• Marko Vruhnec,
    Ljubljana, SloveniaMORE...

    My name is Marko Vruhnec and I was born on June 9, 1922. Following the First World War, my parents lived in Ljubljana. Later they moved to Belgrade, in Serbia, where I spent my early childhood until I was nine years old. I learned French there. We moved back to Slovenia and my father became the director of a coal mine. Our family was well-off and we were very happy.

    In 1940, the Italians occupied the territory, after that the Germans and Hungarians arrived. In 1941, the war divided our family. My father was sentenced to thirty years in prison and they confiscated our home. My mother was sent to a concentration camp in Germany. On July 14, 1941, I had to go to Italy where I was imprisoned. I was released and soon after I joined the Slovenian partisans.

    It's difficult to think of specific memories from the war. What I remember is that there was a huge difference between the warm and happy home I'd grown up in and the rain and fog and winter that came as a result of the fighting. My father managed to escape from prison. He also joined the partisans and we were reunited on January 1, 1945. My sister was also an activist. We were together until the capitulation of Rome, which was where we lived at the time.

    I was injured in the second half of April, 1945. It was a complete miracle that I survived. I couldn't walk. But I believed that everything would end and I would be okay. I remember the bright moment when I returned to Ljubljana, and everything had been worth it. The fighting. Everything was waiting to begin again. The Germans and Italians had already left Slovenia. I searched for my sweetheart and found her, immediately we wanted to get married. On July 12, 1945 we did just that. We had known each other since we were seventeen. She had also been imprisoned and tortured.

    I had wondered whether my mother would return from the camp. I learned five days before the war officially ended that my sister had been killed. On one hand, there was a feeling of euphoria of the war being one. On the other, it was an emotional, heavy time for us.

    Everything in Yugoslavia was in ruins and there weren't enough supplies. But it was rebuilt and became one of the best places to live in the world. Because of Tito, I think. He was very popular. He was the President of the Non-Aligned Movement. I worked in his cabinet as a leader. Because I had worked with Intertrade, I had fifteen years of experience and he saw potential in me. I was his economic advisor. I did this for three years. I also earned a doctorate in law. I was a professor at two major universities in Slovenia, where I taught world trade and economics.

    The world has changed since then. We have new centers of power. From technology to economy and so on. I'm not trying to be too romantic about history, because it won't repeat itself and it shouldn't. It's normal that everything transforms.

  • Bogdan Osolnik,
    Ljubljana, SloveniaMORE...

    My name is Bogdan Osolnik. I was born on May 13, 1920. My parents were refugees and they had tried to escape Italy. After I finished school, I started studying law in 1941. When Slovenia was divided into quadrants, mostly between Germany and Italy, I decided to leave my studies. They wanted to force everyone to become members of a fascist party. From there, I decided to participate in the war as a partisan.

    We weren't only occupied, the idea was to erase the statehood of Slovenia and rebuild it under the ideology of Hitler and Mussolini. It was just a battle for freedom, it was a battle for life and death. I joined the militia when Italy and Germany were in top military condition, while partisans had no weapons at all. We had to somehow take their weapons and use them against them. Within three years, we organized into divisions. We grew into a structure.

    I wasn't on the battlefield much. I was more involved with organizing the rebellion. I handled food and communications and healthcare. We organized secret hospitals for the injured. I want to point that this wasn't just to combat the enemy, this was also the process of forming a new nation, one that hadn't existed before.

    Yugoslavia was attacked on April 14, 1941. I was a soldier in the south, in Kosovo. I liked to walk on the railway at night, alone. I knew the area. One morning and officer came and approached a girlfriend. They told her I shouldn't visit her anymore. They had trained a rifle on me. The girl told them I was at home. But there weren't many tall men around, so they knew it was me. I thought no one had seen me. Luckily, my height saved my life. They'd been watching for an Italian advance. At first it was easy to fight together, but when the enemy found collaborators, the battle grew more complex, because those people knew secrets.

    I was put in Croatian prison, then I was moved to an Italian prison. I came home in the first week of July, 1941 and I returned to my studies. In the first days of October, I got my degree in law. Then I became the leader of the partisan forces. By July, 1942, I was with the partisans full time until the end of the war. I moved around the country helping to establish a system of government. Prior to the capitulation of Italy, I was leading the administration of the partisan government.

    I was sent to Maribor, to mobilize people there. I took over a radio station that had been set up by the Germans. I gave the news that the war was over and everyone was free. I stood on the balcony of the city hall and watched them have their evening celebration. The following day, which was my birthday, I took a train from Ljubljana to Novo Mesto to visit my parents. This was the day the war and my youth both ended. My brother soon returned from being with the partisans. He had joined them when he was fourteen.

    Everything was in ruins after the war. We had to rebuild. There were no bridges, no roads. The partisans had instituted a scorched earth policy, to prevent or slow an occupation. An entire system had to be established. Our internal image was no very bright. There were border disputes with Italy and Austria. But despite the poverty and lack of development, there was an overwhelming sense of solidarity among us. Nobody was dying of hunger - there was always a solution.

    I began working in education and culture, as an assistant to the minister. I did the same in Belgrade, Serbia, where I worked in the field of science. The Cold War was beginning at this time and there was much tension in the world. When the situation escalated, I became the leader of the Yugoslavian National Radio. We worked in several languages. Our mission was to legitimize Yugoslavia in the eyes of the world, in Europe. To discourage Russia from an invasion. I also worked for international organizations, such as UNESCO. I co-founded Yugoslavian National Television. This was when satellite television began to appear. This had been a topic at UNESCO. I was part of the MacBride Commission that produced the "Many Voices, One World" report.

    Nowadays the world is much different and people have many more choices. There's been progress in what medicine and technology can offer us. Unfortunately, everything's not like that - we still have wars. We are still entrenched in a system that doesn't work. What I see, what I hope is that the world will go on the path of humanity and respect and dignity.

  • Mihael Butara,
    Ljubljana, SloveniaMORE...

    I began actively working as a volunteer for the Liberation Front in Ljubljana in April, 1941. In June, my first interaction with the Gestapo was being beaten by them. I decided I would continue with my activities.

    When I joined the partisan movement on July 6, 1942, I began to go by Aleks. I joined the Tomsic Brigade, which was the first national brigade. I illegally smuggled gear for other activists on a bicycle. When a village near Ljubljana was razed, I informed the resistance where the weapons were hidden so they could go and fight. I remained a member until December, 1943, when I transferred to the Sercerjeve Brigade and assumed a higher political function.

    After the Italian occupation, we had to relocate from some of the Slovenian regions. I remember that when twelve of the families in the village left, they became refugees. By autumn of 1943, of twenty-six people involved in the resistance, eleven of them were killed. The war finally ended for us on May 15, 1944. Though Germany had surrendered weeks prior, there had remained several German brigades and SS units that had continued to fight the locals.

    My division moved to Vojvodina, Serbia, and later on, Varazdin and Zagreb, Croatia in 1947. There, I joined The Ministry of National Defense, a counter-intelligence sect. I attended army and intelligence training in Novi Sad and Sarajevo.

    I became the commander of Ljubljana military district in 1964 and remained so for four years. In that time, we were given the highest grade in Yugoslavia for the work we did. We contributed 7,500 fully-equipped soldiers to the national level. The weapons were old, but they were weapons we had won in the past.