President decorates diaspora organisation

Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor bestowed the Order of Merit on the Slovenian Emigrant Association on Wednesday for its invaluable contribution to efforts to preserve the Slovenian identity and culture among Slovenian expatriates.

The NGO celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, as it was established on 9 January 1951 in Ljubljana. Its aim is to promote cultural, social and economic ties between the homeland and the Slovenian diaspora.

It provides fiction, scientific and other books, newspapers, films and other cultural, arts and scientific content to Slovenian communities overseas.

Pahor’s office noted as some of its biggest achievements the monthly newspaper Rodna Gruda, the English language edition Slovenia Magazine Quarterly, the Slovenian emigrants’ calendar and the Slovenian Octet, a vocal ensemble founded in 1951 that still operates today.

In 1965, the association organised the first Summer School of Slovenian Language, which later expanded and was renamed the Seminar of Slovenian Language, Literature and Culture and now runs as part of the Centre for Slovene as a Second and Foreign Language at the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts.

Pahor thanked the association for its excellent work in the past and at present.

The association also organises diaspora meetings in Slovenia, brings Slovenian guests to Slovenian communities living abroad and helps the expatriates at learning the Slovenian language and preserving cultural heritage, as follows from the website of the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad.

Marking the 70th anniversary, the office conferred an award on the association in October for its outstanding role in fostering ties between the homeland and Slovenian expatriates and preserving the Slovenian national identity and cultural heritage.

Moreover, Pahor bestowed the Medal of Merit on the SDGZ business association of the Slovenian minority in Italy, the only such organisation there, and on Saša Verbič, the head of the Slovenian community’s umbrella organisation in Serbia – the National Council of the Slovenian Ethnic Minority.

The SDGZ, which Pahor described as one of the most highly esteemed institutions of the Slovenian community in Italy, was honoured for its leading role in fostering cross-border economic ties in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and for cherishing Slovenian culture and identity in Italy for 75 years.

The association brings together more than a thousand businesses, covering trade crafts, retail, hospitality and tourism, international trade and services and independent professions. It also promotes cooperation between schools and businesses through summer apprenticeships for students of Slovenian language secondary schools.

Saša Verbič, described as the most prominent representative of Slovenians in Serbia, was rewarded for his long-running work in preserving and establishing the Slovenian community in the country. Verbič also heads the Sava association of Slovenians in Belgrade, which has some 2,500 members and is marking its 20th anniversary this year.