As with almost all countries in the world, Slovenian emigrations occurred in historic times. The causes were diverse, from political, to economical; because of opportunity to earn a better living. I want to explore this topic because Slovenian emigrants are also a part of the Slovenian language and culture.
Most Slovenians moved from their homeland at the end of the 19th century because of the 1st world war. The next period of emmigration was in the 30’s—for political reasons, e.g. nazism and fascism—after the 2nd world war, and again, in the 50’s and 60’s—mainly because of the economic situation.
Slovenians who left their country because for economical reasons, mostly immigrated to western European countries, such as Austria, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain and Germany. Political emigrants went to the USA, Canada, Argentina—to a lesser extent to other South American countries—and Australia.
Nowadays, there are around 500,000 Slovenians all over the world, which is a twice size of our capital, Ljubljana. On a global scale it’s not exceptional, but in comparison to our country, it is significant. In the countries I mentioned, the 3rd—and in rare cases the 4th—generation of Slovenians have already been born. Statistics show that every 5th Slovenian lives outside of border of mother country.
Slovenian Emigrants and Language
According to my references, the Slovenian language is preserved best in western European countries, Canada and Argentina. In English speaking countries—mostly USA and Australia—where Slovenians have immigrated, the language is a mix of English and Slovene, which is best demonstrated in syntax and wrong sequence of the words. Saying that, recently I watched recordings of a TV programme ‘Slovenci po svetu‘, Slovenians worldwide, on Youtube, and I have to say that I was nicely surprised to hear their knowledge of the Slovenian language.
I haven’t really immersed myself in this topic before; in high school we just learned some basics of Slovenian emigrants. The 1st and the 2nd generations speak Slovenian very well, but the success of future generations depends on the interest and organisation of Slovenian schools in emigration.
An interesting fact in my opinion is also how more and more Slovenians, especially younger generations, look for their Slovenian roots. On the TV programme I mentioned, they stated a couple of times, that the younger generations also have a Slovenian passport. That, among other things, really impressed me. The show is worth watching, if even to just listen and feel the Slovenian language.
Their national consciousness of Slovenian emigrants is high. I remember one lady, a Canadian Slovene, said on a Slovenian TV programme, that they are even more nationally conscious than Slovenians living in Slovenia. It was said in a funny way, but there’s some truth in this.
I think the reason for more well-tuned national consciousness stems from their multicultural environment; they don’t have a direct connection with their homeland and language. Because of that, they find and maintain communities, where they can preserve the language and customs of their mother country.
In general, within Europe, Slovenian emigrants organise remedial classes of Slovenian, and in the transmarine countries they have so- called ‘sobotne šole’ (Saturday schools), where they learn to speak Slovenian.
Slovenian emigrants maintain their language in different societies, clubs, schools and organisations. Key to preserving the language is also socialising with people and a usage of the language inside and outside of the family.
In Argentina, Slovenian appears in printed media and on radio stations. They have a lot of organisations and societies. Slovenian centres are a point of national, cultural and religious life. There are around 40,000 Slovenians in Argentina, the biggest community is in Buenos Aires.
Here are some websites from different societies and media:
- Slovenian radio show ‘Okence v Slovenijo’ on Radio Argentina
- A society ‘Zedinjena Slovenija’ in Argentina
There are around 25,000 Slovenians in Australia, mostly in Sydney and Melbourne. In federal states Victoria and New South Wales, Slovenian is renowned as a high school graduation subject. There are a lot of societies, like ‘Slovensko društvo Melbourne’, and so on.
In the USA there is the highest number of Slovenians, around 178,000. One fourth of them live in Cleveland (Ohio). Bigger communities are also in Chicago, Pensilvania, Minnesota and California. Slovenian is preserved mainly in churches.
And some links:
- Slovenian cultural society ‘Triglav’
- SNPJ Recreation centre
- Slovenian National Benefit Society
- The SNPJ Heritage Centre
There are around 36,000 Slovenians in all Canadian provinces, mostly in Ontario (Toronto). They have a lot of societies and also Slovenian schools—Slovenian schools in Toronto teach around 100 children. Slovenian is an optional subject in matura examination. The languge is maintained by numerous societies, such as ‘Slovensko društvo Bled’, and ‘Slovensko letovišče’.
- Here you can find all the editions of a magazine ‘Glasilo’ and radio ‘Glas’
- Slovenia Sports Club Toronto
Slovenian societies in Europe
I found also some other websites of Slovenian societies in Europe, like Association of Slovenians in Paris (Association des Slovènes de Paris) and Association of friends of Slovenia (Združenje prijateljev Slovenije) from Netherlands.
Some organisations in Slovenia exist to stay connected emigrants and those who live behind the national border (‘zamejci’). Every year there the festival, ‘Dobrodošli doma’ (Welcome Home), is organised, which takes place in the centre of Ljubljana at the beginning of July. There Slovenians gather from around the world.
I realised that Slovenian culture and language is not limited just to Slovenia, which is great. For me it’s quite hard to imagine that on the other side of the world exists Slovenian schools and descendants born abroad, who speak Slovenian very well. It was definitely great and educational to research the topic of Slovenian emigrants.