Name: 'Monument to the Liberation War and to Victims of Fascist Violence' or 'Monument to the Overseas Brigade'
Location: Črni Kal, Slovenia (in Italian: San Sergio)
Year completed: 1966
Designer: Edo Mihevc
Coordinates: N45°33'12.0", E13°52'21.3" (click for map)
Dimensions: Three monoliths, ~5m tall
Materials used: Marble blocks
This spomenik complex located in Črni Kal, Slovenia commemorates the many fighters and veterans from the surrounding area who fell and fought during the National Liberation War (WWII). In addition, this monument also commemorates Prekomorske (Over-seas) Brigades, which include many people from this region.
World War II
The Istrian peninsula, where Črni Kal is located, was annexed and occupied by Italian troops as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded by Axis forces in April of 1941. Many Slovenes in the Črni Kal region fled this brutal occupation, but those who remained were subject to violence and cultural oppression. In this 'Italianization' of the region, not only was speaking any Slavic language outlawed in public in many areas (Italian became the new official language), but any sort of Slavic language press, school or cultural traditions were forbidden as well (Figure 1). Not only that, but thousands of Italians were moved into Istria, displacing its current residents. However, by late 1941, armed uprising movements began to sweep across Istria, and the people of Črni Kal and the surrounding region began to rebel against their occupiers. Through 1942, the rebel groups, which had mostly organized into communist Partisan resistance units, were little match for the weight of the Italian Army. However, in September of 1943, Italy surrendered with the Armistice of Cassibile after they were overtaken by Allied forces. This development was a significant morale boost for Istrian and Primorska Partisan forces.
Yet, as the Italian military moved out of Istria and the Črni Kal region, the German Army reoccupied and reorganized the area, designating it as the "Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral" (OZAK) in September of 1943, which led to numerous atrocities and genocidal acts occurring across the Istrian lands: for instance, the village of Črni Kal itself was burned on several occasions by German troops during this time, resulting in the deaths of dozens of villagers. However, still emboldened by the surrender of the Italians, Partisans in Istria fought vigorously and steadily. Then, by May of 1945, Črni Kal was finally liberated by Partisan forces.
Figure 1: Leaflet advertising the prohibition of singing and speaking any Slavic languages
Figure 2: Črni Kal region during "Trieste Question" era.
In an effort to rid Istria of the Italians who moved into the region during the war, Partisans forced out thousands of Italians, expelling them from the region and deporting them back to Italy -- some Italians in the Črni Kal region (among other places in Istria) were even executed by Partians in what are called the "Foibe massacres". Furthermore, Črni Kal was situated in a contentious post-war region, as after 1945, there was much squabbling over whether the "Free Territory of Trieste" was part of Italy of Yugoslavia, a problem known as the "Trieste Question" (Figure 1). Being that Črni Kal was situated less than 1km from the border of the Free Territory of Trieste, the town and the region's people were extremely affected by this political situation. This turmoil was not settled definitively until 1975 with the signing of the Treaty of Osimo, which ceded to Slovenia the former area of the Free Territory of Trieste which was adjacent to Črni Kal.
Furthermore, in addition to being a memorial fighters who died locally, the monument here at Črni Kal also commemorates fighters from Istria and the Slovene Littoral (Primorska) who were members of the Yugoslav Prekomorske (Over-seas) Brigades, which were units of the National Liberation Army who fought outside the territory of Yugoslavia... mostly in Italy.
In the early 1960s, local government and veteran groups organized the construction of a spomenik complex just outside of Črni Kal, which would commemorate those people from 18 surrounding villages who perished during the People's Liberation Struggle. After an open design competition, the commission for creating the new memorial was awarded to Slovenian designer Edo Mihevc. The finished memorial sculpture set was officially unveiled to the public in 1966, commemorating 26 years since the region's liberation. The central sculptural element of the memorial are three conceptual curved sculptures made of marble blocks, meant to symbolize historic Istrian barges of antiquity.
During the Yugoslav-era, this site was well visited and patronized by the local community and Yugoslav history pilgrims. However, after the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, interest and visitorship to the site declined greatly. While the memorial still receives some visitors and is host to some local commemorative events (as evidenced by the honorific candles, wreaths and flowers often found here), general attention and respect given to the site has greatly diminished since the 1990s. However, the 2004 construction of the Črni Kal Viaduct, carrying the A1 motorway, has made access to the site increasingly easier than in the past, which has certainly improved visitorship to the site.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
There are a number of inscribed elements at the memorial complex here at Črni Kal. The first engraving to mention that can be found at the site is a small circular engraved granite sign (Slide 1) at the foot of the large evergreen bush patch adjacent to the memorial sculptures. The inscription it bears translates roughly from Slovenian to English as:
"This monument is dedicated to the victims of the violence from 18 villages in the surrounding area, committed by Axis occupiers. It symbolizes the Istrian barges and and this area as a window onto the Slovenian sea."
