23. marec 2008

The Third Day - Tony

The third day also began well before daylight. Since I was lying on my back for most of the time, I can clearly remember my view of the sky surrounded by the silhouettes of both canyon walls. These were, especially towards the top, thickly overgrown, and in some parts the plants grew together over the middle of the canyon, forming interesting shapes in the dark. Right from the beginning the image to me looked like a portrait of a young man, and as time went by this impression became even stronger. My hollow was sometimes quite dark, especially when the passing clouds covered the sky; on other occasions it was very bright with the light coming mainly from the growing moon. When the monkeys were at their most lively and noisy I could occasionally see a moving figure for a split second. The sounds they were making were loud, and close enough to frighten anybody. However, I remained rational and calm, knowing that there were no big animals or beasts on the island, and I didn’t let my imagination scare me with eerie questions about when and why they were so close and mysterious.

I preferred to focus on the wonderful singing of the birds and insects. I have to say that the night sounds in the jungle are beautiful and full of mystery. I knew some of them, mainly the sounds of the cicadas and crickets, from the Adriatic coast where I usually spend my summer holidays. But there were also other, very different, sounds coming from the birds, mainly the parrots. I was especially attracted by a sound that, I believe, must be typical of Nevis. I still don’t know which creature makes it, but the sound is surprisingly similar to the sounds that the Nevis musicians produce when playing the steel drums. The Caribbean islands are the world centre of a diverse, ethno-pop music that includes European, African and American elements. The music from Nevis usually isn’t included on the compilation CDs, though it certainly deserves to be. I find the music of Nevis one of the most original features of the Caribbean. One explanation as to why it isn’t so popular around the world may be the fact that it is mainly instrumental music.

During the nights I had to spend in that hollow I came to believe that the music must have been created in an attempt to imitate that wonderful and mysterious night sound coming from the Nevis forests. I can’t describe this sound; I can only say that its monotonously nostalgic tune evokes melancholic and romantic feelings in me. It has a calming and comforting effect, and in other circumstances it would probably have sounded like a pleasant lullaby.

And how badly I needed the comfort! The third day was breaking and I began to understand that what was happening to me wasn’t a minor accident, but a serious incident that would leave a lasting mark on my life. I thought to myself, if they don’t find me today, I might easily die in this hole. I began to see my situation in a different light: will I have to seek reconciliation with God and take leave from this world? Once again, I started my day with a prayer: Father, for you all things are possible; let this chalice pass from me!

How I would welcome the morning sun to warm me up! But I can’t expect it before midday, and even then it will only reach me if there are no clouds above this part of the mountain. No, there won’t be much sun today – I can feel the raindrops. What if my only dry clothes – the two tee shirts and a pair of shorts – get wet? They certainly won’t get dry by the evening, and if I have to sleep out here again tonight I will freeze to death in those wet rags.

Logical thinking showed me there was only one way out of this situation: I quickly took all my clothes off, wrapped them in my rucksack, and squeezed the rucksack under a rock. Well, I thought to myself, in a situation when people would normally put on more clothes to keep them warm, I have to take everything off and expose my body to the rain and wind. How drastically my position in the world has changed in just a few days! And what shall I do now? Shall I stand up, lie down or crouch naked in the rain? Most importantly, I have to stretch out my tongue and catch a few drops of water. Soon the rain is bucketing down on me. I notice that the water is filling the leaves and plastic bags that I have prepared for this purpose. Finally I will have a drink of water again.

As the rain falls, I crawl gingerly to one of the plastic bags and have a few sips of water. Oh, how good it feels! This is certainly much better than that brownish liquid that I “recycle” every few hours. However, I soon realise that the collected water isn’t quite clean. At the bottom of my “containers” there is some sort of sediment made up of various bits of plants. I understand that because the canyon is so narrow the rain doesn’t come down in a straight line, but bounces off the tall branches and leaves up there between the two walls. When the raindrops trickle down the leaves, Mother Nature “plants” a few things into the water, mainly the seeds that have to spread around in a variety of ways. I only hope there are no animal “implants” that would upset my bowels. To avoid such a problem, I filter the collected water through my white vest. Each time I pour the water through it, the vest becomes dark with all the bits that get caught on its surface. Something tells me this water will cause me problems.

