Friendly Friday Flashback: War

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.

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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.

This restaurant in Piran is called Sarajevo ’84.

Right there: Slovenian Jure Franko, silver in Giant Slalom for Yugoslavia.

Another Bosnian-style restaurant in Ljubljana, Das Ist Walter.

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.

The only tank left standing in Ljubljana in 2019.

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.

A hidden monument in Ljubljana city park Tivoli celebrating a heroic action of the Slovenian army in the 1991 war.

And now we are alone.

But the fight never 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.

So young and already Mexi.

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.

Slovenia has the shape of a hen.

A surprising find in Grosetto, the capital of my Tuscan province: Via Slovenia!

Truth be told, they still have Via Jugoslavia too. And Via Unione Sovietica!

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.

#METOO, Slovenian style, for a year now. Friday bicycle protests (and on foot) all over the city, involving some ugly scenes with the police in front of the Parliament.

A weird 2019 marketing campaign: REMEMBER THINK ACT. I wish they would do just this in the Parliament in the back.

“Janša is screwing us. Buy me a Falcon!” The street knew back in 2016.

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

43 thoughts on “Friendly Friday Flashback: War

  1. What a fascinating blog. History that touches us personally is always so much more interesting and although I know, or think I know, the history of post-World War ll, your added insight has enlightened me some more. I also enjoyed the images you used to illustrate your blog, so different from what you usually write!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly, Mari, for working your way through this post. 🙂 It could have been much more neutral but if I wanted this, I’d be writing for newspapers… (Ah, is anybody still reading those?) When I studied journalism, it upset me that I was forbidden to include myself in what I was writing.

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  2. It’s so strange that our leaders seem to be so far removed from who we are. I have to admit that 30 years ago I was not paying attention to much but working and parenting. Your personalized history is a good lesson in being too self-absorbed. Perhaps the internet has also made us all more aware of the rest of the world. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, K. I feel rather exhausted after writing this. The internet has been amazing in so many ways. This blogging is the most precious thing I have right now in the sense of communicating with the world and discovering it. We’ve got a good thing here. I appreciate all your visits and words, and all that you offer on your pages.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Manja. I’m not very good at actual traveling, but I get to see the world through the eyes of people like you. That is indeed a gift. The exchange is precious to us all.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting read – it’s always enlightening to hear how significant past events felt to the people living through them rather than, as I was, just seeing them on the evening news. As to me, thirty years ago I was not so different to what I am now – married to the same man, living in the same house. The most significant thing that year for me was that we took our first road trip in the US – only our third trip outside Europe and the first that we organised for ourselves rather than just book a tour 🙂 My obsession with travel probably started around then!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Manja this was a wonderful post. Even though you’re exhausted, I am glad that you wrote it. Dry journalism is a thing of the past and if I wanted to read that, I’d pick up some boring history book. You have a gift of adding wry humour to serious topics. I can just imagine sitting with your family in the garden waiting for the second siren, deliberately oblivious to imminent harm. This style of narrative is impactful and more memorable than dry facts. Thank you for wrting it. I’m glad to have read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sandy you do have a sense for identifying the compelling bits. I like how you point out that Manja has a way of adding humor when writing about hard topics, and also how this personal story helps us become educated with a more open heart. It doesn’t sound like a textbook, and more like a story.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Ahh, thank you so much, Sandy! 🙂 I’m glad I wrote it too, even though it tired me up. And I’m glad what you say about “dry journalism”. Impactful and memorable are great things to be. I’m grateful and you’re most welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You have had quite a life. No wonder you live and love in the manner you do. I am glad you documented this. It brings real life and real people for us to understand. Always most interesting when history is told like a story. I am happy to know you here. I love your energy, and the care you put into your blog.

    I like your Pippi photo. That brought memories back for me. Donna Have a good rest of your day.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh how I yearned to be Pippi. I am jealous that you made it happen. If I had ever thought of that for a Halloween costume, I would have done it for sure.

