This Friday, Slovenia will celebrate thirty years of independence from Yugoslavia. In a not so Friendly Friday manner, there was a ten-day case of war and then they let us go.
This might not be the type of flashback that Sandy had in mind for her Friendly Friday challenge but it is what it is.
I’ve got plenty for you today. One could say, a proper article. First, an account of how this got to be with some photo material, and then a gallery of images that make me think of what was and what is now. It is useless to compare or say which was better, suffice to say that the more I learn about the world, the more grateful I am that I grew up where I did and the way I did. Like this: Pippi head from the start. (More than 30 years ago.)
Thirty years ago
When I started blogging seven years ago I asked my three readers (all close relatives): What were you doing 30 years ago? Now I have more of you here to ask you the same question.
Back then my answer was: I sneaked out of primary school to go home and watch in peace how Jure Franko won silver in Giant Slalom at the Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, which at the time was my country, Yugoslavia, and that was the only medal at its home games.
Now, only seven years later, my answer is a little different. Thirty years ago this Friday, my Ljubljana – where I had lived all my life until I moved to Tuscany just before turning 43 – became the capital of the freshly independent state of Slovenia. And we were at war.
Slovenia proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia on June 25th 1991, a day earlier than previously announced. Apparently it made all the difference.
The soldiers of Yugoslav National Army – including Slovenians, since they were from all six republics (north to south: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia) – were lied to that there was foreign aggression on the borders from which they needed to defend their collective country.
Hence there were tanks in the streets to be dodged, bombers from Belgrade feared (they were in the air already but luckily somebody made them turn around), a helicopter wrongly shot down (it carried bread), several international truck drivers killed who were stuck in the line of fire, and more casualties but not as many as a war can have.
Journalists were asked by Janez Janša (yes, the same notorious Prime Minister now and Defence Minister then) to please stop disclosing positions of Slovenian forces in their news reports.
And then Yugoslavia left us alone. Or it “lost”, if you prefer.
The war for independence lasted ten days. It was the first armed conflict in Europe after World War II. There would be others, soon after, and that is where fun decidedly stops.
As for me, I just turned twenty-one. I still stayed with my parents and sister, together with my first proper boyfriend of one year, a Croatian from Rijeka. Croatia proclaimed independence together with Slovenia but later suffered incomparably more.
Below us lived my grandparents and uncle, and we all spent quality time in the garden waiting for the second air attack siren so that we could go into the (really unsafe) cellar, since grandma told us this was how they had done during the second war. “First there was pre-alarm, followed by the actual alarm,” she said. When the second siren sounded, we went obediently to the cellar (except dad who rebelled) but later learned that this second signal actually meant all-clear. Things had changed since WWII.
Two months later I went on my first parentless road trip abroad, with two friends for two weeks to France. We still had red Yugoslav passports.
My friend’s brilliant birthday party decor: all sorts of documents from Yugoslavia times. You can see the red passport on the left. “Indeks” was where final high school grades were collected, and the red booklet on the right displayed our university exam results. I shared both high school and university with her. And that bicycle test too. And K4 card!
In Amboise, where we camped on the island in the middle of the Loire, a group of guys did their best to guess where we were from. They tried all possible world countries and were getting desperate. Then one said “Yugoslaaavia”, in that defeated, far from enthusiastic way which was sometimes thrown our way. We didn’t correct him.
The owner of the hostel in Germany said repeatedly that Germany would never ever recognize independent Slovenia, but then later that year Germany was one of the first countries to do so. The USA, for example, needed four months longer.
And now Slovenia hits thirty. It has its share of problems, so much so that weekly Friday bicycle protests against the government of Janez Janša have been taking place in the capital for over a year now.
What’s more, on July 1st Slovenia takes over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, its second, under the slogan “Together. Resilient. Europe.”
It will last only half a year but the feeling is similar to what one half of the USA and the majority of the world felt when the election results were announced in 2016: Please, don’t let him find that button.
And finally, here is a collection of photos that show how Yugoslav heritage is alive and well in Slovenia, and not the worst thing that could happen to a girl growing up into what you see on these pages.
For Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by The Sandy Chronicles: Flashback
This day in my blogging history