And so it does! When the rain stops after about fifteen minutes I dry up a bit and put on my clothes – but immediately I have to take them off again due to strong cramps in my stomach. I realise I have got serious diarrhoea. This is the last thing I need: to lose the so-much-needed liquid in this way. But it’s exactly that – I have to find a place for my toilet. Should it be in the most distant part of my dwelling? No, I was careful enough to take into account the possibility of a longer stay in my hole and the night-time calls of nature. I knew that in the dark I couldn’t move far from my nest. Hence, I emptied my bowels only a few metres away, into a gap between two rocks. And I certainly did empty my bowels well! The contents were pouring out of me. I knew I was losing a lot more liquid than I had just consumed, and so I decided to stop this practice.

That day I focused my attention on the sky and the faraway sounds. Those were suspiciously similar to the sounds I had heard the day before, which made me think that I was hearing only the planes on their regular flights and that the air rescuers weren’t on their way. Maybe they will walk up here, I thought. In my anticipation of their arrival, I often cried out: “Help! Heelp! He-elp! Na pomoč! Hello!” Then I listened to hear if somebody was calling me, but all I could hear were the echoes of my cries. I was puzzled: How come they aren’t here yet? Nevis isn’t that big, and Miriam must be urging them to look for me. Well, maybe the sports planes aren’t suitable for low flights because they would have to avoid mountain ridges and several clouds. Or, maybe there is no helicopter on the island. In this case they will perhaps bring one from a neighbouring island …

I thought that in the meantime I could check again to see if it really wasn’t possible to get out of that hole on my own. Can I climb downwards? – I asked myself. Not even in my dreams: the canyon is far too deep and slippery. What about the sidewalls? They are too vertical to climb. Only the part where I fell down is perhaps a possibility. I give it a try, but I soon stop, thinking: Even if I don’t fall off immediately, I will surely fall after the first three or four metres. I’d better wait; they will find me eventually.

In the meantime the weather cleared up and at midday a few, much needed, sunrays shone on me. I waited for them on one side of the hollow and then followed them, as they were moving towards the other side. There, I had to take leave of them after just one hour. I could see that the sky above my part of the mountain was still quite clear so that the rescuers could spot me from the air, if they flew over. I listened hard all the time, even when I dozed off a bit. I had hardly slept at night, which meant that I was far from fresh and rested, and therefore I had a few naps during the day.

I became very excited when, at about 2.00 pm, I finally heard a distant sound – this time quite different from the sounds of the planes. I knew it was a helicopter. They are looking for me, I thought. Salvation is close! I jumped to my feet, grabbed hold of my long stick to which a white plastic bag was attached, made sure that everything else was in place and waited, waited … Yes, the sound is coming closer! It is very strong. This must be a very big helicopter. Now, what is this? Is the sound going away? Well, just for a short time, then it grows louder again. Of course, they must be surveying the area. Can I already see it through the narrow opening of the canyon? No, not yet. But it is very loud, so it must be low … I can see it now. Yessss! I see its profile. It is round and has a long tail. I wave and shout though the men in the helicopter can’t possibly hear me: the noise of the engine wouldn’t allow it. Can they see me? – I wonder eagerly. If they look in my direction then they will surely see me as I can see the windows of the helicopter. It is gone … It flies away. Well, it will come back, – I encourage myself. And next time it will come even closer. My excitement reaches a peak. I rest a bit, so that I can later wave and shout again. What will they do once they spot me? I don’t think they can descend into here or attempt to rescue me directly from the helicopter by using a rope. They will probably first make a sign to let me know they have seen me. Maybe they will also throw something to me. It is possible that they have prepared packs of drinking water so that I could first have a good drink. Yes, that would be the best thing. Then they will perhaps inform the other rescuers, so they can reach me on foot, and bring the ropes and to help me climb out of the hollow. But that will take time. Well, I can wait as long as I know they have found me. I only need to know they have found me.

