Borderlands of Memory. Croatia (Istria-Kvarner) – Slovenia (Primorska) – Italy (Friuli-Venezia Giulia)

The Memory of War and Violence in the 20th-century northeastern Adriatic

 
Route and destinations of the study trip:
1  Lipa (Croatia) Gonars (Italy)
Basovizza (Italy) Risiera di San Sabba (Italy)
Kobarid (Slovenia) Pula (Croatia)
Log pod Mangartom (Slovenia) Rijeka (Croatia)
Redipuglia (Italy)  
Map Study Trip Route and Destinations

27 May 2012: Lipa (Croatia)

Martina Draščić

Lipa is a small village in the municipality of Matulji, located in the north-west of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County in Croatia and about five kilometers away from the Croatian-Slovenian border. It is a karst region between Ćićarija and Plivšice.

After the First World War and the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this territory was incorporated into the boundaries of the Kingdom of Italy. Then, during the Second World War, starting in September 1941, almost the entire population of this area joined the NOP – Narodnooslobodilački pokret (the communist-led National Liberation Movement), which obviously had influence in areas annexed by Italy. The inhabitants of Lipa joined the NOP even before the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, even though Lipa was not a part of Jugoslavia. The village is known for its horrific history in which two hundred and sixty three villagers died because the German and Italian troops burned down their houses within only a couple of hours. Almost the whole population of Lipa was murdered on 30 April 1944.

Lipa is one of the three places which were completely burned and destroyed in World War II. The French town Oradour-sur-Glane and the Czech town of Lidice were other places victimized by the Nazis in such a way. Lipa is much less known than the other two sites, but equal in the amount of horror and suffering it experienced.

Photo Impressions

  Photos of the next destination

Travel Diary

Katharina, Manuela, Manuela, Nela, Sabine

On the first day of the trip our group makes its way from Rijeka towards Lipa, a small nearby village. While contemplating the beautiful landscape, Vjeran Pavlaković, one of the professors from Rijeka who accompanies the excursion, points out the difference between memory and remembrance, among other important details. Pavlaković  also notes the fact that memory sites and monuments dedicated to World War I and World War II are made up of various but sometimes identical symbols.

After we reach the village, we enter the rather small museum which was opened by the city of Rijeka and the veterans of Opatija in 1968. The exhibition which has remained unchanged ever since its opening is to be renovated in the near future. It is open only on anniversaries or upon appointment. The exhibition in the room upstairs recalls the tragedy which took place here on Sunday, 30 April 1944. It was the day when Nazi-German forces entered the village and killed 269 people including 121 children, the youngest one only seven months old. We are told that the day seemed to be carefully chosen since people running farms rest on Sundays. Apart from seven children, the forces left no one else alive to tell the story. However, the perpetrators themselves created silent evidence – they filmed their crimes. Additionally, a German soldier took pictures which were found after the liberation.

Various symbols are gathered in the room, each representing  different elements of the tragedy: a wall covered with soldiers' helmets symbolize the organized Nazi terror which resulted in the murders of village residents and the destruction of their homes by fire; a doll lying in a baby bed represents the terrors committed against women and children; burned wooden logs on the ceiling symbolize the burning of the village, an act which left no house standing; a large, more recent picture of children represents rebirth and reconstruction, providing evidence that Lipa was not completely wiped off the map (today about 130 people live in the village); finally, a board listing each victim's name, some of whom are still reported missing. As we leave the house of the exhibition we hear music in the background. Somehow it seems strange to hear such joyful music after having heard these gruesome stories. But somehow it also symbolizes that Lipa indeed is still alive. A memorial for the victims is placed where a house once stood before the village was burned down.

We leave Lipa and make our way to Basovizza ...

 

Tea

After having woken up bright and early, I rushed to my local bus – we are going on a five day field trip through the Julian Region with colleagues from Regensburg, Germany. I wonder if they are as strict as we here perceive them to be... Well, I suppose I will find that out at eight o’clock, when our meeting takes place on Jadranski Trg, right in front of their hostel. I hear they have arrived late last night and I hope they have had enough sleep because I surely have not!

