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The Commemoration of the silenced victims of communism, who were denied the right to a grave by the authorities

Despite last year’s scandalous abolition of the commemoration of the victims of the communist totalitarian regime, a magnificent ceremony took place on Thursday, the 16th of May 2024, on the eve of the abolished commemoration day, in Republic Square. The abolition of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence was a spit in the face by the current government, but the people are not about to give up the dignity of remembering their loved ones. Those gathered at the event were accompanied by a large crowd, and bells rang throughout Slovenia at the start.

On Thursday, the 16th of May, on the eve of the former Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence, a grand first commemoration of the victims of socialism took place in Ljubljana’s Republic Square. The ceremony began with the prayer of Our Father, and the keynote speaker was historian Dr Mitja Ferenc, who pointed out, among other things, that the government’s abolition of the Day of Remembrance last year was a symbolic denial of the existence of these victims.

“Here we are again! In reverent, holy silence and the singing of the bells, we begin the commemoration of the silenced victims of communism, who were denied the right to a grave by the authorities, who thus pushed Slovenia out of civilisation,” said historian and journalist Dr Jože Možina.

The candles were then lit in memory of the victims, and one of those gathered at the ceremony said that she was “the guardian of the memory of four relatives on my mother’s side from Kamnik pod Krimom. It is a loving and painful memory. They were young people aged 35, 34, 30 and 10. Farmers, patriots who lived and breathed for their nation, innocent people. It is hard when we think that we, too, have no grave for them. They came from Rakitna and said goodbye to their home at the end of the war and said that they were going to Carinthia. They never came back.” “I am the coincidental guardian of the memory of Mrs Ana Bezjak, born in Ključarevci near Ljutomer, who disappeared on the 9th of April 1945,″ said the next person to join the others in lighting the candles.

The keynote speaker at the event was historian Dr Mitja Ferenc, who pointed out, among other things, that by abolishing the day last year, the government had symbolically denied the existence of these victims, which, in his view, reflected a deficit in respect for basic civilisational norms and a continuation of the ideological separation between ″our own″  and those who do not even deserve to be remembered. He pointed out that the victims of all three totalitarianisms should be treated in the same way. However, the victims of the communist system in Slovenia are treated differently from the victims of Nazism and fascism, as they do not even have the right to a grave.

Afterwards, the following people also spoke at the ceremony: Vlasta Doležal Rus, Dr Matija Ogrin, Alexander Jerman, Dr Helena Jaklitsch and Jože Kurinčič. Those gathered then listened to the poet Tonet Kuntner, Pavle Ravnohrib, Mateja Subotičanec, Jože Bartolj, Dr. Janez Juhant and Romana Bider. The musicians Marta Močnik, Lucas Osterc Somoza, Fran Matić and the octet Deseti brat (″The Tenth Brother″) also performed.

“Many of our deceased compatriots are still without a death certificate and a grave, so they are legally and materially erased. The majority of the people of Slovenia are indifferent about it or even support this situation. And that is especially why such a commemoration ceremony is urgently needed. Because we are human!” read a touching message on X. President of the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratksa stranka – SDS), Janez Janša, also shared a photo from the ceremony, adding the hashtag #Because we are human.

Among the gathered, we also saw many well-known faces, including the historian Igor Omerza MSc, MEP Romana Tomc, MEP Dr Milan Zver, SDS party candidate for the position of MEP and former Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs, MP Franc Breznik, MP Branko Grims, MSc, and another SDS candidate for the position of MEP, Karin Planinšek.

Let us remember the 17th of May 1942, when the partisans killed 53 people, mostly members of the Roma community, including 24 children, in the Iška Gorge. It was the first communist mass murder of civilians. The date of the crime was made an official day of remembrance for all mass murder and other victims at the proposal of historian and journalist Dr Jože Možina at the end of the previous government’s mandate in 2022. The new government abolished it last year during the ceremony for its commemoration, stating that it was introduced by the previous government or that it was introduced incorrectly, without “expert and public debate”. Finally, after years of effort, the nostalgia for communism, which is embedded in our culture and mentality, has also received attention in Brussels, where a group of historians, led by Dr Mitja Ferenc, has brought it to the attention of Brussels in the form of a petition.

With the help of MEP Romana Tomc (European People’s Party – EPP/SDS party), the victims of communist violence were also brought to the attention of the entire European public, where the response was quite different from that in Slovenia. Ferenc also pointed out that Zoran Janković, the Mayor of Ljubljana, has still not found a place for the Roma victims in the largest Slovenian cemetery, the Žale cemetery in Ljubljana – not for the 50 victims from the village of Iška, mostly women and children, and not for the 3,450 recently discovered murder victims from the Macesnova gorica in Kočevski rog.

At its meeting on the 12th of May 2022, the Government of Janez Janša adopted a decision declaring that the 17th of May is to be observed in Slovenia as a National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence. They stressed that this was based on the civilisational norm that the perpetrators of violence and their evil acts should be measured by the same standards. Last year, however, the current government of Robert Golob decided to terminate the validity of the decision to declare this national day.

The SDS party said that “the reversal of the decision on the establishment of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence does not mean the deletion of the more than 600 murder sites and hundreds of thousands of victims of the regime”. Dr Jože Možina wrote on X that Špela Furlan (Milan Kučan‘s lifelong secretary) mingled among the participants in the commemoration of the victims of communism, looked at the inscriptions and disappeared under the Revolution Monument. Her father, Boris, was a victim, he added.

A. H.

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