But they haven’t found me yet. The helicopter has been away for too long … When will it be back?

Nothing. Nothing. I can’t hear any encouraging sound. And the time passes. Did they run out of fuel and go back to fill up? I soon realise that nothing more will happen today. It will soon be 6.00 pm, when night falls. Tomorrow then …

I was very disappointed; but I was even more hopeful than before. My thoughts went like this: If they have managed to come so close today, they can do the same tomorrow. However, our trip to Orlando will come to nothing. Will we have to change our plan so that we can at least catch our trans-Atlantic flight home from Miami? Will we do that or am I just kidding myself?

Only then I realised that I shouldn’t have any illusions. I was involved in a very serious accident and the situation was extremely dangerous. Maybe I won’t survive this at all.

As if I wanted to demonstrate how I was coming to terms with reality, I picked up a sharp stone and started to chisel the words “Day 3” into the wall. I thought that if they found me only after my death they would at least know how long I had survived and that they could have saved me if they had come earlier. Before nightfall I described the past events and my current situation into my digital camera that could make sound recordings. With the automatic shutter release, I also took a photo of myself showing three fingers.

When I realised that the stone I had picked up for chiselling was very useful, I approached my fatal wall and started removing the moss from it. I was doing this more out of some kind of vengeance than in any attempt to start climbing that dangerous wall. However, in order to “work” higher up the wall I had to pull myself up a bit; and to ensure that in the event of a fall I wouldn’t hit hard rocks I rolled a few decaying tree trunks to the base of the wall.

Before I could make my bed I had plucked more leaves from all around my hole, but then I began to worry that I would soon run out of fresh leaves if I was going to continue using them up like this. What’s more, my concern for nature awoke in me. I began to think, that each time I should take only a few leaves from the plants instead of pulling them out without any plan. In this way I would leave some fresh leaves for other days and use them then if necessary.

Just before nightfall I experienced another small joy. In the thickest part of my dwelling I found a few samples of a very useful, few-metre-high plant, which I named after my Slovenian hometown: Domžale plant. After having had a better look at it, I could see that the lower part of its stalk consisted of special small ventricles in which water was stored. I took one stalk and later, when I turned in for the night, I slowly began to chew it. That night and on the following day, I had to go to the toilet so often that in the end my bowels were completely empty.

That night dragged on even more than the other nights. I kept my wristwatch on all the time, but only rarely could I see its hands. In the meantime I was only guessing how much time still separated me from the daylight I longed for so much. I prayed a bit, I thought a bit, I dozed off for a while and had a few dreams, I moved around a bit in my “bed”, got up, “replaced” the liquid in my plastic bottle, went back, covered myself with the leaves, dozed again, later I looked into the sky, rearranged the leaves on my body, dozed off … And look: the day is breaking, soon it will be bright enough for me to tell the time from my watch. What could the time be now? It must be two, maybe even three in the morning. Then the moon appears so that I can finally look at my watch … This can’t be true! It is only a quarter to nine in the evening. This night is going to be very long. I am cold. I don’t try to stop the shaking of my body; on the contrary, I’m even reinforcing it in the hope that the shaking will warm me up, at least a bit.

When I wake up once again, I am really quite sorry that I have woken up because in the last fifteen minutes I had the most beautiful dream. In it I could see my relatives and friends in the most wonderful surroundings; and they were all so kind and good. As if I had been in heaven … I believe that many people have died in exceptional circumstances (on the snowy mountains or in the Arctic) with a smile on their faces, just like the little match girl.

