Jahrhundertbuch der Gottscheer, Dr. Erich Petschauer, 1980.
The Gottscheer Throughout the World
Life went on. In the fifties the refugee camps emptied out; in the sixties the Gottscheers in Austria and Germany also found peace. All had now found political peace in their new homelands and had also recovered financially. Used to hard work, they acquired their own attractive houses and condominiums not only overseas but also in Europe. The Gottscheer had again settled down, but unfortunately not in unified settlements. This occurred only partially in the United States (Walden, NY, and Hawley, PA), where a number of Gottscheers live in a rural community. This made his need for meeting places where he could once again see his former neighbor all the greater. He also did not wish to forget the dead. Thus three memorial sites were established in Austria and Germany during the
sixties and seventies, namely in Krastowitz near Klagenfurt, in Maria Trost near Graz, and in Aichelberg in the Black Forest.
The symbol of the "Gottscheer Gedächtnisstätte" (memorial site) near Klagenfurt is the castle church of Krastowitz, an old noble seat close to the airport in Klagenfurt/Annabichl. The "Landsmannschaft" in Klagenfurt selected it from several possibilities because it is on Carinthian soil, was made available for free by the diocese of Klagenfurt/Gurk, and, when judged according to size and architectural style, it could easily have been a subsidiary church in Gottschee. After a thorough renovation, the church was handed over to the Gottscheers with the presentation of the key to the popular spiritual adviser Alois Krisch in September 1962. The renovation was made possible by numerous contributions, particularly by the American-Gottscheers. A granite plaque on the left inside wall of the nave proclaims its special purpose as follows:
(Translation: Dear Father in heaven, we ask you to please let our homeland continue to live on in our hearts. Dedicated to the memory of our homeland Gottschee. We remember all those who rest in peace in the homeland + gave their lives in the wars + perished or are missing because of the turmoil of the time + found eternal peace in many lands of the earth.)
The castle church of Krastowitz also contains two treasures: A "Gedenkbuch" (memorial book) listing those Gottscheers who died in both World Wars and those who died during the expulsion and flight from Lower Styria; Richard Lackner was the graphic designer of the book. The small bell of the Franziskuskirche (Church of St. Francis) near Rieg in the Hinterland has been hanging in the tower since 1966.
The "Gottscheer Landsmannschaft Klagenfurt" bought the land around the castle church, an area of 7,600 square meters. The senate of the provincial capital declared this meeting place as "Gottscheer Gedächtnistätte" (memorial site) and named the street that leads to it "Gottscheer Straße."
The countrymen Fritz Högler, Alois Kresse, Alois Krauland, Johann Schemitsch, and others founded the organization "Gottscheer Gedenkstätte" (memorial site) in Leoben, Styria in 1964. Its purpose was to set up a Gottscheer commemorative structure of its own in Styria. Thus, after zealous soliciting of donations, which flowed in abundance particularly from the United States, a modern church, dedicated to the homeland of Gottschee, was built near the widely known pilgrimage church of "Maria Trost" near Graz. A map of Gottschee, as well as the names of those countrymen who died in the confusion of the two World Wars, are engraved on marble plaques.
The members of the organization and many other countrymen gather every year in Maria Trost on the last Sunday in July to commemorate the homeland and the deceased. Saturday evening is dedicated to festivities and Sunday to a mass for the dead and the joy in seeing each other again.
The third Gottscheer memorial site in Europe is located in the middle of the Black Forest near the town of Aichelberg (Baden-Württemberg) where it was set up in the summer of 1975. With the help of the township of Bad Wildbad and the donations of fellow countrymen, Richard Lipowitz of Suchen succeeded after several years in establishing this memorial to our lost homeland. This Gottscheer fountain consists of a gigantic rock (it is a boulder weighing twelve tons) that is decorated with the emblem of the city of Gottschee. Another rock holds a memorial plaque which bears the following inscription:
(Translation: This fountain was built in 1975 in remembrance of the linguistic island of Gottschee in Carniola-Yugoslavia. German woodland farmers founded Gottschee in 1330. In 1941 the Gottscheers lost their land through the resettlement of the ethnic group. In 1945 they had to leave the resettlement region in Lower Styria and search for a new homeland in many countries.)
A horizontal rock (three tons) supports the basin of the fountain. Official representatives from the federal government in Bonn, the provincial government in Stuttgart, the local government representatives, as well as the Gottscheer "Trachtenchor" of Klagenfurt and the representatives of the Gottscheer organizations in Germany and Austria, were present when this memorial site was solemnly dedicated on July 17, 1977. It now serves as a meeting ground for the Gottscheers in Germany.
At all the sites where countrymen meet, commemorate, and express their feelings, as at all Gottscheer get-togethers, we find them again: the bright eyes, the happy shouts, the reflective listening, relaxed laughter and melancholy singing.
The festivities in Klagenfurt and Graz are made more beautiful by the "Sing- and Trachtengruppe der Gottscheer Landsmannschaft in Klagenfurt." It already existed on a small scale in 1952. It was founded by Bruno Jonke, then intermediary school teacher. Later it was directed by Mitzi Verderber. For a long time, however, the group was under the care of school director Amalia Erker, who herself composed a number of songs in the dialect, and later Hans Brugger tended it. During the seventies, the dialect songs were conducted by elementary school principal Walter J. Siegmund of Altbacher, whereas the Carinthian songs that the chorus sang were under the directorship of the Carinthian elementary school principal Stefan Slamanig, whose wife Bena Tscherne is of Gottscheer origin. Slamanig also set several poems in the Gottscheer dialect to music which were then performed by the chorus.
The group appears at all of the important functions of the Gottscheer organizations in Austria and in the Federal Republic of Germany. For this it receives joyous applause, from the Gottscheers understandably, however, tremendous appreciation.
("Jahrhundertbuch der Gottscheer", Dr. Erich Petschauer, 1980)