    This is so well done, thank you. Your images are just right and the way you introduce us to the topic is also like a welcome. You ask us to come along and hear a story, and before I know it, I have been educated about world events. I can see why you are exhausted. What a difficult story to tell, with all its complicated facts and emotions. Hugs to you. Thank you for sharing your perspective in this direct and honest way. ❤ Thank you for the amazingly great photo to illustrate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh for gosh sakes, and I missed the question, too. In early 1991, I was stationed on a remote Aleutian Island in Alaska, in the Air Force. In June, 30 years ago, I was sweltering in a dormitory room in Colorado, above the laundry, so my room was always about 80 degrees (27 C). I was a completely different person than who I am now. Back then I mostly cared about boys and adventure, and hopefully both at the same time. Paid almost zero attention to world events, and was plotting my escape from military service.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s never too late to be Pippi, Crystal. It’s beautiful how you describe the process that went into this post. It’s exactly this: lend me your ears and I’ll tell you my story. It’s always about this on my blog. You’re always most welcome and hugs back. ❤❤❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. How interesting – I didn’t realise Slovenia was as young as that. I hope its relationships with its neighbours are all peaceful now. I first heard of Ljubljana in the opening chapter of Paulo Coelho’s book Veronika Decides to Die which is set there, and then I ended up working there some years later (I’m not actually a fan of Coelho, I hasten to add, but I did binge read a lot of his books in my 20s)!

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    1. I were told fairly recently that the Veronika in question is someone I know personally. Paulo liked Slovenia, it seems. I read it but don’t remember it at all, except a certain sense of dread. I have always read a lot but not everything has stuck. Yes, right now it seems that Slovenians are divided on the inside so neighbours are safe. :p Really cool that you were working in my city, Sunra Nina. Is there any special place you really liked? 🙂

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      1. Really? It could well have been based on a true story. There was a sense of dread I suppose because it was set in an asylum. But I’m pretty sure it had a good conclusion, Paulo’s books usually do.

        It was a place near the mountains in the south, I wish I could remember the name. The wine was gorgeous and the buses barely ran, or were every 2 hours, if at all. Apparently there were real bears in the mountains, the locals told us later, after we’d had our picnic there 😄 I’ll find out the name and let you know. Obviously I haven’t seen all sides to your country, just a couple. And the last time I was in Ljubljana (2018) I had a very disturbing experience with a flasher that I don’t like to dwell on! Except I’ve now made it public. I’m sure that’s not a reflection on other make Slovenians! 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ahhhh, ugly. 😦 Hm… we have mountains to the north! 😀 In the south are just hillocks. And yes, bears. Was it near Kočevje? That region is known for bears. I have not seen a bear in nature yet. I’d die, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It was Vipava. Which is actually more west! And you’re right, they were probably more like hillocks than mountains! Gorgeous great big rolling hillocks though. The guesthouse owner got us all very drunk most evenings after school! Fond memories 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ahh, Vipava, wonderful! They have good karma over there. Italy is near. 😀 Some of my ancestors are from Podnanos nearby. Quite some hills there, no Alps but still. Hahha, that owner sounds like a typical Slovenian. I’m glad for your memories.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pippi? To man as in Longstocking? She’s a great role model for girls.
    The personal touch to your story certainly added an element of interest, Manja. You would have made an inspiring history teacher, but I’m delighted you are using your journo skills in blogging! We need all the perspectives we can get. I thought I was pretty good at modern history, but didn’t get the memo about Tito co-founding the non aligned movement. I am sure we were taught YU was part of the buffer zone of the communist block! My Bosnian friends here still revere Tito and long for those years, now gone. Jugend? Still related to Jugendstil
    Jugendstil?
    So enjoyed your FF writing and hopefully more where this came from. To answer the question, 30 years ago I didn’t have anywhere as much fun as in your part of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Amanda. Fun is relative. 😀

      To answer your questions: Yes, Pippi Longstocking. I loved her and all her books so much, mom had to read them to me all the time. Don’t you think I look similar in that photo? I took over many of her traits, I’m glad to say: taking the side of the underdog, not much respect for (false) authorities of all kinds, and most of all, her fearlessness.

      History teacher is the last thing I wish to be! I had really bad ones, they never made history sound like fun. Tito said No to Stalin in 1948, that was crucial. Titojugend sign is a (parody) response to Hitlerjugend, Hitler Youth, the Nazi youth organization.

      Thank you for all your nice words, Amanda. Greetings to your Bosnian friends. I’ve always loved them the most of all Yugoslav nations.

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      1. My daughter was a huge fan of Pippi. We used to have videos in Swedish! My Swedish friends sent her books.
        Thanks for clarifying Titojugend.
        My Bosnian friends were refugees from the war. They were devastated they had to leave their home.

        Liked by 1 person

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