I would like to fall asleep again and have the same dream, but I can’t do it – the sleep and dreams don’t return to me again.

And when I can’t sleep, I think, think …

I find this hole, in which I am held against my free will, utterly unpleasant and repulsive. However, the hole is entirely natural and, in spite of all its dangers, innocent and so full of life in the middle of the blooming and sweetly-scented nature. I don’t yet feel the presence of death and I believe that even if I do feel it later, it won’t be as terrifying as it can be in certain circumstances that are manipulated by man.

How much more terrifying and utterly unjust it must have been for the tens of thousands of innocent Slovenes who, AFTER the Second World War, were killed in Slovenian hollows. And they weren’t killed by some evil, foreign soldiers, but by their fellow countryman. I can’t help thinking about my poor uncle – my mother’s brother, France Vodlan. We still don’t know in which hollow his bones lie rotting.

My mother hid the truth from me about her brother until I was fifteen-years old. In a similar way, thousands of other Slovenian parents had to hide the truth from their children. Had the children known it and mentioned any of it at school or to their friends, they could have become labelled forever and their lives would have been even more difficult. I know a woman of my age whose mother never told her when, how and why her sister was killed. All her life the mother kept the painful secret to herself and only now the daughter understands why she so often found her mother crying alone.

Among her six brothers, France was my mother’s favourite. Of all the boys, he was the most considerate and protective towards his little sister who, as the only girl in the family, always had to fight for her place.

He was a trained shoemaker; a keen athlete, he fell desperately in love a few times and was at the peak of his youth when the Second World War broke out. The Germans occupied the part of Slovenia where my mother’s family lived and soon the resistance against them was organised. A few of my mother’s brothers were mobilized to join the German army, others were deported to Austria, but France voluntarily joined the partisan fighters in 1943. (Under the leadership of communists, the partisans fought against the occupying forces and also for the social revolution.) Until the end of the war, France stayed with the Second Company of the so-called Šlander’s Brigade. Since he was stationed in the area around his home, my mother often visited him, bringing him food and clothes. On those occasions they also often got involved in deep conversations, which meant that my mother got an insight into the development of the resistance, as well as into her brother’s moods and beliefs.

They both soon understood that the “ordinary” partisans were being badly abused. Their leaders, the well-organised communists, were pulling all the strings and the leaders’ prime aim wasn’t the liberation from the occupying forces: they wanted revolution and to take power. Very early on the communists began to behave in a very arrogant and violent way and didn’t allow any other form of resistance against the occupying forces. Any forms of resistance that weren’t in line with the main strategy were explicitly forbidden, and those fighters that weren’t subordinate to the communist rulers were killed. Hence, during the Second World War there was also a brutal civil war taking place in Slovenia.

At the beginning of the war all the partisans were sleeping and eating under the same conditions, but soon differences began to emerge: the meals for the leaders were richer and tastier than the meals prepared for the others. France was becoming increasingly puzzled by all of this; at first he was still naïve, and it took him some time to see through the communist conspiracy. I was deeply moved when, years later, my mother repeated the words France had once said to her: “You know, Mitska, I believe Slovenia will be liberated, only I won’t be able to enjoy its freedom – I feel I will die before that time.”

He did live to see the end of the war – but it didn’t bring him liberation, instead it brought him a cruel death. By early spring 1945 he became fully aware of what the communists were plotting and, as a result, he left the partisans. He didn’t want to demonstrate his break with the partisans in a particularly emphatic way, but when he fell ill with malaria he joined the home guard, who looked after him. (The so-called home guard was a group whose main aim was the fight against communism.) Though he had no real wish to join the other side – the home guard was then in anything but an enviable situation – he sought refuge with them in order to save his life (otherwise the partisans would have killed him). However, during those last days of the war, he certainly didn’t hurt, let alone kill, anybody. My mother believes that he never killed anybody during his two-year involvement in the war.

