Memories of living on the frontier

»Us children would go to the Rapallo Border to pick up landmines. […] We brought them home once and hid them in the firewood our mother had prepared to use in the furnace. One morning, I was horrified and afraid to see my mother taking all of this to the furnace. I ran after her and tried to use a rake to take the ammunition out of the furnace. This was also when my father arrived and he saw me. He smacked me around the ear. Luckily, it all ended well. We would later bring dangerous things to my brother Jakob, who was a Partisan.«Janez Žakelj (b. 1934) in: Jereb Filipič et al., Ti si mene naučila brati, 63.
»That year, my parents and grandparents worked together to renovate all the buildings, but they had to tear them down as early as the following year, on 11 May 1942, because our homestead was located on the frontier. The order came from the Germans. When they ordered us to demolish the buildings, my parents only had two choices – either to demolish them themselves, which would allow them to keep the building material and the few possessions they had, or to have them demolished by the Germans. Because my father and grandfather disagreed with the order, they were tied to the apple tree in our garden. They stood in front of the loaded rifles of German guards, who gave them five minutes to decide.«Marija Jesenko (b. 1941), Treven, Grenki spomini z Vrha Svetih Treh Kraljev, 44–45.
»The Italians stayed in Žiri for more than 14 days. The Germans were to come on Sunday (27 April). Most of the people of Žiri were very glad to hear about the Germans arriving. While the town was still under the Italian occupation, they would send deputations and go to Fužine to recommend themselves in order to be chosen. Fužine was the furthest area that the Germans had reached by that time. On the very day of their arrival (27 April), a large crowd of people from Žiri went over to welcome them. They accompanied them in procession all the way to Žiri, while carrying at the front of the crowd the red flag with a swastika on it.«Ivan Pečnik, Kronika župnije Žiri 1900–1941, 189.
»I look out the window towards the road. A sad procession. Men, women, and children, all hauling their own cargo. Baggage carts and domestic cattle in between. Children crying, women screaming for help, men growling with anger. Long processions are moving towards Nova Vas and Račeva. The immature boys on their bikes are scattered all over the place, forcing the people to move faster, which makes the crowd even more confused.«Priest Ivan Pečnik talking about the flight of the population on 8 April 1941. Pečnik, Vedno sem rad zidal, 123.
(»The house was completely demolished. The individual beams were pointing in the air on all sides. The walls of the first floor of the house were completely riddled by air cannon projectiles. The sight of the house’s ruins was horrible. Our home was ruined, our residence. In just a single moment, we became homeless. What happens now? What are we to do?«)
»At three o’clock in the afternoon they would shout: ‘Mamma mia!’ And then they came here and said: ‘Andiamo via, Andiamo via! Italia e capitolato!’ […] Then they started taking suitcases to some old shack. A brigadier stepped up to me and said: ‘I have got an accordion, I will leave it here, for you to keep. We capitulated and now we have to run. […] You will return it, if we ever come back. If not, it is yours.’ I immediately rushed home, taking the accordion with me. I hid it in the hayrack. A week later, we started taking home the suitcases that were left at the shack – they were filled with clothes and shaving accessories – boy, was that useful for me at the time! When they found out I had an accordion, a SKOJ (League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia) girl came up to me and said: ‘You will give us the accordion to use at the meeting.’ I responded: ‘I do not have it, the Partisans already took it.’ I was actually still hiding it in the hayrack, under the fern. Mom was then taken to the headquarters, where they were interrogating her. They almost sentenced her to death for stealing state property.«Mirko Jereb (b. 1928)
(»I remember exactly how they told us that we needed to leave. Then we took the bare necessities and left for Idrija. Some were also transporting livestock, but only to Idrija. We sat in busses when we got there. We reached Cutigliano. We were away from home for three weeks. When we came back, the Italians were in the house. It was filled with hay all the way up to the bench, as they would use it to lie in it. They had taken everything of value. […] My brother was the youngest member of our family. He was eight months old. Such a healthy baby he was… and then he caught a cold and died on us in Italy. The things that were happening then are the same as what is happening with the refugees now.«)
»All of the sudden everything was up in Dolinca. Shots in the air, machine gun bursts, and shouts: ‘La guerra e finita, andiamo a casa!’ Total chaos, no orders, the weapons were flying everywhere and remained lying among the shacks. In all this confusion, one of the officers would keep shifting left and right, until he suddenly took off his belt and threw it along with his gun on the pile of the rest of the weapons. The tired soldiers then spent quite some time kicking around the things that had been dropped. Then, they put on their rucksacks containing the bare necessities and slowly set from Dolinca. Davorin, who kept loafing around among them, had his eyes fixed on nothing else but that officer’s Beretta in the leather holster. When the air cleared, he took the gun with the holster and the belt and took it home.«Davorin Mrak on the retreat of the Italians from Idrija in: Balantič, Ranjena kotlina, 130.
»On the second day after Italy collapsed, I was in Idrija in the morning. Then in the afternoon the German patrol already arrived. Did I meet them! The people from Idrija at Stari plac were emptying out the Italian supplies and fighting with one another. There was nobody to put things in order. […] Comrade Johan and I, I don’t know where he got that wheelbarrow here in Idrija, we would load up a bag of flour. We took the flour towards Fara (Spodnja Idrija) and soon, we met the first group of Germans at Marof. They didn’t care about us. The two people in front of us were drunk. One was from Idrija and the other from Kanomlja – he had just come back from Belgium. They got drunk and walked towards Fara. On their shoulders they carried some Italian rifles. Then we met Germans on tricycles – they just shot the pair in front of us from the motorcycle. Probably nothing would’ve happened if they hadn’t carried those rifles. They weren’t killing that day, just those two. They also went back quickly. About three days later, they came for real. And then it really was crowded.«Ciril Kumar (b. 1927)
»The command of the German road patrol was at our house. Then they also stayed at Medved’s and they had their posts all over Idrija. I remember when their commander – he was a lieutenant – rode around on a horse or walked around when he was on patrol. Everyone feared him like the devil. He would always carry out an inspection, check on cleanliness, and so on. If he ever noticed that something was off, the punishment for the soldier was to put on his full military gear and go round all German posts around Idrija. The soldier would need to get stamps in all of the posts and then come back.«Miha Ferjančič (b. 1937)