The Slovenia Times

Perseverance celebrated as Libeliče marks 100 years since uniting with homeland


Libeliče - The village of Libeliče, located right on the border with Austria, only a kilometre west of where the Drava river enters Slovenia, celebrated on Sunday 100 years since it was reunited with the rest of Slovenia. The residents of this quiet hamlet are proud of what their forefathers achieved through tenacity and activism.

"Libeliče is a unique example in Europe's history and even broader of a group of some 600 locals managing to have their village excluded from one country and annexed to another, reunited with their own nation," historian Marjan Kos has told the STA.

Following World War I and the disintegration of the Hapsburg Empire, the newly founded Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes was yet to draw the final course of its borders.

A referendum was called in October 1920 in the territory occupied by the forces of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes, which Austria claimed for itself, with 59% of the voters saying they wanted to live in Austria.

Meanwhile, in Libeliče, which had a strong Slovenian identity, 57% of voters opted for the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes.

Kos said the locals were aware that the course of the border had not been finalised yet and started a campaign, meeting in secret locations, mostly in remote farms in the mountains.

Austria was surprised by the events and tried to change the villagers' position with various privileges but to no avail, Kos said.

A crucial role in the locals' campaign was played by the local priest Anton Vogrinec, who in 1921 had to flee across the border to Dravograd due to death threats. Nevertheless, the efforts continued, albeit without support from the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes.

Gradually the situation escalated to the point that a commission tasked with drawing the final course of the border interfered, ultimately deciding that the village and the surrounding area become a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes in exchange for sparsely inhabited mountains east of the Drava, where locals preferred to remain in Austria.

"This was a minimal loss, but for Libeliče it meant something much bigger," said Kos.

Delivering the keynote address at today's event, which featured many national and local officials, President Borut Pahor said the whole of Slovenia was proud of the community because they are "a convincing illustration of our national awareness and perseverance in the assertion of our own just striving."

He described the events a century ago as "an episode so special it is difficult to find parallels in our, European and even world history." At the same time, he said Libeliče also showed how relations between people are what is important, not borders.


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