When, at the beginning of May 1945, the country became “liberated”, he was immediately arrested and taken to a camp near Ljubljana, where people were gathered just so that they could later be slaughtered. With the frantic sounds of victory celebrations still coming from the distance, thousands of victims of the Slovenian civil war spent their last days in the inhumane conditions of that camp. My mother kept in touch with France during the month of May and the first half of June. She could send him her regards through some kind acquaintances and got the same in return – none of them dared to say anything else.

Soon the slaughtering began, and it can’t be compared with anything else in the history of our nation. During the whole four years of the war there hadn’t been any such large-scale killing as we experienced after the war. The only aim of this horrible act was to exterminate the members of any political opposition, and in this way the communists got rid of most of the people who could prevent them seizing power. Without any legal procedures the new political leaders killed tens of thousand members of the home guard and other political opponents, together with their family members, including a lot of children.

The most tragic and ironic part of this story lies in the fact that most of these political opponents initially managed to escape from Slovenia through the tunnel that links our country with Austria. There they surrendered to the victorious western allies, but the British Army, using the pretence of sending them to Italy, packed them into cattle trucks and sent them back to Yugoslavia where they were seized by the partisans. My uncle was spared the “trip” to Austria, however, he was killed, along with other victims, at one of the mass execution sites whose locations are now finally known to the Slovenian public.

How inhumanely and brutally did the intoxicated killers treat the desperate prisoners! After the decision to kill them was taken – and that decision must have been made at the highest political level – its execution was treated only as a difficult logistical problem. The main question was where to put thousands of bodies. The executioners remembered that some parts of Slovenia were rich with special geological features, deep sinkholes, into which they could throw the dead bodies. Since the transport of dead bodies is much more complicated than the transport of live ones, they organised special trains and trucks that took tens of thousands of victims, at precisely planned intervals, to the killing sites.

Every one of them must have known that they were going to be killed: before getting on a train or truck, they had to take off all their clothes and with sharp wires they were tied together in pairs. Before leaving, the executioners pulled several gold teeth from the mouths of the victims, took from them even the smallest items of their property and humiliated them in various other ways.

In the forests of the so-called Kočevski Rog, the soldiers of the new regime drove their fellow countrymen out of the trains or trucks, put them in lines in front of the holes, which were a few tens of metres deep, and machine-gunned them so that the dead or wounded bodies were toppling into the depths of the holes. They were landing on top of each other, many of them still alive. They were gasping for breath, swallowing or throwing up blood and trying to remain at the top of the pile by pushing away other bodies. Every few hours the executioners took a short break to rest and reload their ammunition, and then some of the victims exchanged a few whispered words among each other, careful not to break the deadly silence that was filled with horror.

How is it possible that we know all of this? It’s because, in spite of very strict security measures, some of the captives managed to escape. They went abroad and there they told the story of this atrocious crime.

The victims that were lucky and skilful enough managed to dig their way up towards the top of the pile consisting of hundreds of bodies. There they lay low, using the limbs of other bodies to protect themselves so that they could even survive the final evening explosions with which the executioners wanted to cover the bodies and hide forever the evidence of their evil acts. After a few days, when an unbearable stench of decaying flesh and blood spread around in the summer heat, the guards became less attentive. Then, during the night, three or four people managed to climb out of the abyss by using the leaning trunk of a fallen tree. Naked and wounded, they crawled off into the night.

Man can be so much more cruel and malicious than nature; and those unfortunate people, though surrounded by hundreds of fellow sufferers and being in the heart of their homeland, must have felt so much more unhappy, deserted and forgotten by the world than I feel now on this small Caribbean island. My suffering has been caused by a series of unfortunate events; theirs was caused by sheer hatred and malice.

