“Forgiveness” is a photo of my Dads farm, where he grew up, alongside a recent interview with him about his feelings about what happened to him after the second world war.. “Prayer to the devil” is actually a letter I wrote to the Pope, but the reference to the devil is in the letter itself. I do worry that my letter might make me look a bit foolish, but it is actually how I feel and what I did. I received a kind reply but it doesn’t actually answer my questions, it suggests I go to a local priest. I have further questions now, what penance would be given to those who executed unarmed defenceless Catholics in revenge for war? Or those who fought the war with the germans? Did Tito, an atheist actually ask for forgiveness and who from? What sort of people go to heaven? Surely it can’t be possible to send a good man like my dad to hell, even if he can’t forgive those who tortured him and executed his friends.
These two latest photos are using much more text. I find the subject so complex that I can’t find any other way to do them. It has made me think quite deeply about why text with a photo might be different from using a video with sound and visuals. also which might be better and why. I am also editing the video interview but I haven’t finished that yet. I haven’t reached any conclusions as to which is better, but I have understood some of the differences. Obviously watching a video enables one to see and hear the emotion in the voice and person, this is absent from just text with a photo. However, if one reads text then the words are being internalised and the reader is saying them as though saying it themselves. I’m not sure which one would bring about greater empathy as I know that when I read text, I read it to myself in a monotone voice. I am also too close to the subject to be objective in my analysis. This is something I need to experiment with.
The first of my photos about my father’s story. This is an experiment and may not be the finished photo, but it’s a start at trying to show what happened. I was lucky to get hold of some of Dad’s diaries, written when he was sixteen and with a death sentence on the whole family. I translated these words myself with the help of Google, Pons.si and my Slovenian lessons. It’s a good thing we’ve started to learn the past tense, I can finally make more sense of the words.
My main difficulty in trying to do work about Dad is that I can’t imagine I will ever be able to convey how awful the experiences he had were. It doesn’t help that Dad won’t tell me everything and he absolutely refuses to talk about his brother who died.
I decided to place Dad and his words in the farmhouse where he was born and lived before he became a refugee. His diary was written in this house and some of the descriptions are about what happened there. The house has been empty for many years and is now in need of extensive repair. A house in Jungian dream therapy is a representation of the person dreaming about it. It is fitting for the photos about my Dad that it is not whole anymore. It is largely unchanged since the days my Dad lived there, as his brother in law, who was also a surviving Home Guard, refused to change with the times. He said if it was good enough for the last generation, its good enough for him. This means the photos of the house are fairly true to how it would have been 70 years ago, although there are some things like plastic bags and other things that show it is taken now. I can remember visiting and using the outside toilet, tin bath and aga-type stove, they still used the bread oven too. I used to love it there.
The words on the photo are
Then one of the two in the house said “Go ahead and shoot the devil” He held a gun to my head for a long time.
Tedaj je eden tistih dveh rekel v hiši:« Kar ustreli ga hudiča«. Dolgo časa mi je grozil s pištolo.
Looking at the video, I can’t help wonder if I’m being cruel to show the files to him. Although he did want to see them. Hopefully, it will be better next week when we go over his diaries.
I went out to Slovenia in July, earlier than the others coming out to join me for our walk over the mountains. The aim was to do more research. I had some lucky breaks, my cousin found Dad’s diaries written when he was 16 and fighting the Communists, just after he had buried his brother. I’m waiting for them to be translated. It’s very exciting. Then I went into a local photography studio to ask where I might be able to get old photos from that time. The man in the shop was very helpful and pointed me in the direction of the Institute of Contemporary History. It’s there that I met one of the University professors, Dr. Matevž Košir. He has access to all kinds of documents. He told me there were 30 pages of state police files about my father, including his sentence to death. Also files about his brother and one sister. My Dad was surprised it wasn’t more of the family. I’m going back in the Autumn to look at those. The professor gave me a list of all the 405 young men under 18 who were at the Teharje camp, which I showed my father. My father’s name is on the list. My Dad seemed to think that these were just the lists of those they tried, that in fact there were more like 1,000 boys under 18. This was later confirmed by the professor. The name of one friend he talked with a lot wasn’t on the list. My Dad said many of those not named were killed immediately on arrival.
The professor has also said it may still be possible to make a claim for the farmland that was taken away from my family. He says there will be two obstacles, one is proving they owned it and it was taken away, the other is if they are still compensating people for this. He knows ways of trying to get proof, so you never know. The land is now the site of their World Trade Centre, a bank and several blocks of flats. The photo above is of the land in Ljubljana that we will be trying to claim back.