Made in Slovenia

15 Nov 2019, 14:34 PM

STA, 14 November 2019 - The likeness of Angela Piskernik, the first Slovenian woman with a PhD in natural sciences, who paved the way for women in a field dominated by men, can be now found on thematic postage stamps, part of a commemorative series launched by Pošta Slovenije to honour Slovenian women scientists.

Piskernik (1886-1967), a Carinthian Slovenian, pioneer environmentalist, political activist and resistance fighter, held a PhD in botany from the University of Vienna. After World War II, she became the head of the Ljubljana Museum of Natural History and served in this position until her retirement.

She is most famous for her academic work Key for the Identification of Flowering Plants and Ferns, a reference book in which she identified 2,222 species and whose two editions, in 1941 and 1951, were very popular among botanists.

During World War II, she was imprisoned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she compiled a book of recipes shared by fellow internees, which makes for a unique document today.

She was also a campaigner for the rights of Carinthian Slovenians and the first professional nature conservationist in Slovenia, having advocated setting up conservation areas, including the Triglav National Park, which she saw coming to life six years before her death.

After retiring, she cooperated with the national institute for cultural heritage protection and published numerous academic papers on nature conservationism at home and abroad.

On her 80th birthday, she was decorated at home with the Gold Star Order of Merit for her lifetime achievements.

At the end of her life, she was working on botanic entries for the Dictionary of the Standard Slovenian Language as well as drawing up a plan for the Slovenian section of the joint Yugoslav-Austrian transnational nature park in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and Karavanke mountain range.

Today, awards named after her are given out by the Commission for Mountain Nature Conservation at the Slovenian Alpine Association to deserved individuals for lifetime achievement in protection and conservation of the Alpine flora.

Her portrait can be now found on the first national postal operator's commemorative stamp honouring Slovenian women scientists. The special series was launched last week, with bacterial epidemiologist Amalija Šimec's stamp being next in line in 2020.

14 Nov 2019, 14:52 PM

Two law students from the University of Ljubljana, Katja Grünfeld and Iva Ramuš Cvetkovič, beat more than 100 teams from around the world in the Manfred Lachs Moot Court competition in Washington, DC. In this they put their knowledge of space law and international public law. into practice in order to win a lawsuit on behalf of a hypothetical state for the unlawful appropriation of a lunar base.

The teams put their cases before judges from the International Court of Justice in the championship, which was held between 21 and 25 October as part of the 70th International Astronautical Congress. The team from Slovenia – which consisted of Katja Grünfeld and Iva Ramuš Cvetkovič, Rok Kljajič as coach, and Vasilka Sancin as mentor – had already won the European heats, beating a team from the University of Vienna in the final.

The Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court is a competition in space law and international public law organised by the International Institute of Space Law and the European Centre for Space Law. The finals in Washington were in the form of simulated proceedings before the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and with both a written part and a live hearing.

Each team prepared two written memorandums, one for the plaintiff and one for the defendant. In these they presented legal arguments and facts supporting the individual claims addressed to the International Court of Justice in connection with a hypothetical case.

The second-placed team, winners of the African heat, was from the International Law Students Association (ILSA) of the University of Calabar, Nigeria, which included Ebruka Nelly-Helen Neji and Ushie Augustine Eneji.

07 Nov 2019, 17:32 PM

Regular readers of TSN will probably know we run a weekly dual text, in English and Slovene, to encourage you to read more of the language. This text comes from Časoris, a Slovenian news website for children. Since the website won an award last week, as detailed below, we thought it’d be a good time to share more about the project, and so sent some questions to one of the people behind it, Sonja Merljak Zdovc, and she was kind enough to reply.

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Source and subject, Sonja Merljak Zdovc

How did you come to start Časoris?

It was created in April of 2015 – in the aftermath of January’s terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. At the time, many parents were wondering how to explain what happened to their children. An article about how a French newspaper for children did just that landed in my Facebook feed, and it reminded me that we have no such medium for children and their parents in Slovenia. That’s how it occurred to me that I could create it.

