The Slovenia Times

Slovenians from all over the world welcomed home

The 2024 Welcome Home gathering of Slovenians from abroad in Celje. Photo: Jakob Pintar/STA

Several hundred members of Slovenian communities from across the globe have gathered in Slovenia for the annual Welcome Home event to foster ties with the country they or their ancestors were born in and bring a piece of their culture here.

Slovenian expatriates and members of the ethnic minorities living across the border have been gathering for meetings under different names for the past 70 years. Since 2011, the annual get-together is called Welcome Home and it is held in a different city every year.

Held in Celje, the city in mid north-east that was home to the only counts of Slovenian descent, the main event saw around 250 participants from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia, Germany and Argentina take the stage in Krek Square to perform folk dances and songs.

Bringing together people from as far as Canada, Australia and elsewhere, the gathering also featured a presentation of books by Slovenians living abroad, the opening of two exhibitions and a screening of a short film.

"The beauty of this gathering is that we are connected, that we see how big Slovenia really is, how big our heart is and how much those who have gathered for this meeting care about culture and preserving their identity," Minister for Slovenians Abroad Matej Arčon said his his address.

Celje Mayor Matija Kovač was happy that the expatriates' association Slovenska Izseljenska Matica decided to organise the event in Celje, the city of three stars, which are also featured on the Slovenian flag. Kovač believes that Slovenians are closely connected.

The Welcome Home 2024 event got under way on 27 June with a gathering in the National Assembly in Ljubljana. The participants watched an operetta in the evening and the next day took a guided tour of the National and University Library, which celebrates 250th anniversary this year.

The event will conclude on 7 July with the 30th Camp of Slovenians Abroad at St Stanislav's Institution in Ljubljana, an establishment of several Catholic schools founded 1901 by the Archdiocese of Ljubljana, whose premises were turned into an army barracks after WWII but were returned to the church after Slovenia declared independence.

Next year, the get-together will be held in Nova Gorica as the city turns into the European Capital of Culture for a year with its Italian counterpart Gorizia.

Pledge of support

At the meeting in the parliament building, Minister Arčon pledged for the Office for Slovenians Abroad to continue to support young Slovenians living abroad with scholarships to learn Slovenian or study in Slovenia. They will also continue to finance summer camps for them in Slovenia, and schools and cultural activities abroad.

The office also plans to step up its support for startups and later this year it will found an organisation aimed at promoting sports cooperation between Slovenia and Slovenian minorities in neighbouring countries.

The event in the National Assembly heard several representatives of young Slovenians living abroad, including in Croatia and Italy, who talked about a decline in their numbers.

70 years of Slovenian Cultural Action

The main cultural association of Slovenian post-WWII emigrants celebrated its 70th anniversary with an event on 26 June in cooperation with Slovenska Matica, the nation's oldest cultural and scientific society.

The Slovenian Cultural Action (SKA) was founded in Buenos Aires in February 1954 and has been committed to preserving the identity of Slovenian communities worldwide.

The association is an apolitical and independent organisation that has been bringing together Christian cultural workers from Slovenian minorities around the world, SKA president Damijan Ahlin told the Slovenian Press Agency. Its members came from various political backgrounds.

The SKA is active in many fields, including philosophy, literature, fine arts, history, music, theatre and science. It publishes a cultural magazine and books, and organises cultural events, concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions.

At the event, the association was honoured by the government Office for Slovenians Abroad for its commitment to Slovenian culture and efforts to keep it alive abroad.

Roughly half a million Slovenians or people with Slovenian heritage live outside Slovenia, a country with a population of 2.1 million.


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