Ljubljana – Due to the war in Ukraine, only a low-profile memorial event will be held at the Russian Chapel below the Vršič mountain pass on Sunday in memory of Russian POWs who perished while building the pass during the First World War. Only members and friends of the Slovenia-Russia Association are expected to attend.
While traditionally, a high-profile ceremony was held at the chapel every summer, featuring state officials and church dignitaries from both countries, this year only a brief event will be held with no other accompanying programme, the association said.
“This year, more than in the past decades of peace, the chapel needs people to light a candle or lay a wreath in silence. For the souls of those who died under the avalanche and against all the wars, violence, destruction and cruelty that blind hatred leads to. For humanity, tolerance and wisdom. For peace,” wrote the Slovenia-Russia Association.
It added that they would gather to lay a wreath, hold a moment of silence and say Orthodox prayers. On Saturday, a traditional Catholic memorial mass will be held in the nearby town of Kranjska Gora.
The Slovenia-Russia Association condemned the Russian aggression in Ukraine as early as February and expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people and the part of the Russian society that opposes the war. It called on the Russian top officials to immediately stop military activities in Ukraine and prevent further sacrifices, suffering and devastation in its neighbouring country.
The association stressed that the Russian Chapel below the Vršič pass remained a symbol of peace and a culture of respectful remembrance, and that the place remained open to all supporters of peace, dialogue and cooperation.
The shrine below Vršič, a wooden Orthodox-style chapel, was built in 1916 by surviving Russian prisoners of war to commemorate their dead comrades who had been buried in an avalanche during the construction of the road across Vršič.
After the First World War, the chapel was maintained by local residents. After the reconstruction of the road in 1937, many graves of Russian prisoners were found and their remains were buried in the ossuary next to the chapel, above which a pyramid was erected with the inscription “To the Sons of Russia”.
The wooden chapel had deteriorated over the years, so in 1991 it was cleaned, conserved and restored, along with the graves of the Russian prisoners and the grave of the unknown soldier next to the chapel. In 2006, the chapel was completely restored, and a traditional commemorative ceremony is held there every year at the end of July.