I strongly believe that children can and want to understand the news if it is put in context for them, and presented in kid-friendly language. With Časoris I am trying to help them to understand the news, to think critically about what they’re reading, and to apply their knowledge to the real world.

More personally, I love being a journalist. I believe this is the most beautiful profession in the world. At the time when I became one, we would say that we became journalists because we wanted to bring peace to the world. Just like the women in Miss World!.

However, in the last decade journalism became a failing profession. And the media, so crucial to democracy, began to lose readers, listeners, and viewers. Children growing up today live in the world of Snapchat, Instagram and You Tube, and do not see their parents read newspapers or watch the news as we did.

With a generation of readers already lost, I began to think if I could do anything to help save the profession I love so much. I came up with an idea: an online newspaper for children.

Online, because children are on the web, and a newspaper because I wanted them to read serious news, not just the fun staff.

Časoris is aimed at young children, those who won’t read the news on their own. But they are trusting souls and if the adults they respect, their teachers and parents, tell them it is good to read the newspaper, they will listen.

This way we hope that when they become teenagers they will develop a habit of reading reliable sources of information. And when a popular You Tuber suggest that a EU directive will ban memes, they will know where to double check their facts.

Who produces it, and who is it aimed at?

It is produced mostly by me together with a team of dedicated writers who contribute as much and as often they can. It is aimed at children aged 6 to 12 but we hear and are happy because of that that also older children read it and find it interesting.

Casoris screenshot for sonja story jkhfsj.JPG

Our readers like Časoris  because it has short, interesting stories using relatively simple Slovene. Do you know if it’s used to teach Slovene as a foreign language?

I don’t know about that, but I have heard that some English language teachers use Časoris in their English classes. And I also know that some teachers from the States find it useful as it brings them the news from other part of the world. They value its different perspective on current affairs.

And of course, it’s read in some Slovene schools during classes.

Časoris  recently won an award in Austria – what was that all about?

The project Stories of Children from around the World won the Intercultural Achievement Award in the media category. The aim of the project is to give a  voice to the voiceless, in our case to children from other countries living in Slovenia and going to Slovenian schools.

The award means a lot, because our work has been recognized internationally. For a small media operation, which Časoris still is, this is really huge.

The award is financial, too, so it will be easier to start next year. Časoris does not have any systematic funding and we can never be sure if we’ll have enough support.

We respond to tenders and if we are successful we get funding for a project. Stories of Children from around the World, for example, was co-financed by Government Communication Office as part of the efforts to respect and welcome members of different ethnic groups, refugees and migrants.

You used to work at Delo. What have been the biggest changes in the Slovenian print media over your career?

Hm, that’s a difficult question. In Slovenia we could add political pressures to the digital revolution. In the past we had seen examples of politicians wanting to control the media. One of the biggest drops in subscriptions was directly related to that. The readers that left did not subscribe to other newspapers, they were lost for good.

The idea that the media must bring in a double digit revenue was also not helping. A media owner should have other interests at heart, not profit. A wise media owner’s interest is the public good through credible journalism. An example of such an owner is the The Guardian’s Scott Trust.

Finally, the internet caused a disruption that we are all still struggling with. Nobody has come up with a good business model for the digital online world, at least not a model that could be used widely. There may be some exceptions, but in general the majority of the media all around the world are under pressure.

I’m still waiting for a Netflix or Deezer for news, a solution that will allow me to pay a certain amount of euros per month and then access the stories I want to read across different media and platforms – behind a paywall or not. If there’s no paywall I still want to make a donation, but I do not want the hassle of making a donation or paying every time I want to read something. I believe that there are other people out there who feel the same, so I hope someday will have a technology that will enable this.

Are there any reasons to be optimistic about the future of the media in Slovenia?

I am not sure that the future of the media in Slovenia is very different to the future of the media in other countries, but for the peculiarity of our language, of course.

I definitely believe that as citizens we need quality media and good journalism, and I only hope that more of us will recognize the important role the media plays in democracy. If we want to keep the media, we need to be willing to spend the price of a cup of coffee a day on the media of our choice – online or offline, as a subscription or a donation.

