A Slovenian disgrace

Yesterday, I got some email from a Slovenian reader to tell me about a developing refugee situation there. I can’t say it better than they can, so I’m just posting it here without identifying information (if the author wants to speak up in the comments, I can verify).

I come from a little place called Slovenia. You can find it on google maps – but you need to zoom in really close. It’s there between Italy and Austria, smack in the middle of the refugee’s path into European heartland.

Recently six refugee children (under 15 years of age) asked for asylum in Slovenia. These kids have no one with them. They are completely alone. Our government is processing their applications but in the meantime they wanted to make sure they are house appropriately. So the ministry asked a local dormitory (Dijaški in študentski dom Kranj), housing high-schoolers, to offer rooms for these 6 misfortunate kids. The dormitory principal, Ms. Judita Nahtigal, agreed and apparently wanted to set up a meeting with someone from the government to discuss the particulars.

In the meantime she also sent a notification letter to the resident’s parents and the teachers employed at the local high school (France Prešeren Gymnasium) informing them of this development. What resulted is as outrageous as it is embarrassing for our country as a whole. The parents and the teachers united against the principal and absolutely refused to accept the fact that refugee children would be allowed to stay there. They put together a petition – signed by ALL 24 teachers to press their case. They then went to the local city council that offered its full support for their bigoted cause. They went to the National Skiing Association (SZS), since a number of the students at the dorm are prospective athletes, and they got warm support for their xenophobia there as well.

It seems like no one wants these poor refugee kids there – not the parents, not the teachers, not the local city council members, not the National Skiing Association – that is no one except the principal, Judita Nahtigal. She commented that, while she did expect some push-back, she never imagined the tenacity and ferocity of what happened.

This is what we’ve apparently come to. Professors at a high school named after our greatest poet, France Prešeren, the author of our national anthem that calls for the unity of all nations, unanimously signing a petition to ban six abandoned refugee children seeking asylum from staying at a dorm.

The reason? They do not want their dorm to get the “stigma” of a refugee center.

Well, I sincerely hope they all do get stigmatized for being bigots and xenophobes.

This is the developing story on our main national media outlet RTV Slovenia (came out yesterday)

and another website (posted today)

It’s all in Slovene of course, as no one abroad is reporting on this yet. But they should be. I’ve tried to recount the facts with no distortions. Use google translate to get some glimpse of it as well. Or maybe you can find another native speaker to corroborate what I’ve said.

This is a national disgrace. Please let it be known. What we need is some well deserved public embarrassment. I can tell you that Slovenes are terribly touchy about their image abroad. We like to pride ourselves as being very accepting and progressive. And I hope most of us are. But the rest need a wake-up call or at least a warning. This is not want we want to be. And sometimes one needs a slap in the face to prevent going too far astray.

I’ve been teaching my first year students about fallacies and biases, all these things budding scientists are supposed to be aware of, and one of them is Bacon’s Idola Tribus.

The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.

“Tribe” is one of those words that applies so well in multiple ways to this situation. The tribe of humans is inherently tribal, I think, and we apply so readily our false perceptions to others. So when those others meet misfortune and appeal to us for help, most of us are very quick to point and screech and fear the foreigner. Even when they are young children.

I wish I could just say it’s those dang Slovenians (more tribalism!), but unfortunately our American disgrace is that our entire Republican party is running on that same fear and hatred.


  1. says

    It’s all in Slovene of course, as no one abroad is reporting on this yet. But they should be.

    Right now there’s so much xenophobia, racism, right wing terrorism all over Europe that one small Slovenian town refusing to house 6 children is indeed not news. That is not to say it isn’t a disgrace, it’S just that it’s so small a disgrace as, say, the situation of Afghani refugees in Greece (did you know that Afghanistan is safe and you have no reason to flee?), the constant police violence against refugees in Calais and the daily terrorism against refugees in Germany that nobody has time to report on this.
    Yes, I’m bitter.
    Here’S a small story that happened here yesterday. No case of people being horrible to refugees because the people involved is me, but it showed again how much we fail those people.
    I had business at the city hall, the offices where you do administrative business. A moment after I entered and pulled my number, a group of three women came in, apparently recently arrived refugees. They showed me a sheet of paper with an address and asked me* where that was. Apparently they needed to go to the doctor, and somebody had printed them the address of a doctor who speaks Arabic (going by the name of the doctor). Only that was in the next town over. I tried to find out a bus connection. In the meantime I passed my number to other people. One of the women entered the offices, trying to get help there, but she was simply sent away. After some googleing I found out that they’d be on theroad for about an hour, having to switch buses three times. Impossible to communicate, pretty safe to fail. Since it was just 5 minutes by car, I loaded them into mine and drove them there.
    Refugees get asked to “integrate into society”, but they’re not given and damn help to even manage the most basic necessities of life. They’re given an address and then they’re expected to magically get there, not speaking the language, not knowing the public transport system, and if they fail, it’s their damn fault…

    *the youngest woman spoke a bit of English. Communication was difficult.

  2. carlie says

    I had up close experience with a suddenly homeless teenager last summer. In my opinion, anyone who can look at the face of a teenager who realizes they have nowhere to go and no one to protect them, and responds by turning away, is the person I don’t want to be part of my society.

