hidden europe 4

Vi offro fiori: Slovenia's Soca valley

by Nicky Gardner


an account of Kobarid, a little town in Slovenia's Soca valley

This is an account of a little town in Slovenia, a place of some 1200 souls that lies in the most exquisitely beautiful of mountain valleys. Kobarid is just by the Soca river, which tumbles down from the Julian Alps through a cascade of turquoise and white and eventually Rows into the Adriatic. Perhaps no other area of Europe, not even the battlefields of the Somme, has seen so very many people killed in battle in such a short time as the huge numbers of Slovenes, Austrians, Magyars, Germans and Italians who died at Kobarid in 1917. Kobarid, in the Slovenian Primorska, was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but fell to invading Italian forces on 24 May 1915. Twenty eight months later, after almost a dozen thwarted advances on the So?a Front (or the Izonzo Front, as the Italians called it), the Central Powers repelled the Italians and reclaimed Kobarid. When the First World War eventually came to an end, the whole So?a valley, like the Slovene city of Trst (Trieste) and surrounding Istria, was ceded to Italy.

The voices of the principal narrator, Julija, and her granddaughter, and some other witnesses, such as Ancka, are voices from the everyday life of the little white town in a bewitchingly beautiful valley: sometimes Karfreit, sometimes Caporetto but always at heart Kobarid.

1960 - narrated by ten year old Julija

From the corner of my mother's bedroom window, with its oak shutters, if I balance on the tips of my toes, I can just see down the square past the fountain to the church. This morning I watched as they took the body of Father Simon out of the church with its little tower, and the funeral procession went down in the direction of the Napoleon Bridge. I saw my friend Ancka put the flowers on the coffin. Ancka came here yesterday when I was quite ill, and showed me the Rowers she'd found. Most of the Rowers have gone now from the fields, but there's still just a few if you look, especially in the woods as you go up to that stream we call Kozjak.

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