At seven thirty, I finally saw my professor Vanni, wearing his straw hat, reuniting with some of the arriving colleagues. The German crew was there as well and they did not seem at all tired. The two groups glanced at each other, perhaps thinking about whether we would all get along... We were introduced to Professors Sabine and Heike as well, and spoke English all morning.  There was quite a bus drive ahead of us, but I thought we will surely get to know our colleagues soon. Our first destination was Lipa near Matulji-- a wonderful start for me because I live quite nearby! It’s always best to start a journey in your own back yard!

When we were high up on Zamet hills, driving west, I said farewell to the mountain of Učka: a sight that never fails to move me, whatever the weather!

We arrived in Lipa at around 10 o’clock. The weather was exquisitely bright and sunny; we had to take a walk through what seemed a small village nestled on a rather narrow road. A few men were sitting on a single porch: they paid no heed to us; they must be accustomed to tourists. Now, I have never before been to Lipa, although I do know where it is. It’s such a small village: picturesque, intimate, and obviously very old. The main road is not wide at all; our bus could barely drive through the centre. Lipa is situated near Croatia’s north-west border with Slovenia and consists of merely a few dozen houses. Little in number but wonderful in sight: the majority of the houses look at least 200 years old, but there are many ruins dating to WWII. The walk made us thirsty and so we grabbed a beer. We still haven’t met any of the German crew, but from what I hear, they will also be giving presentations on the bus... The professors have decided that every significant place shall be presented by one German and one Croatian student as the bus goes along. This seems a great idea: not only will we be prepared, but we also must mingle!

Before visiting the museum, we heard a presentation from Fabian, a German student. I listened to the presentation thinking he should do this for a living! Soon, Nela approached me saying the exact same thing! One down, a dozen to go!

We soon met Mrs. Danica Maljavac, a local who works at the museum with a permanent exhibition commemorating WWII. Mrs. Danica is a nice lady who knows Lipa as well as she knows the bottom of her own pocket – she is not only the custodian and one of the curators of the museum, but she still participates in research on the Lipa victims. She confirmed our suspicions that few people inhabit Lipa today – only around 150. We learned that on April 30th 1944, Lipa was attacked by German troops who devastated and burned the entire village and even killed 269 villagers (the youngest was only 7 months old). The ruins of the village were photographed and developed several years after the end of WWII. The museum opened in 1968. After visiting the memorial monument we continued our walk back to the bus. Next stop – Basovizza memorial. In the bus Peter and Pajo began with the presentations. It seemed to us a lot of our German colleagues spoke our language – it was quite a surprise and a great way to start off our introductions. Pajo and Katarina were the first German students I met that day. They seem not at all different from my colleagues back home and their Croatian is stupendous!

 

  Diary of the next destination

Lipa – A small place with a powerful story

Martina Draščić

The location I remember the most from the study tour of Italian, Slovenian and Croatian places of memory is Lipa. It seems like a small, neglected village at the Croatian-Slovenian border that gives comfort to a small group of habitants, but it actually holds a frightening and very important story. On the 30th of April, 1944, Lipa faced a brutal crime: two hundred and sixty nine villagers, including an unbelievable number of one hundred and twenty one children (of whom the youngest was only 7 months old) were burned and murdered in a brutal act that lasted only a few hours, but marked Lipa forever. Hardly anyone who visits the memorial collection of the Museum of Lipa will be able to stay indifferent and not feel the pain that still lives in the village. The photos taken by the German army for documentation bear witness to the event and allow us to see with our own eyes what happened on the most horrifying day in the history of Lipa.

Danica Maljavac carries the history of Lipa with her and is trying to keep the memory alive. This retired high school teacher of history and geography always has time for the Memorial Museum of Lipa. She is also investigating the terrible event and the history of the village. When she was still a child she heard the story from her grandmother, who is one of the few villagers who survived the 30th of April 1944. On the first encounter with Mrs. Maljavac it was very interesting to see the various ways she and the other visiting lecturers spoke about different places of memory. The personal story that connects Mrs. Maljavac with this place and its history was visible from the beginning. She was speaking slowly and quietly when mentioning the victims and was very fast in defending Lipa. When she was very emotional, forgetting for a moment who she was talking to, she spoke in dialect: this showed she felt a special relation with the place. The other lecturers were able to keep their distance from the historical events, as they happened in places that do not affect them directly. About 20 days after our study tour Mrs. Maljavac opened the door of her home to us and was glad to answer our questions, happy that people are still interested in Lipa and want to write about it.