It seems easy to say, oh, I do not need the media, I get my information on Google and Facebook. But how do you know which information you are getting and why if you don’t have something to compare it to?

When something happens and the media doesn’t report it, people say, oh where were the journalists, why did they not report it? What they don’t seem to understand is that journalists are professionals who need to pay the bills, just like doctors, teachers or lawyers. They cannot do their job for free. Somebody has to pay for their service. It is either us, the readers, or advertisers, foundations or the state through various subsidies.

We can say that everybody whose paying an electricity bill is already paying for the news on public broadcasters. But if only the public broadcasters remain, it means we have only one perspective. And sometimes that’s not enough. Then there is no media pluralism.

In the States, half of the journalism jobs were cut in the last 10 to 20 years. It’s no wonder so much stuff is left unreported.

You can learn more about Časoris on the site itself, and see our collection of dual texts here. Meanwhile, if there's a project in Slovenia that you think deserves some attention in the English-language media, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find me on Facebook

29 Oct 2019, 15:33 PM

STA, 29 October 2019 - A project presenting stories of refugee and migrant children in Slovenia carried out by the Časoris on-line magazine for children has been awarded this year's Intercultural Achievement Award (IAA) in the media category, conferred by the Austrian government.

Representatives of Zavod Časoris, the publisher of the magazine, received the award from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs at a ceremony in Vienna on Monday.

The award supporting intercultural projects related to education, youth, women, media, migration and integration went to the magazine for its project Stories of Children of the World among more than 200 competing projects from 31 countries.

Announcing the news, the publisher said that it was the first project from Slovenia to receive the award.

As part of the project, the on-line magazine has presented since 2017 a total of 17 stories of children from various countries; their customs, culture and tradition.

This year, seven of these children were revisited to see how they have integrated in the new environment in Slovenia and what helps them the most in the integration.

The creator of the project, journalist and editor Sonja Merljak Zdovc, said on the occasion that the project wanted to give a voice to those who were otherwise not heard.

"These are children who came to Slovenia from other countries - unaccompanied, as refugees or migrants, who were fleeing from war or poverty, and dreaming about a better, safer and more decent life," she added.

You can see examples of stories from Časoris, in both Slovene and English, here

07 Oct 2019, 10:40 AM

STA, 4 October 2019 - Slovenian and Swedish researchers have developed a new concept for aluminium batteries, doubling their energy density and at the same time reducing the cost to the environment by using readily available and less damaging materials than those used at the moment.

Aluminium batteries have a number of advantages over the currently used lithium-ion batteries, among them high capacity of the aluminium metal anode, as well as tried and tested production and recycling methods.

The newly developed concept could lead to a significant reduction in battery prices and lower the battery's impact on the environment, the Chemical Institute announced the news in a press release

Lower production cost and impact on the environment "make our system incredibly interesting for energy saving in large-scale photovoltaic or wind turbine plants," according to Patrik Johansson of the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Johansson and Robert Dominko of the Ljubljana Chemical Institute led two research teams that developed the new concept presented in late September in an article in the Energy Storage Materials journal.

Explaining the revolutionary concept, the article says that previous designs for aluminium batteries have used the aluminium anodes and graphite cathodes.

However, graphite provides too low an energy content to create battery cells with enough performance for everyday use. Now, graphite has been replaced by an organic, nanostructured cathode, made of the carbon-based molecule anthraquinone.

The anthraquinone cathode has been developed by one of article co-authors, Jan Bitenc of the Ljubljana Institute of Chemistry, while he was guest researcher at Chalmers.

According to Niklas Lindal, another co-author, the team is now working on eliminating chlorine from the electrolyte.

The researchers believe that although aluminium storage technology is a long way from commercial production, the new device will be able to compete or complement lithium-ion storage.

"So far, aluminium batteries are only half as energy dense as lithium-ion batteries but our long-term goal is to achieve the same energy density."

More details on this research can be found here

26 Sep 2019, 09:15 AM

STA, 25 September 2019 - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) has conferred awards for breakthrough innovations as it honoured the most innovative businesses at the 17th Innovation Day on Wednesday.