The present Slovenian leaders haven’t been able to completely conceal these events from our recent history from the people. However, they are trying hard to minimise the importance of these events. I know this because of my own experiences in the area: for a few years I chaired a committee investigating the slaughter that took place after the war in my hometown of Domžale. The members of those parties that continued the politics of the previous regime were constantly trying to hide facts from the committee, or were taking the right to decide who among the dead victims deserved to be remembered and who was a national traitor because of his supposed collaboration with the Germans. Only with great difficulties did we manage to put together a list of about 280 local victims, and during that process I got acquainted with many very tragic stories.

I can recall an interesting example that illustrates how merciless the political rulers were even when they decided on the posthumous reverence – a custom that every decent society has respected for thousands of years. I think it was in 1944 that the partisans killed a young man from the village of Dob, next to Domžale, who had right-wing patriotic views, and buried him in a meadow near a forest. After the “liberation” his parents and brothers wished to move his remains to the cemetery in their village, but for several years the local authorities continued to deny them the right to do so. One night, five years after the war, the brothers finally took the courage to dig up the remains of the deceased and hide them in the basement of their home. When a few years later the father of the killed man died, the family made use of the fact that the father had a leg missing and put the remains of the dead brother in the empty place in the coffin. The father and son were then buried together. The family told me that at the meal after the funeral they enjoyed having an extra glass of wine marking, in this way, the occasion when they successfully tricked the authorities that hadn’t allowed them to carry out the most basic customs of any culture. From then onwards the family was much more at peace on the annual All Souls’ Day (even the name of this traditional Catholic holiday was abolished by the new regime and replaced by the Day of the Dead) when standing at the grave which, though bearing only the name of the father, also held the remains of the brother.

The ghastly events that took place in the intoxicated euphoria created by the people who, at the end of the war, happened to be on the winning side, are still not sufficiently well known to the rest of the world. Among another things, this is also due to the feelings of guilt of the British authorities that still don’t admit they made a fatal mistake. The President of Yugoslavia, the cunning Marshal Tito, must have already then managed to trick the British, as he later managed for decades to skilfully play the role of an amiable and enlightened dictator, and whose funeral in 1980 was attended by the cream of international politics.

It is a well-known fact that in May and June 1945, Tito already had a firm grip on power throughout the whole of Yugoslavia by forcing the military and civil institutions to submit to a completely centralised form of politics. We can’t even imagine that a very expensive operation, during which tens of thousands of war prisoners were executed, could have been carried out without Tito’s explicit agreement or even his order. We can also be certain that the Slovenian communist leadership, chaired by Edvard Kardelj, was fully aware of, and also in agreement with, the executions organised in Slovenia. And this systematic violence, which denied Slovenian people their basic human rights, wasn’t only a short, turbulent, post-war period, but a process that lasted for many years. Even in the fifties, Tito still maintained a concentration camp – the closest one to Western Europe – situated on the Croatian island of Goli otok (the barren island). There he kept his political opponents and thus, in the middle of the most beautiful Adriatic Gulf, this small island turned into a true hell for its prisoners.

It is sad that even today there are still streets and squares in some Slovenian towns that are named after Tito, and that in the capital, Ljubljana, the monument dedicated to Kardelj still boasts in front of its citizens.

It is also sad that the new Slovenian state still hasn’t got enough courage to make use of its legitimate legislative institutions – like the courts, prosecutor’s office, police – with which to start, at least symbolically, the charges against the main figures of the previous clique that committed crimes during or after the war, or gave orders for mass killings. Ironically, at the same time, a Slovenian court is successfully leading a case against a member of the wartime home guard, accusing him of killing one person. If he gets convicted – while none of the communists responsible for the war, or post-war, mass murders, is brought to court – it will be an utterly unfair abuse of jurisdiction for political purposes.

However, time will find an appropriate place for everything, if not sooner, then a little later. The school textbooks will then place Tito next to Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.