 

Interview with Danica Maljavac

Interview led by: Martina Draščić
Translated by: Nika Babić

Martina Draščić (MD): Could you describe your relationship with this place and tell us when and how your collaboration with the Memorial Museum began?

Danica Maljavac (DM): I was born and raised in Lipa but I moved to Rijeka when I started high school because there were no buses from Lipa to Rijeka.  I was living there with my grandmother, my uncle and aunt and cousins. I like Rijeka and I had a life there. I remember going to school or the theater, the kids from music schools, wasting time walking around town… But still, I couldn’t wait for the weekend when I was going home to Lipa. A friend often asked me what was so interesting in that village of mine and why was I so eager to go back. All I could tell her was that it was my home and I loved being there, despite the fact that I could stay out only till 8 p.m.

I accepted the job at the museum as a graduate student. I graduated in history and geography in Rijeka. Before that I finished the teacher’s course in high school.  Sometimes I even regretted that decision, because I could have worked according to my profession, but today I don’t feel sorry.  They probably found out I was studying history and geography and they thought I would like a job as a historian and educator. I remember the principal of the school in Matulji telling me: “You know, kid, you could work at the Museum. We wouldn’t have to pay someone’s accommodation here because you live in the neighborhood, and you could adjust the business hours as you like.” Now I see that the two of us were the only people in the village that didn’t have business hours; we were always available. The Memorial Museum, specifically the memorial collection, was opened the 15th of December 1968 and I began working on the 1st of March in 1969.

MD: Who were the most important people and organizations that started and financed the Museum, then and now? What is the history of the Museum? What changed through time?

DM: The process was started by the Community of Opatija and the Savez Boraca (1). The city of Rijeka also participated, especially the leaders of the Museum of Revolution, the late principal Končar and the curator Giron. Mr. Giron was also the first person to write about Lipa and its events. He first spoke about it in the collection Liburnijske teme, Opatija 1978., published by the Čakavski sabor (Chakavian Parliament) (2). Professor Petar Strčić, a famous historian of Rijeka, told me that he gave all the information about Lipa to Mr. Giron when he was interested in the matter.

The ethnographic collection didn’t exist when the Museum first opened. The Municipality opened the collection in 1971, when they realized how beautiful the location was for considering the landscape of the village. It is important to remember the people who helped the development of the Museum. Igor Emili, an architect who marked the architecture of Rijeka and Croatia in the 20th century worked on the collection, in collaboration with the Museum of Revolution in Rijeka. Professor Strčić took us to the Museum of Revolution when we were students and there the principal Končar showed us the photos of the crime in Lipa. The idea of the collection already existed at that time. Everything was prepared to the smallest details. I never thought that one day I could be working there. The students were asking me if I knew anything about it, since it was meant for my village, but I knew nothing. I was concentrated on studying and didn’t even hear about those preparations. The ethnographic collection was opened two years later. Dr. Branko Fučić was responsible for collecting the exponents. We were cleaning and preparing the collection together. I remember when the manager of Opatija’s summer scene said to me: “The cleaning lady swept in the middle, you and I are going to clean the corners.” It is interesting that those who were in charge of the project were also doing the dirty work. Dr. Fučić is the real author of the collection.

MD: After years of working here, are you satisfied with how the Museum is working and how much it is attended? What would you say about its visitors? I also noticed there is no official website of the Museum or any kind of promotion of the village or the museum. How do those who are interested find out about it, who tells them to visit to Lipa?

DM: I worked with children on a daily basis in 1970s, so the Museum was always full and alive. It attracted a lot of visitors. They were students, but also tourist groups or people who were interested in the place. It was mostly visited on the Commemoration Day, when the village suddenly enlivened to remember that day. I remember that there were busses from Holland every two weeks, and one driver never returned to Holland without stopping in Lipa. I was often angry they didn’t call me on time and I had to run to the Museum. My late husband used to say that he didn’t know if I was married to him or to the Museum. Today there are fewer visitors. Recently the students started coming again. There are also a lot of Italians and Slovenians, especially those from the antifascist organizations. When I was about to retire, an Italian professor from Italy asked me if we could stay in contact so that she can send the students to the Museum because the subject of antifascism wasn’t organized as well in schools as it was here. She told me that the subject of antifascism is well covered and never spoken about, unless some smart student shows interest in it. I’m aware that this topic is not very well covered in schools even in our country, but people understand that there would be nobody to keep the memory if it weren’t for the antifascists.