Pharma company Lek won two top awards, for a new procedure for the purification of biopharmaceuticals and a new generation of probiotics, while its rival, Krka, was honoured for an innovative generic drug.

Caravan maker Adria Mobil received the award for a new generation of campers, Domel for new high-powered electric engines and ETI Elektroelement for a new generation of plastic parts for fuses.

Mediainteractive, a sole proprietorship, received the honours for a collaborative educational environment for emergency medical personnel and two companies, while Titus Dekani and Lama Avtomatizacija received a joint award innovations in machinery construction.

GZS president Boštjan Gorjup said innovativeness required a foundation in national culture and stressed that Slovenians were highly regarded abroad for their expertise. But he also stressed that "more courage, strong will and desire for collaboration" was needed.

President Borut Pahor said in his keynote that innovation was the key to improving productivity and increasing value added. "Successful companies understand this."

23 Sep 2019, 18:13 PM

Fresh from his appearance earlier this year as part of the Modern Gallery’s Time Without Innocence. Recent Painting in Slovenia (Čas brez nedolžnosti. Novejše slikarstvo v Sloveniji), Arjan Pregl now has two openings were you can see more his work, in Celje and Ljubjana.

arjan pregel 04.jpg

Photo: Tomaž Črnej

arjan pregl 05.jpg

Photo: Arjan Pregl

arjan pregl 06.jpg

Photo: Vasja Nagy

 

The Celje show, called GUGU GAGA, is on at the Likovni salon Gallery (Center Sodobnih Umetnosti Celje) and started on 20 September, running 20 October, and is where the pictures that accompany this story come from. More details can be found here.

arjan pregel 03.jpg

Photo: Tomaž Črnej

arjan pregel 02.jpg

Photo: Tomaž Črnej

Meanwhile, the Ljubljana show opens this Friday, 27 September and runs for about a month, at the Galerije Y (Gallery Y - pronounced “epsilon”, not “y”) at the far end of Trubarjeva cesta, #79, more or less opposite Tovarna Rog. Here, Pregl’s work will be shown alongside three of the gallery’s other artists, Tina Dobrajc, Duša Jesih, and Šašo Vrabič. The gallery is part of the SLOART project, which sells works by modern and contemporary Slovenian artists (learn more about that here).

18 Sep 2019, 15:18 PM

STA, 18 September 2019 - Tomaž Gorkič, the director of Slovenia's first feature-length horror film, the 2015 slasher Idyll, has returned to the genre that brought him acclaim. His latest film, which he describes as a "politically incorrect mix of horror and black comedy" will be on show at Kino Šiška tonight before it premieres in cinemas on Thursday.

Prekletstvo Valburge (Curse of the Valburga) has the brothers Bojan and Marjan hoping to make some easy money from hordes of tourists in their hometown by organising a tour of an abandoned local castle that is closed to the public.

They spice up the adventure with a local legend, oblivious to the existence of a powerful and much darker legend lurking in the abandoned building.

While Gorkič's latest venture is firmly rooted in the genre, it "does not neglect the present," the producers say.

"It boldly enters Slovenia's past and present where demons, Nazis, vampires, partisans, criminals, parvenus, sexists, snobs, cannibals, hicks, alcoholics, grubbers, junkies, obsessives and other members of society lurk."

It’s a trailer for a slasher movie, so NSFW

The all-star cast includes acclaimed theatre actors Jurij Drevenšek and Marko Mandič, game show host and actor Jonas Žnidaršič, as well as the mother-and-daughter pairing of Tanja Ribič and Zala Djurić Ribić, Swedish black metal musician Niklas Kvarforth and frontman of Slovenian rock band Big Foot Mama, Grega Skočir.

Like Idyll, Curse of the Valburga is an independent production spearheaded by Gorkič, a self-taught film maker, but unlike Idyll, which won the main prize in 2019, it will not be screened at the ongoing Festival of Slovenian Film.

Gorkič withdrew the film from the festival after the programme commission decided - without explanation - not to enter it in the competition programme.

