Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Family in Planina Slovenia
KIM: I have spent an amazing two days in Planina meeting what seems like hundreds of people, all talking simultaneously in Slovenian! It began when I arrived in the old town of Planina on the bus from Ljubljana on Monday afternoon 5/14. It was like the old westerns where the stagecoach leaves the passenger and his bags in a cloud of dust in a ghost town! No one was around. I tried calling the hosts of the place I planned to stay, no answer. I tried calling a taxi, no answer. I knocked on doors, no answers. Finally a teenage girl crossed the street down a ways and sat down against a building. I walked over to her and asked if she spoke English. Most young people in Slovenia do. She said no, not much, and we weren't even able to understand much of each others' pantomime. Finally I found a small grocery store in an alley and was able to make myself understood that I needed a ride about 4km to the guest house. Two or three others appeared and after much discussion (Slovenes talk a lot and very loudly!)I think the store manager loaned her car to a teenage boy, who drove me. Everyone was really gracious! I checked into Apartma Sefic, owned by Anton and Meta Sefic. Their place is a 150 year old farmhouse that they have renovated over the past ten years. The attic has been converted to two separate rental units each accommodating up to six people and with gorgeous views of the countryside. My apartment had a bedroom with two twin beds, a loft with two twins, and an "L" shaped sofa, sleeping two in the living room. It also had a full kitchen and exposed structural beams, antiques, etc. Anton and Meta are also artists and gardeners, so the place is full of their handiwork. They speak excellent English and after hearing my story wanted to participate 100% in my search for Planina relatives! Within 30 minutes, we met some folks on the side of the road wrestling with firewood. We inquired if they knew of the Urbas and Milavec families still in Planina and the youngest woman of them said that she was a Milavec. At that time, I didn't know that the Brencics might also be from Planina, so I didn't ask about them, but we later found out that the rest of the group were Brencics. If I had had more time, I would have gone back to talk to them more! Then we went to the cemetery and found many gravestones from all three families. This is what tipped me off that the Brencics might also come from Planina. Then we drove back into Planina to ask about the location of Andy Urbas' old house. I knew it was next to the old primary school (Judska Sola) and Anton knew that location, so we went there and while Anton and Meta spoke with an old woman who lives nearby, I walked around to see if I recognized any buildings.
Of course, it was all eerily familiar, and I easily found the house. Two people and a neighbor were working in the courtyard, so I asked by sign language if I could take photos. They said yes but tried to ask me more. I pantomimed that I had been to this house when I was very young and they seemed to understand, which made them want to ask more. Frustrated, I ran around the corner to get Anton and Meta for assistance. The ensuing conversation was a gold mine of information. The man was Albreht Rajko, the caretaker of the Urbas house and forest. They all commented on how I resemble the Urbas relatives they knew, particularly Anica (Ana), Olga's cousin, who was the last remaining Urbas in Planina until she died in 2003. Since then, Albreht has continued to live in the house and take care of the forest, hoping to hear from the Urbas family in the US some day. The condition of the house and the forest is wonderful and just as I remember! Albreht also gave us some clues about the possible location of one other relative that I remember from my last visit - Mojca. Mojca was a teenage girl when I was eight years old. Albrecht thought she was in Logatec and might be a teacher. A few phone calls later, we had who we thought might be the right person, so Anton and Meta loaded me in the car and we headed about 10 km north to Logatec. The woman who came out to meet us looked familiar, but older, so I had a good feeling. This was quickly confirmed as she vividly recalled Olga. Everyone here comments on their memories of Olga as a tall(?) elegant woman with beautiful hairdos and clothing! Mojca has been studying her genealogy, so her notes all came out and we compared and added information. Mojca was nearly overcome with emotion during our entire visit of about 90 minutes. She was so happy to have cousins across the sea! She told us many things, but also put me in touch with Elka, another woman I remember from my visit in 1970. This morning, before leaving for Ljubljana, Elka and her sister Helena came to Anton and Meta's house to visit. This was another loud, boisterous and happy meeting.
I was also very fortunate to have several long conversations with Albreht, who told me all about the care and condition of the forest. He also took me on a tour of the land, which is 5 hectares which he translated as about 12 acres or 50 meters by 1 km. The forest is located just off a beautifully maintained dirt road right across the main highway from the Sefic house in a tiny village next to Planina called Liplje. The land has been taken by the government for National Park land, but private ownership is grandfathered. Albreht owns the 5 hectares adjacent to the Urbas forest. In 1920, the Italians took this land for Italy and moved the border to the edge of the Urbas forest. In the photo you can see a marker that indicates the location of this boundary. To the left of the marker is Urbas land, to the right, Albreht Rajko land (both of which were considered Italy between the two world wars), and behind Slovenia. Now, of course, the border is about 30 miles to the west. This post is getting very long, but since I had no internet access for two days, I want to finish the story and get it posted. The short part of the story is that the forest is in very good condition and Albreht is very dedicated to its care and committed by a promise to Anica Urbas to care for it for his entire life. His son is also helping and will continue after Albreht dies. The house is also in very good condition and has been updated inside since I visited in 1970. I have a lot more information about all of this, but will speak to the Urbas family individually about it. Hope you are all well. I am only a little bit homesick! -Kim