The Museum is visited by historians, foreigners, relatives of the villagers that now live in the neighborhood villages, and students. People are interested but they have trouble finding information about Lipa. Some visitors tell me they found it on the internet by accident, others, mostly students, hear the story from their professors.  Some people that visited us recommend the place to their friends, or visit us again. A few days ago I read a note in the memorial book from somebody who visited us again after 18 years. He couldn’t believe how neglected the Museum was when he came back again. People find information in different ways. When they come here, they ask for me.

MD: The ethnographic collection is now closed for restoration. Who is in charge of the restoration? Why do you think it took so long to finally start the project, despite the popularity of the Museum? Why was the Museum left in such a bad shape?

DM: The collection is closed, but is not yet being restored. The project is financed by the Antifascist association of the Municipality of Matulji and, allegedly, by our county. I talked to the President of the Antifascist association for Liburnija, who told me they invited chose contractors, but have to wait for the deadline or they could have problems with the Institute for Protection of Monuments.  The museum pieces are now in the Museum of Pazin waiting to be preserved because the humidity damaged them. When I left in 1989 the Museum was closed but all the exponents were still inside. Before that it was open every day because I was working there with the children. There was also a janitor who cleaned the place every afternoon. The lower parts of the Museum are a kind of a wet tavern because the whole building was built on rocks. When I worked there an engineer explained to us that there was only external insulation and a canal that let out the excessive water. While I was working at school nobody cleaned the Museum and the canal was cluttered keeping the water inside. It was a disaster.

Why did we wait so long to restore it? I guess that’s the problem with our nation – we have to destroy something first in order to renew it.  After the democratic elections were introduced, SIZ (3) collapsed. SIZ financed the Museum for its cultural purposes and, since I worked with children, for educational as well. One room was converted to a place were children can stay after school and was adapted to the rest of the museum. I was employed by the school in Matulji, so they called me to work there when they were lacking teachers and I had to leave the Museum for some time.

Foreigners cannot believe it. One visitor that really loves this kind of topic was devastated by the condition of the Museum. And look at all the things people make money on! When I started working, the Veterans’ Association of the Municipality of Matulji didn’t want to make money on the victims. I agreed with that. But later, when Croatia was established and when it was clear that we were lacking resources, we could have at least charged for the tickets, and the Museum would have maintained itself.

MD: In addition to working in the Museum, you were also a curator and educator, and you helped in researching Lipa and collaborated on the memorial and ethnographic collection. What inspired you to do the research on your own and how did you get the information, when even today they cannot be found easily? You also mentioned there being a lot of academics and investigators interested in Lipa. Can you tell us more about that?

I wrote about Lipa for the Liburnijski zbornik that was printed in 500 copies. I wrote about everything I collected during the 20 years I was working at the Museum and about what I heard from my grandmother and other villagers when I was a child. I started researching on my own because I have personal relations with Lipa. I remember talking to a historian from Sežana who sent me information about an Italian officer that participated in the crime in Lipa, about his arrest in Trieste in 1945 and the name of the book that was written in. My grandmother told me they called that officer “Pijac” because he had “ch” in his last name and was only 24 years old (4).

Historians and academics also show a great interest in Lipa. Dr.Ivan Kovačević is leading a project in collecting and writing memoirs related to Lipa. He has been researching the topic for years and now intends to write a book about the history of Lipa. The book should be published next year.
 
MD: Who told you the story for the first time? What are your memories about the events that marked Lipa?

My grandmother and my father first told me the story. My father survived because he was in a Partisan unit and my grandmother survived because she was one of the few that took the livestock to pasture that day. It was the day of rastrellamento, the cleaning of the territory, mostly from bandits and Partisans. My grandmother had two daughters, her husband had died a month earlier and her son was in the Partisans. She thought that her daughters would be safe at home. That’s how her 16-year-old and 2-year-old daughters died and she survived.

