacks on the homes of Slovenian patriots, and the perpetrators going punished.

Before the plebiscite, Carinthian officials had been promising that no one would be hurt, that everyone would enjoy equal rights, that Slovenians would be better off than in the old Austria, but just the opposite happened.

"The promises were soon broken. What followed soon after can simply be called revanchism (...) which led to the Slovene elite being driven out of Carinthia," says Rahten, noting that an estimated 3,000 refugees fled Carinthia after the plebiscite.

At the same time, "the political impotence when it came to protection of the Slovene minority's rights in Carinthia was offset by very harsh measures taken against the Germans who were left in Yugoslav Slovenia", such as forced Slovenisation of German schools.

Centenary celebrations in a buoyant mood

The relationship between the majority and minority in Austrian Carinthia had begun to mend only after Slovenia declared independence in 1991 where Austria played a key role in the country's international recognition.

Like in the case of the Slovenian minority in Italy, the atmosphere for the minority in Carinthia improved further after Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and the Schengen area three years later.

Knight, noting that the centenary celebrations appear to have taken a different course after neglect of the Slovenian minority and its language in the past, believes the main emphasis of commemoration of 1920 should be on honouring the promise made publicly on the eve of the vote, that is to preserve the minority's unique identity.

29 Sep 2020, 16:33 PM

STA, 29 September 2020 - The Technology Park Ljubljana (Tehnološki park Ljubljana) a tech, startup and scaleup community that involves over 300 member companies, innovative teams, and individuals, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The project, whose first contours were drawn at the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) in 1994, has helped develop a number services that have consolidated Slovenia's position on the map of technological innovation.

While more than 1,500 people are connected to its work, the centre itself employs 18 people and is a non-profit organisation.

Its biggest owner is the Ljubljana municipality, while other owners include the IJS, the Chemical Institute, the National Institute for Biology, as well as telecoms equipment maker Iskratel, electronics company Iskra and pharma company Lek.

The main fields of interest are automation, biotechnology, medicine, digital media, finance, industrial technology, information and communication technology, creative industries, the environment and energy, trade and life sciences.

Announcing the celebration plans, Technology Park Ljubljana director Jernej Pintar has told the STA the focus will not be on ceremonies but on presenting new services and products and highlighting the importance of technology for everyday life.

Pintar argued the global success of the companies involved was testimony to the good work of the Technology Park Ljubljana. He pointed to the potential harboured by cooperation, highlighting a recent effort to manufacture a ventilator as an example.

"We hadn't produced them in Slovenia, we also did not know much about them, so we basically started from scratch," he said, explaining a working prototype was developed to the surprise of everyone involved in only three weeks.

"This is an unbelievable demonstration of how erudite Slovenian engineers are what we can achieve when we join forces," Pintar said.

Among future goals, he noted that development achievement also need to turn into business products. "In Slovenia this still happens too rarely. Those who did succeed have shown its possible."

Pintar moreover announced a project involving mentorship for students by some of the world's leading experts, as well as the launch of three co-working spaces in Ljubljana.

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