Here is the story of Milena Slapar, daughter of Katarina Kramberger and Dr Ivan Sket, my maternal aunt, as she told it and as my father wrote it.

Vlado Bevc

Katarina Kramberger Sket was the sister of Jim's great grandmother Gertruda Kramberger Versic


by Ladislav Bevc

My wife's sister Milenka, married during the war to lawyer Franci Slapar, a lieutenant in the Royal Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, was before the outbreak of war transferred to Kranj and remained there when the Germans moved in because the occupation authorities were precluded by international law from dismissing her from the civil service.  On the day before the New Year 1946 she was deported from Kranj.  Around the midnight before the New Year a partisan woman brandishing a revolver came to Milenka's apartment and ordered her to get ready at once to be taken away.  Milenka's one year old infant son Peter was, of course, asleep.  Milenka wanted to get her things and had to go to various rooms in order to gather them but once she would leave a room the woman had locked the door and she could no longer return to that room as the woman took the key.  When she thus gathered a few things she woke the infant and dressed him but there was no time left to get something for herself.  In front of the house waited a bus which, when filled with the deportees, drove off in the direction of Jesenice.  There all the prisoners were packed in a hall.  Because Milenka's child became ill for lack of proper nourishment she asked a guard whom she happened to know to telephone her mother-in-law in Ljubljana to come and get her grandson.  When her mother-in-law came she was not allowed to enter the camp but had to wait at the fence.  The guard did not allow Milenka to bring the infant to the fence, he took him and handed him over to the grandmother.  It was a very cold winter. After a few days communists took all the deportees over the frozen mountain roads to the border and told them to walk down the other side into the British occupation zone of Austria, anyone who should attempt to return would be shot.  Some people who had a lot of luggage simply had to leave it on the road. At daybreak after what seemed to be an interminable night of wandering in the snow they reached Podklošter where the British occupation authorities wanted to send them right back to Yugoslavia in accordance with the British policy of refusing asylum to refugees from the communist tyrannies.  The deportees, however, told them that they would simply lie down and that they may shoot them if that was all that England could do for them.  Surprisingly, the British relented and even offered them some food.  In Austria Milenka found an acquaintance who let her stay with her. She was very uncomfortable because she did not have enough clothing suitable for the severe winter cold and her shoes were all but worn out.  Her husband Franci Slapar was with the refugee chetniks under the command of General Prezelj in Eboli, Italy.  When he got in touch with Milenka by mail he found an acquaintance who knew how to get across the closely guarded border between Italy and Austria and who agreed to take Milenka across.  The guide brought Milenka to Riccione where she was received with great hospitality by the women in the camp and where she stayed until her guide could take her onward to Eboli.  I took Milenka to some kind of a market where we got her a pair of shoes.  The kind women in the camp gave her some dresses so that she finally had something suitable to wear.  Eventually she reached Eboli and remained with Franci all the time until they could come to the United States.  Their son Peter, however, remained with his grandmother and, after she died, with Franci's sister Anica.  Franci and Milenka were trying to get Peter over to the United States but the problem was that no one could accompany him because the American consul in Belgrade churlishly refused to issue a visa to Anica after he tricked her into saying that she would not mind staying in America.  Anica, in fact, would not want to stay in America but having heard that Americans love flattery she felt the consul would be favorably impressed if she said she would like to live in America.  It was only, when my wife and daughter obtained their exit permits after being held by communists as hostages for nine years, that Peter could come along with them. His aunt accompanied him as far as Le Havre in France from where my wife, daughter and Peter sailed on the ocean liner Liberte to New York and thence flew to San Francisco where Peter, by then ten years old, was safely delivered to his parents.

Published in The South Slav Journal.
"Life in Refugee Camps" v. 18, No. 3-4 (67-68), pp. 85-102 [pp. 100-102 about Milena], London, Spring - Summer, 1995.

Vlado Bevc
P.O. Box 561, San Ramon, California 94583
United States of America

James R. Dangel
1504 Sawmill Creek Road
Sitka, Alaska 99835 USA
Phone: 907-747-3348

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