It was all well organized. Today, after everything I heard in the last 30 years, from the returnees that came back from Argentina, I have a clearer picture about what really happened. The Nazis were leading the offensive; they were cleaning Istria and Ćićarija. There was a railway there that was connecting Trieste and Rijeka and they were using the harbor in Rijeka to supply their units in Albania, so it was very important to get rid of the Partisans in this area who were constantly sabotaging them and blowing up railways. I recently made a list of events that happened before Lipa was attacked. The rastrellamento was announced so that people would be afraid to get out of the house and they picked Sunday because they knew it was the only day of rest for the farmers. That’s why they found so many villagers at home… Almost everybody… (silence)… It was planned.

MD: Who were the soldiers that attacked Lipa? Did any other survivor tell you something about it? What do you think about the stories you heard?

DM: The Italian fascists didn’t go home after Italy capitulated. They accepted Germany’s command. An agreement of collaboration with the Nazis was signed. A few years ago I worked on a documentary about Lipa with a Slovenian director and we talked with people from Rupa (a nearby village). That evening I met with a man, who also worked on the collection, and he told me he knew some Italian soldiers that remained there and they told him what happened in Lipa. He told me how people waited when they saw the army carrying livestock, corn and everything else they’d stolen, but they were surprised because there were no people. He said three Italian soldiers were hitting their heads on the table in the restaurants because they couldn’t deal with what they’d done; screaming that they had to do it or else the Nazis would have killed them.  One of them was acting like he’d gone crazy and the others were covering his mouth so that the soldiers outside wouldn’t hear him. He told me they collaborated with them, but they didn’t expect such a massacre.

Before she passed away, the old lady that had once owned the restaurant told me she was standing in front of the house and a soldier told her to run away without asking anything because she would never see those people again.  She knew some of those soldiers because there were three barracks in the village.

I’m always horrified by the numbers. Can you imagine 121 children? I didn’t know before I made a complete list and counted all the people, and that was the first time I cried in the Museum. It was for the 40th anniversary, and when I first mentioned it there were buses from Istria, and it was during the signing of charters of fraternization of Šajin and Lipa. When I mentioned the children I started crying and ran to the office. The master of the ceremony ran after me and asked me what was wrong. I asked him to give me a minute to calm down and promised to return and finish my job. I was sure the people would understand. That made me fully aware of the event. Today when I look at the monument in Lidice (Czech Republic), remembering only 80 children, I realize it’s a really big number, but half of it is still to be added to count for all the children killed in Lipa. Here people don’t even know about Lipa, while there even foreigners come to place wreaths. Here, even if they know, people are pretending not to know. If we don’t appreciate our own memories and monuments, we cannot expect others to do the same.

MD: What makes this Museum and the event described by the memorial collection unique?  

All of the few artifacts in the Museum are originals. What stands out are pictures stolen from German documents. (They were stolen by a photographer who was paid to develop the photos - when he realized what was on them he made a copy for himself and saved them). Whoever came here was amazed by how such a small collection could say so much. People often cried while looking at it and asked why the Museum was so neglected. The mayor of Vienna visited us a few years ago. A young architect came with her. While I was showing the collection to the mayor, she took a look around the Museum and was fascinated by it. She had ideas about decorating the place and told me everything about it, but I explained it was carefully planned where the exponents will be and what they will present.

The children also like the Museum’s collections. Some time ago a teacher told me how the children were touched by what they saw in the Museum so they made an exhibition in school. There were so many drawings that she had to hang them on the curtains. I’m glad to hear such stories. The children are happy to hear the stories I tell them and they don’t forget them. It is sad that the tourists took things from the village that could have been displayed in the exhibition. People are now decorating their taverns with antiquities and paying a lot for them, and who knows how many things were sold almost for nothing and taken abroad.

The memorial collection describes a specific event. Allegedly, there were about 85 similar operations in this area.  Some villages, houses or villagers were attacked, but here they destroyed a complete village, they burned everybody they found on the streets or in the houses. Other operations were warnings, but not this one. The soldiers that were here were afraid of the landing of the Allies and of the possibilities of Partisans blocking their way for retreat. In 1944 they were already aware that they were losing the war and they had to make a safe corridor back to Germany and Austria. They needed an escape route.  It is said that a wounded animal is the maddest, and the consequences of that madness are terrifying. That’s why this is one of the biggest crimes in Europe, along with the ones Lidice and Oradour.

MD: Is there any collaboration with Lidice and Oradour, and if there is, who is leading it? How do you compare the three events?