  3. says

    Denmark is severely fucked at the moment. In the last election, the we-hate-foreigners party was the major winner. Basically, the only reason the current government is in place is because of their support. That gives them a lot of pull. Meanwhile, all the other parties are scared and think the answer lies in trying to copy their policies, dragging the entire political scene to the right.

    And just to make sure that we’re not only fucked up now, but will remain so for another generation, the government is busy slashing university budgets and lowering environmental standards. Sometimes I swear it looks like they’re deliberately trying to wreck the nation. I have trouble coping with the idea that people could be that fucking blinkered. I suspect it’s that feeling that turns people into conspiracy nuts.

  4. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    We are fucking drowning in xenophobia…and bigotry against refugees is just the tip of the iceberg.
    I had imagined, growing up, that the whole point of the European Union was to do away with tribalistic bullshit, embrace cultural diversity and unify to work for a better future for everyone…it sounded so good anyway…

  5. rq says

    We’re not at the hate-crimes stage yet, but there’s so much xenophobic rhetoric coming out of pretty much everyone except a very few people. The media blows up any even slightly anti-refugee story that comes out of the community where they’re housed, but if you ask members of that community, they experience more violence and discomfort at the hands of the local ne’er-do-wells, and they’re certainly not complaining about the refugees. I’m hoping the refugees who are going to be sent here in the near future (and that’s not a large number, but apparently 500 is like terrifying to people here) get to come while the current health system crisis goes on, it means they get less attention and therefore less hate.
    There’s to be a march in support of refugee rights on Saturday. I’m sad I can’t go, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be vocal opposition there.

  6. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    In one of the articles, it’s mentioned that the administration in Kranj thinks the children should be settled in the capital.

    But what do we usually (I have no confirmation about this particular case) hear about settling refugees in capital cities? Of course, there’s objections to settling them “among citizens” and opinions that they should be settled in some smaller town or preferable on the outskirts. Because Catch-22… they are not welcome anywhere.

    The situation in Europe is scary. Germany started so well compared to other countries, but now even there the xenophobes have become the dominant voice.

  7. laurentweppe says

    Yeah, Europe is all racist shit these days

    These days? We spent 500 years plundering the planet and raping its inhabitants, and the only reason we stopped is because we fought two moronically suicidal internecine wars that left our “Obey or be on the receiving end of a genocide” colonial military apparatuses crippled beyond reckoning.


    That is not to say it isn’t a disgrace, it’S just that it’s so small a disgrace as, say, the situation of Afghani refugees in Greece (did you know that Afghanistan is safe and you have no reason to flee?), the constant police violence against refugees in Calais and the daily terrorism against refugees in Germany that nobody has time to report on this.

    Also, according to Europol, over 10.000 child-refugees have vanished: the main suspects being well organized sex-slavery rings. I for one am waiting for the all but inevitable scoop of an anti-refugee politician/pundit being caught renting a refugee kid to use him or her as a rape-toy.
    Say, is there a form to adhere to your club for bitter people?

  8. JP says

    Ever since the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Slovenes have been trying to position themselves as the “most European” of all the Balkan states. Wouldn’t want some scuzzy refugees messing up their lovely image.

    I hear Bosnia is a much cooler place, in general. Even the Muslims there are pretty chill, and they definitely got the brunt of the awfulness during the 90s.

  9. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    Melania Trump is from Slovenia. Just sayin’.

    How… completely irrelevant.
    Just saying.

  10. katjaz says

    I’m not the author of the email, but I can confirm everything they said.* It’s obviously not an isolated incident, but it does represent an escalation in that children have been targeted directly. There’s public outrage, as there should be, but I’m not entirely certain appeals to things like humanity, compassion or children’s rights will be loud enough to be heard over the xenophobic “reasoning” that is fast becoming the new normal.

    *Except for a small detail – the 24 teachers who signed that statement do not represent the whole of the staff on that school – small mercies, I suppose. Not that it’s terribly important for the purposes of this discussion, but I like to get facts straight.

  11. Dunc says

    The situation in Europe is scary.

    And here in the UK, there’s a loud and vocal campaign for us to leave the EU, mostly on the grounds that it’s not racist enough.

  12. Zeppelin says

    To be fair to Germany, the situation isn’t equally bad everywhere. In Saxon small towns people are cheering for burning refugee homes, but in Frankfurt the couple hundred PEGIDA supporters commuting there for a demonstration didn’t even dare to get off the train because the entire central station was filled with counter-protesters.
    Basically the xenophobia gets worse the fewer actual foreigners there are in the region, which seems to be the pattern of these things.

  13. says

    As humanity has to deal with its various self-inflicted challenges, overcoming tribalism and the lies of nationalism will be crucial to success. Where we are born, or our skin color, or religion, has nothing to determine our minds our values or our contributions – our ability to love, feel, or suffer.

    The world is going to have to deal with catastophic ocean rise thanks to the fossil fuel addiction of the first world, as it has dealt with two massive world wars driven by the economic inequality resulting from the industrial revolution. Humans – people – have to pay with the failures and vacillation of their leaders again and again. The ‘international system’ including the oxymoronic “united nations” exists to subdivide the people of the world into manageable and controllable units, and uses nationalism and tribalism as its main levers of action.