Created by Edo Mihevc, 1966
Meanwhile, the spomeniks themselves are engraved with names of many soldiers from the region who fell during WWII (Slide 2). In addition to these names, there is an inscription made on one of the sculptures (Slide 3). This inscription reads, translated from Slovenian to English, as:
"This land you loved, the life you sacrificed, we will not forgot, it was you that gave it to us."
Then underneath this inscription is a list of the 18 surrounding villages from which the people who are honored at this spomenik complex are from. Meanwhile, in Slide 4 you can see the inscribed heading at the top of the list of names on one of the sculptures. This reads, translated from Slovenian to English, as:
"People who fell during the National Liberation Struggle"
1941 - 1945
As the interpretive sign in the above section says, the monument is meant to be symbolic of the ornate bow structures on 'Istrian barges' -- presumably, by 'Istrian barges', the designer means the Roman barges of antiquity that once sailed the nearby shores of the Adriatic when they ruled over Istria from the 170s BC to the 400s AD (Figure 3). Also, the placement of this spomenik is symbolic of the area as a 'window onto the Slovenian sea', as the interpretive sign mentions in the above section -- the monument is placed overlooking the Osp Valley, which leads directly to the Adriatic sea from this location, making it a strategic and cultural historic passageway through the region's karst and coastal topography. In fact, the nearby village of Osp is one of the oldest villages in Slovenian, being first mentioned in historical writings in 1067.
Figure 3: Roman barge ship
A further dimension of the symbolism of the 'boat' form of this memorial is that, as this monument is also commemorates members of the Prekomorske (Over-seas) Brigades, the 'boat' motif could also very well represent the boats that these over-seas Yugoslav fighters took to take up arms in those foreign lands.
Status and Condition:
Currently, the monument complex here at Črni Kal sits in fair condition. Firstly, the landscaping around the grounds of the memorial undergo minimal maintenance, but it is by no means expertly manicured. It is also important to note that the stone paved courtyard around the central sculpture is nearly fully overgrown with grass. Meanwhile, the structural status of the sculpture itself is very good, as there are no signs of damage, deterioration or vandalism are evident on the surface of the monument. As far as directional or promotional signage which would direct visitors or tourists to the spomenik, these do not exist in any form. In addition, the original entrance access to the location has been covered over with guardrail, making access to the site much less evident and apparent. At the site itself, there is a small engraved plaque briefly informing visitors as to the cultural and historic importance of the memorial, however, it is written only in Slovenian, which leaves it inaccessible to most foreign visitors.
With the 2004 construction of the nearby Črni Kal Viaduct, access to this spomenik complex has greatly improved. However, to what degree increased visitorship and tourism to the site has also increased is not clear. Yet, despite minimal tourism, modest annual commemorative and remembrance events are still held here, generally on November 11th, a day which marks the passing of local 181 fighters during WWII. In the last few years, veterans groups in Istria have been discussing on whether to designate the monument site here at Črni Kal as the "center of Partisan resistance" during WWII. If this designation is solidified, it would result in complex receiving heightened care and maintenance, as well as increasing its use for ceremonies and commemorative events.
Additional Sites in the Črni Kal Area:
This section explores additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Črni Kal area which might be of interest to those studying the monuments of the former Yugoslavia. Here we will examine the monument at Spodnje Škofije, as well as the monument in Sveti Anton.
Monument at Spodnje Škofije:
Roughly 9km west of the monument site at Črni Kal is the small village of Spodnje Škofijes. Near the center of the village within a small park (just across the street from Oscar Kovačič Elementary School) is situated a memorial sculpture dedicated to the local Partisan fighters and civilian victims who perished during WWII (NOR). This monument, which stands roughly 7-8m tall, is characterized by a set of thick stacked concrete slabs which have three triangle shapes cut out in a line down the center of the sculpture. A concrete sphere and half-sphere are set in the top two openings. In front of the sculpture is a small semi-circle amphitheatre. This piece was installed in December of 1985 and created by Slovene and local Koper-born artist Zvest Apollonio, with landscape architecutre done by Trieste designer Vid Vremec. This monument is kept in excellent shape, and it resides within an expertly manicured and landscaped garden. Regular commemorative events continue to be held here. The exact coordinates for this location are N45°34'08.0", E13°47'25.6".