We are trying to establish permanent contacts. Last year our delegation went to Lidice and this year we sent more buses to the commemoration. That same year a delegation from Oradour came to our commemoration and this year we visited them. I think there will be a strong connection between the towns, but it will take time. It depends mostly on the Antifascist Organization, the municipality and the county. The state could also show some initiative.

The reasons for the murders and devastations in Lidice and Oradour are clear. It is known that Lidice was destroyed as revenge for Reinhard Heydrich’s death. There is no clear reason for what happened in Lipa. After everything I read and heard, my conclusion is that the Italian fascists knew the habitants of Lipa very well, especially the young people. They knew their way of thinking and they told the Nazis about it so they decided to take revenge. The fascists lived in the village for almost 25 years. My grandmother told me they used to borrow milk from the families. They knew who had joined the Partisans, who was whose son and who brought food to the Partisan guerrillas. The people who lived here were helping the Partisans because they wanted to stay free. They had had Croatian schools, so in 1925 they [the Italian authorities] forced them to start using Italian. The villagers were against it from the beginning. They knew how the villagers were thinking, so when they started losing the war they eliminated all of their enemies.

MD: Are there any memoirs from the time of the Habsburg Empire? Or from the time of the Italian rule in this area?

 DM: Yes, the first documents should be from 1427. Lipa is a very old village. That’s why I’m glad they are making historical studies now and are trying to collect as much information as possible. Once we had a well that was from the period of Maria Theresa. The post office was moved from here to Permane, but the postal carriages continued to be serviced here because the village was located near one of the main roads. Lipa had 500 habitants. Now there are only 130 villagers. The massacre from the Second World War is the most important event, but we are trying to collect information from every era of the village’s existence. We are looking for materials in different archives, like the one in the Augustin monastery.

MD: Did the people who survived the massacre in Lipa write anything or tell some stories, their stories? Is there a complete list of people who were murdered? Do people come to look for their family members?

DM: As far as I know, they didn’t talk much. It was hard to talk about it. Nobody asked them about PTSD or something like that. They carried the pain within themselves and didn’t want to burden their new families with it. I was lucky, if that can be called lucky, that I had a grandmother who talked about it. She came back the first night to look for her daughters and she saw the bodies. For a while they thought there were only 21 victims and that they took the others to the concentration camp. They hoped somebody’s mother, sister, father or brother would return. Only a few days later they found out nobody was taken from the village and that everybody was burned. They pushed them to the end of the village, and the women carried children and bundles, believing they were going to the concentration camp. But they weren’t. They were going to the last house in the village, where they were burned.      

There is a list. I made it personally. First I made a list of all the houses, to make it easier. I still have that notebook. Thanks to that notebook, there is a list on the monument. The plaques on the monument were empty at first, and an ossuary was located beneath it. Families used to put names of their loved ones on the monument. That ruined the appearance of the monument and “house number 20” [the house where the bodies were burned]. For the 40th anniversary it was decided to make a full list of the victims. It would be unpleasant if anybody was left out so my job was to thoroughly investigate who was murdered there. In 1961 a newspaper printed a list because the survivors had to declare them missing to settle the property relations.

People came here to look for their families on the list. The saddest story, the one I remember every time I read the list, is when a mother came to look for her son. She was looking for him, turned to me and said: “I’m sorry; my little boy is not on the list.” I was feeling so guilty for forgetting that name. “You know”, she said “He was born in Klana, but he used to spend his Sundays with his grandparents in Lipa, so he was burned with them.” She then gave me information about him and I put him on the list.

MD: What is your conclusion from talking with the villagers, what does do the Museum represent for them? Is the event a part of them? Do you think it is better to not say anything about it to the children or, as your grandmother did, tell them about it?

I don’t know, it’s hard to answer those questions. It represents a lot to a lot of people, including me. But there are those who never studied the history of their family. I don’t think they weren’t interested, but sometimes it’s easier not to know. This is especially the case for men who lost their wives and children here and started a new life with new families when they came back from the Partisans. They didn’t want to burden their new families with such a horrible history. They probably saw no point in it. They carried the pain within themselves. I talked to a friend from school and asked her if she knew her father’s first wife and children were among the murdered. She was surprised to hear it and explained her father never mentioned it, although she knew Lipa’s story. My grandmother told me she saw them when she was looking for her daughters. It’s hard to say what is better. It seems they’ve chosen what’s better for them. Everybody deals with the pain in their own way. I think women are more open to talk about it. There was a Mass for every anniversary and people would walk to that house and cry there. I was always pulling my grandmother’s skirt and wanted to go home because I was afraid of that house. I didn’t understand what coming there all together and mourning meant for them. But it seems some never wanted to talk about that pain. Maybe they would have felt better if they did talk, but I guess we’ll never know. It all remained inside of them, and many aren’t even alive anymore.

