Bogdan Osolnik, Ljubljana, Slovenia
My name is Bogdan Osolnik. I was born on May 13, 1920. My parents were refugees and they had tried to escape Italy. After I finished school, I started studying law in 1941. When Slovenia was divided into quadrants, mostly between Germany and Italy, I decided to leave my studies. They wanted to force everyone to become members of a fascist party. From there, I decided to participate in the war as a partisan.
We weren't only occupied, the idea was to erase the statehood of Slovenia and rebuild it under the ideology of Hitler and Mussolini. It was just a battle for freedom, it was a battle for life and death. I joined the militia when Italy and Germany were in top military condition, while partisans had no weapons at all. We had to somehow take their weapons and use them against them. Within three years, we organized into divisions. We grew into a structure.
I wasn't on the battlefield much. I was more involved with organizing the rebellion. I handled food and communications and healthcare. We organized secret hospitals for the injured. I want to point that this wasn't just to combat the enemy, this was also the process of forming a new nation, one that hadn't existed before.
Yugoslavia was attacked on April 14, 1941. I was a soldier in the south, in Kosovo. I liked to walk on the railway at night, alone. I knew the area. One morning and officer came and approached a girlfriend. They told her I shouldn't visit her anymore. They had trained a rifle on me. The girl told them I was at home. But there weren't many tall men around, so they knew it was me. I thought no one had seen me. Luckily, my height saved my life. They'd been watching for an Italian advance. At first it was easy to fight together, but when the enemy found collaborators, the battle grew more complex, because those people knew secrets.
I was put in Croatian prison, then I was moved to an Italian prison. I came home in the first week of July, 1941 and I returned to my studies. In the first days of October, I got my degree in law. Then I became the leader of the partisan forces. By July, 1942, I was with the partisans full time until the end of the war. I moved around the country helping to establish a system of government. Prior to the capitulation of Italy, I was leading the administration of the partisan government.
I was sent to Maribor, to mobilize people there. I took over a radio station that had been set up by the Germans. I gave the news that the war was over and everyone was free. I stood on the balcony of the city hall and watched them have their evening celebration. The following day, which was my birthday, I took a train from Ljubljana to Novo Mesto to visit my parents. This was the day the war and my youth both ended. My brother soon returned from being with the partisans. He had joined them when he was fourteen.
Everything was in ruins after the war. We had to rebuild. There were no bridges, no roads. The partisans had instituted a scorched earth policy, to prevent or slow an occupation. An entire system had to be established. Our internal image was no very bright. There were border disputes with Italy and Austria. But despite the poverty and lack of development, there was an overwhelming sense of solidarity among us. Nobody was dying of hunger—there was always a solution.
I began working in education and culture, as an assistant to the minister. I did the same in Belgrade, Serbia, where I worked in the field of science. The Cold War was beginning at this time and there was much tension in the world. When the situation escalated, I became the leader of the Yugoslavian National Radio. We worked in several languages. Our mission was to legitimize Yugoslavia in the eyes of the world, in Europe. To discourage Russia from an invasion. I also worked for international organizations, such as UNESCO. I co-founded Yugoslavian National Television. This was when satellite television began to appear. This had been a topic at UNESCO. I was part of the MacBride Commission that produced the "Many Voices, One World" report.
Nowadays the world is much different and people have many more choices. There's been progress in what medicine and technology can offer us. Unfortunately, everything's not like that—we still have wars. We are still entrenched in a system that doesn't work. What I see, what I hope is that the world will go on the path of humanity and respect and dignity.