Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor at the ceremony marking the opening of the monument to all victims of wars and war-related victims

Ljubljana, 13. 7. 2017 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor today attended the ceremony marking the opening of the monument to all victims of wars and war-related victims.

The address given by the President at the ceremony is published below (the spoken text will prevail in the event of differences):

Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor at the ceremony marking the opening of the monument to all victims of wars and war-related victims

LOVE, NOT HATE

Esteemed relatives of victims,
Slovenians at home and around the world,
Fellow citizens,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

With the creation of its own state, the Slovenian people established itself as a nation. With the unveiling of this central national memorial to all victims of wars and war-related violence, it now establishes itself as a mature nation.

We gain, with this memorial, a central space for shared remembrance. A people, a nation, a mature nation is constituted by its shared memories. What we are, we are because of our memories. That is not to say that they are identical, uniform or even the same. They are, however, shared. Now we stand on the shoulders of these memories and look to the future together.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It sometimes seems as though history has been testing the Slovenian nation – sternly and cruelly – to see whether it has, at last, attained the maturity it needs to look after itself and, together with others, the modern world. The hand of foreign enemies has attacked us. Brother has raised his hand against brother.

The road to national and political freedom has been a long one, soaked with ebbing life force and bathed in bitter, sorrowful tears. Along it, on either side of the road, or forgotten, far from it, lie the victims.

Now we have at last symbolically summoned the echoes of all their suffering souls to find redress, repose and peace in one place.

And it seems to me that I can hear their sincere appeal – no more war, no more fratricidal war, never again. Like an echo of Prešeren's lines: "Let oneness, happiness, reconciliation return to us."

Ladies and gentlemen,

This memorial, then, invites all of us, all Slovenian men and women, to pacification and reconciliation.

It has been erected in memory of all victims of the wars suffered by the Slovenian nation, and events connected to them.

It is a memorial to:
    • the victims of the First World War,
    • the combatants who died fighting for the northern border and in Carinthia,
    • the men and women of the anti-fascist TIGR movement,
    • the men and women who fell in the National Liberal Struggle,
    • the victims of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary violence,
    • the victims of extrajudicial killings and wrongful convictions, and
    • the victims of the war of Independence of the Republic of Slovenia in 1991.

I will endeavour to ensure that this is stated in written form somewhere near the memorial.

Although this central national memorial commemorates, first and foremost, all victims and those who have died, in a metaphorical sense it will actually speak to the living, to all who will stand in front of it. It will urge us to seek coexistence, understanding, forgiveness, cooperation, peace and reconciliation. Within our own nation and with others.

The memorial invites us to reflect, to think. No one is obliged to accept this invitation. Everyone must act according to their own conscience, and freely.

Even as regards this memorial and its messages. Everyone has the right to understand them in their own way. And yet it seems to me that there is a kind of metaphysical, profound human duty: that no one should hate anyone.

Or, if I may borrow the words of Kocbek: righteous anger is understandable and even necessary. Yet at the same time Kocbek warns that "it would be good if among us there were less hatred, that deaf instinct that is hammered into the earth."

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very proud to be a Slovenian. Not because of a sense of superiority in comparison to other nations. But because I have no sense of inferiority of any kind.

Without fear, my nation, the nation I belong to, now stands on the shoulders of the past in freedom and gazes steadfastly at the challenges of the future. We will survive, because despite all our quarrels, we do not hate each other.

Our children will be spared this terrible emotion. They will be brought up in a spirit of coexistence, respect and cooperation.

The words spoken by Antigone shine through more than two thousand years of human civilisation and culture: "I was not born to hate, but to love."

This memorial is a monument to love.

Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor at the ceremony marking the opening of the monument to all victims of wars and war-related victims
Photo: STA/Nebojša Tejić