MD: The commemoration “Lipa remembers” is held every year. Is it a big gathering? Do many young people come? Do you think they know enough about what happened in Lipa?

The commemoration is like a day of mourning. We raise the flag at half staff. The day after is the first of May so in the morning I have to raise the flags high. First it’s a day of mourning, then a day of celebration. Mostly families, members of the Antifascist organizations from Slovenia, Italy and even Oradour come to the ceremony. There are also a lot of people from Istria, from Šajini and Barban. The representatives of the municipality and the county are always here. At first a lot of people were coming to the commemorations. Especially young ones, scouts, climbers, and the army, they used to stay for a week. They would hang out, organize shows and dances. It was all before April 30. They would all participate at the commemoration and then they would stay for the first of May. Today there are not so many young people, except the ones that study something connected to this story, like history. After the changes brought by the [Croatian] War of Independence and the closing of the Museum, Lipa was dead to the world. But that is slowly changing now.

MD: What do you want to achieve by restoring the Museum? What will be new? What does it offer, what makes it special?

A great part of the ethnographic collection is ruined, and the memorial collection lacks audiovisual material that would let tourists understand what it is about. The idea was to turn it into an audiovisual center, at least a part of it.

The surroundings of the Museum also have to be redecorated. A bar should be opened, so that the visitors have a place to rest for awhile when they come with their families. The village is empty now; there is nothing that would attract visitors, nothing that directs people to Lipa or the Museum. Whoever didn’t hear about me or come knocking on doors around the village could simply pass through and not even notice the story that this place has. Nothing was made, not even a web page, no signs on the road, no advertising whatsoever. There have not been investments to make Lipa noticeable yet. At this moment there are, in addition to the Museum, ruins of the houses of the murdered families, preserved houses, monuments to the victims of the massacre and members of a Partisan tank unit, and a memorial plaque for a villager who was hanged 13 days after the massacre.

MD: What are your plans? The Museum depends on you a lot. Do you plan to transfer your knowledge on to younger generations so that one day someone will take your place? I think it’s great that somebody with experience related to this place and its events works at the Museum. It gives a special note to the museum, a personal and emotional connection.

I will do everything I can. If I give up, who will handle it? For me it’s very important to research the history of Lipa from 1472 because nobody talks about it or is interested in it. Lipa is an old Liburnian village that was a home for 7 families, but I cannot find any information about what kept them in such an isolated and difficult area. Kalčići, Jakšetići, Jurićić – those are all names of the families that first settled in this area.

I also collect old words used in Lipa. Whenever I remember or hear a word I hurry to write it town. I also collect sayings, jokes, everything that is a part of Lipa, so that it is remembered and documented. I researched the life of our ancestors, their habits. I even made a dictionary. Those words should be written somewhere and remembered because not even our children use them. I am trying to keep the tradition, at least in written form. I am trying to educate someone younger, to tell him or her everything I know so he/she can carry it when I am gone. There are very few memoirs. You were good at noticing that someone who lived here and is interested in all of this gives a special mark to the Museum. I even inherited the name of my grandmother’s 16-year-old daughter. I saw her face because my father had a picture in his wallet. I want to transfer everything my grandmother told me. Maybe even this interview will inspire somebody to remember Lipa.

 

(1) Savez Boraca – Alliance fighters of the National Liberation War, a socio-political organizations to bring together all the fighters of the National Liberation War (NOR), participated in the struggle to build socialism in Titoist Jugoslavia
(2) Čakavski sabor was established in 1969. in Žminj, originally conceived as a organisation of cultural and scientific events that will deal mainly with issues of Chakavian poetry (čakavski (chakavian) is one of the the three major Croatian dialects).
(3) SIZ – State authorities in ex Yugoslavia that managed culture, sports and other social activities
(4) Letters č and ć in Croatian surnames were replaced with ch during the opression. People were forced to change their surnames into names more sutable for foreign pronunciation.

 

 

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