I am certain that the Slovenian wartime organisation, the home guard, will one day be rehabilitated. I believe that it was one of the most splendid and noble movements in our history (later Demos bore the same qualities). I understand that on every side of the war there are individuals who use the lawless circumstances to feed their vile inclinations. The crimes spurred by such conditions were committed on both sides: the partisan and the home guard. The post-war propaganda managed to use a few such cases in order to accuse all political opposition of holding distorted and dangerous views. And this attitude has been maintained until the present time. However, the truth about the basic issues is slowly, yet persistently, coming to light.

What other movement or idea could be more legitimate and worthy than the home guard? Every individual has the right to protect his or her home, property, loved ones and homeland. This, and only this, was the mission of Slovenian home guard. Its members didn’t follow any other ideology – be it fascist, nazi or multi-ethnic – they were committed to the protection of Slovenia and its traditional values. It is understandable that right from the beginning the members of the home guard saw the communists as their main enemies because they wanted to change the country completely, and made Slovenia join the movement known as the Communist International. Even before the Second World War, the communists represented the main threat to Slovenia. Many far-seeing politicians in Slovenia realised this fact very early on, but they were unable to convince their fellow countrymen to unite and form a strong political movement to act against the danger that was coming from the east.

Time has proved that communism was the biggest threat to Slovenian society. In recent centuries, no other tyranny has enslaved our country so totally and caused so much mental and material damage as communism. If the ideas of the home guard had been put into effect (for which the home-guard members themselves weren’t strong enough), then in 1945 in Slovenia, as in Western Europe, a period of true freedom would have begun: the right-wing political movement would have introduced democracy – not a forty-year-long dictatorship.

Today, the members of the home guard are mainly criticised for their collaboration with the occupying forces, as if that had been the focus of the movement. The main motive of the majority of its volunteers was deeply patriotic, others joined for practical reasons: they wanted to fight the increasing violence of the communists and through them also the partisans. One proof of their sincerity can be found in the lyrics of the beautiful home-guard songs that every honest (and religious) patriot would today still enjoy singing. The home guard’s political and military leaders probably also made a few tactical mistakes, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals of the home-guard movement, which remains one of the tragic moments of Slovenian independence. I believe the time will come when the unjust negative labelling of this movement’s big idea will be removed at last after many years. And this will also have to include a solemn national occasion attended by the most senior representatives of the Slovenian state.

It may be that because of the tragedy in my family – the unnecessary death of my uncle France – I am not impartial in this matter. However, I can’t prevent myself from thinking how unjust it is that the communists (and now the leftists) have been accusing the home guard of collaboration with the occupying forces when communism itself was all the time synonymous with collaboration. Even before the war, the communists worked exclusively in accordance with the instructions of the Communist International, and during the war they were mainly carrying out the orders that came from Belgrade or Moscow. The traditionally servile attitude of Slovenian politicians towards the Serbian leadership continued into the 1990s, until our new right-wing coalition severed links between the Slovenian politicians and their Belgrade patrons. “Nomen est omen” – the expression “partisan” wasn’t chosen by chance; it means “a party member” and so it is clear that the main aim of the partisan movement wasn’t the fight against the occupying forces but the introduction of a social revolution. If their aim had been different, the partisans could have fought under the traditional Slovenian three-coloured flag, not under the red star of the Russian Revolution. Having said that, I also wish to express my deep respect and admiration for all those honest partisans who, just like my uncle, joined this movement because they believed that they were in this way fighting for the freedom of their nation.

It’s been such a long time since I last thought about these issues …

Maybe my accidental fall into this hollow hasn’t been such a disaster: here I have the time to reawaken my memories and decide whether, in the future, I would want to share them with anybody else. For now I don’t intend to burden my children with all those atrocities, but when they are old enough to understand I will tell them everything I know. Future generations should be aware of past events, irrespective of how cruel they were.

This is the attitude that Germany adopted after the war and it proved to be very useful for the development of the whole society.

Slovenia will also have to bite the bullet.

From my book: Second Place of Birth: Nevis

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