Monument at Spodnje Škofijes - Slideshow
Monument at Sveti Anton:
Roughly 5km southwest as the crow flies (but about 12km driving around mountain roads) away from the monument site at Črni Kal you will find the small village of Sveti Anton (St. Anthony). Near the center of the village is situated a modest memorial sculpture which is dedicated to the 38 local Partisan fighters and 25 civilian victims of Sveti Anton and the surrounding settlements who perished in the violence during WWII (NOR). The sculpture, which is roughly 5m tall, consists of a stone slab carved with a series of figurative reliefs and punctured with an opening near its base. Created in 1970 by local artist Jože Pohlen, born in the village of Hrastovlje (less than 5km away from Sveti Anton), the sculpture itself is in excellent condition and appears to be well taken care of. Northeast of the sculpture about 20m are two ~3m tall stone pillars bearing inscriptions. Facing the pillars, the one on lthe left is engraved with a list of names of local fallen fighters and civilian victims. Meanwhile, the pillar on the left bears an inscription that roughly translates from Slovenian to English as:
Monument at Sveti Anton - Slideshow
"You are not afraid of suffering, you stared death in the eyes, you sacrificed everything for us, for freedom, for better days!"
This poetic verse was written by famous Trieste-born Slovene poet Rado Bordon, who himself fought during WWII with the Slovene Partisans. This site continues to host regular annual commemorative events. The exact coordinates for this site are N45°31'28.9", E13°49'49.0".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
TIGR Memorial Trail: this is a circular route biking/hiking trail (roughly 3km long) that is dedicated to the memory of the TIGR movement, which was a Slovene/Croat anti-fascist group that operated in opposition to Italianization of this region. The trail explores this region's beautiful forests, caves, waterfalls and karst topography. Also along the trail are ruins and fragments from Istria's past wars and information about the region's history. An online pamphlet is available here. The starting point with an information sign for the trail is in the village of Ocizla (about 10km north of the Črni Kal monument) , the exact coordinates for which are N45°35'25.4", E13°54'31.3".
Črni Kal Castle of San Sergio: just north a few hundred meters of the village of Črni Kal, situated on 30m tall bluffs overlooking the entire Osp Valley, are the ruins of an old 11th century fortress (Figure 4). Only a few walls of the fortress are left standing, but the ruins are dramatic, especially when framed within the amazing views which can be had from here. This is the optimal location for views of the Črni Kal Viaduct, which, at over 1km long and almost 90m tall, is the longest and tallest viaduct in Slovenia. Photos, more information and history on the castle can be at the Istria Culture website. The exact coordinates for the castle are N45°33'05.9", E13°52'53.5".
Figure 4: Črni Kal Castle of San Sergio
Figure 5: Kozina Memorial Park [source: primorske.si]
Kozina Memorial Park: Roughly 11km NE of Črni Kal is the town of Kozina. Near the center of Kozina is a memorial park dedicated to the local fallen fighters from WWII. The central element of this memorial park is a set of three decorated stone pylons connected to create a three sided pyramid (~4-5m tall) (Figure 5). In the center of the pyramid is a pillar with three inscribed plaques. The work was created in 1968 by Slovene architect Ludvik Tomori. These plaques indicate that the work was erected on Oct. 6th, 1968 in order to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Istrian Partisan Detachment. In front of this monument are two bronze sculptural busts of the Slovene Partisan fighters and politicians Jože Dekleva and Boris Race. The memorial park here in Kozina is in good condition and continues to host annual commemorative events. The exact coordinates for this monument complex are N45°36'33.5", E13°56'18.7".
Finding this monument site at Črni Kal is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, from the A1 Motorway, take the marked exit for Črni Kal. After you get off the motorway, take the first major left with signs pointing towards 'Kozina'. Right after you make this left, the road will curve sharply to the left, at which point you will take your very first left, which has signs pointing for Osp and Gabrovica. After turning onto this road, take your immediate right about 100m up the road. You will then see the parking area and the spomenik complex on the right. The exact coordinates for parking are N45°33'12.8", E13°52'22.2". You can see a view of the spomenik HERE on Google StreetView.
Click to open in Google Maps in new window
Selected Sources and More Information:
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