17 Sep 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 13 September 2019 - Six astronauts from five space agencies are training in Slovenia these days for space missions as part of the CAVES programme by the European Space Agency (ESA). Training in caves presents the astronauts with environments and situations very similar to spaceflight, to help them transfer the learning from their caving expedition to space.

Astronauts are exploring underground systems, delve deep underground to perform scientific experiments as well as chart and document their activities.

According to ESA, the training of the astronauts, who come from ESA, Russia's Roscomos, Canadian and Japanese space agencies, and NASA (two astronauts), started on Wednesday.

On 20 September, they will start their six-day stay at Lepa Jama, a cave in the Kočevje area in the south, where they will explore underground water flows.

The cave leads into a labyrinth of passages, which astronauts will have to explore on their own, as their communication with the team on the surface will be very restricted.

The ESA official who conceived the programme, Loredana Bessone, believes such a simulation is the closest possible environment that can be found on Earth to the "environmental, psychological and logistic restraints of a space mission".

Apart from training for their work in space, astronauts will also do some actual cave research, as the development of caves, underground water flows and underground life still contain many riddles for scientists, said Franci Gabrovšek from the Karst Research Institute of the Research Centre of the Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU).

The astronauts will conduct research and mainly track the air and water flows so as to learn how to find water. They will also be on lookout for any unknown species that may have adapted themselves to the extreme conditions in the cave, and micro plastics, which have become a risk for the environment.

09 Sep 2019, 19:10 PM

STA, 9 September 2019 - History of Love (Zgodovina Ljubezni), a drama by Sonja Prosenc, will be Slovenia's candidate for the nomination for the 2020 Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, as selected by a jury of the Association of Slovenian Filmmakers.

The Slovenian/Italian/Norwegian co-production, made in 2018, has been picked for being an "unconventional and recognisable film, characterised by top performances by all team members, harmonised in a unified story."

With the film, Prosenc is making a strong return after her debut feature The Tree (2014), having already received a special mention for direction while premiering at the prestigious Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Competing for the five nominee spots for the foreign language Oscar, History of Love is a story about Iva, a 17-year-old who is in the process of coming to terms with the death of her mother.

"Influenced by this deep personal loss and by the discovery that she didn't know everything about her mom, the girl slowly immerses herself into an odd, hallucinatory world far from reality, which acts as a catharsis for all her painful feelings," says the website of the Kinodvor cinema.

The selection jury said that the film "paints the internal experience of the protagonist in a unique and elaborate film language, as she is facing her mother's mysterious past and trying to make sense of the newly-developed relationships".

According to the jury, the film speaks with silence, not words, while not underestimating the viewer, but providing room for their own reflection. "Time, thought and nature take a new dimension in this film, as they constantly open up fields of the associative, symbolic and intuitive."

The film, which was also written by Prosenc, received the Vesna Awards for photography and a special original achievement at last year's Festival of Slovenian Film, as well as a number of other awards in the home country.

08 Sep 2019, 19:35 PM

STA, 8 September 2019 - Several thousand firefighters and other visitors gathered in Metlika on Sunday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of firefighting in Slovenia, marking the day in 1869 when the first volunteer fire brigade was founded in Metlika. 

The first fire brigade on Slovenian territory was established on 19 September at the proposal of landowner Josip Savinšek. The following year fire brigades started cropping up in other places, including Laško, Ljubljana and Ptuj.

A century and a half later, Slovenia boasts what is seen as one of the best networks of volunteer fire brigades in the world, with over 1,300 local volunteer fire brigades bringing together 162,000 firefighters, almost a tenth of the country's population.

There are also 700 professional firefighters in 13 professional fire brigades.

Delivering the keynote at the ceremony in Metlika, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, himself a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Kamnik, stressed that the umbrella Firefighters' Union was the biggest humanitarian organisation in Slovenia.

"Being a firefighter is an honour, but it is also a responsibility ... when all others give up, leave or become scared, the firefighter stays," he said, describing Slovenian firefighters as the envy of the world.

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