I was very successful as a young man. I was born on 25 February 1971 in Dolenja vas pri Ribnici. Since I completed elementary school with excellent grades, I enrolled in the flying school in Mostar. My biggest wish was to become a pilot. I adore everything that flies.
To be admitted to the Mostar school, I had to have an official recommendation from the municipality of Ribnica, and it also arranged the required medical checks. On completing these check ups, I was admitted to the flying school in Mostar in 1985. I was fourteen then and that was the first time I was separated from my parents.
Although it was hard for me to live apart from my parents, I successfully completed school and so I was one step closer to my dreams. The door to the flying academy in Zadar was wide open for me. I enrolled in 1989, completed it in 1993 and obtained a pilot’s diploma.
During the 1990s I didn’t follow politics much. In early May of 1991 there was a meeting organized in the military grammar school Franc Rozman Stane in Ljubljana for all student pilots of the Zadar academy coming from Slovenia. I learnt about this meeting only after the Labor Day holiday, when I came back from Ribnica to Zadar, and it was my schoolmates who told me about it and asked why I had not attended. I asked them what the meeting was about. They said that their municipalities notified everyone individually and that students in all years came, only I was missing. It was said at the meeting that certain events in Slovenia were bound to happen soon and that we “had to be ready” for it and had to “choose the right way.” As future pilots, we were an interesting group for the republic of Slovenia. I was truly hurt because nobody from my municipality notified me about it. I wondered why not. The only answer I could find was that it was because of my surname, which was not a Slovenian one but ended in “ić.” At that time I became convinced that I was truly a “ćifur.”
After the declaration of independence, I arrived in Slovenia in August 1991 without a passport. I travelled on the bus from Sarajevo to Ljubljana, passing through seven military barricades, and the only document I had was a student card from the Zadar academy. At home, in Ribnica, my closest friends with whom I had grown up branded me an enemy. Almost an occupier! I wanted to explain to them that I was only a student, but unfortunately it was impossible to persuade them.
The clerk first tried to convince me that it was me who unregistered from there. I know very well that I didn’t, so I insisted that she check it. She then pulled out my file where next to my name there was added “foreigner” in pencil. Then this clerk dressed me down and insinuated that I had come back only for the compensation.
On completing the 2nd year, I had to continue with my studies in Mostar, where I had practical training to be a helicopter pilot. I travelled there via Hungary, with the SFRY passport, issued in September 1991 in Ribnica within an unbelievable five minutes. My decision to return to the academy was crucially determined by the events I described. I felt left to my own devices. From that moment on, my life path turned in a direction I truly didn’t want! Therefore I feel that I was erased not on 26 February 1992, which would have been a greeting card for my birthday, but as early as May 1991.
Since military operations had begun in Bosnia too, the department for helicopter pilots was moved to Niš. I had almost completed the practical training there when the military commanders began to make things difficult for me because I was supposedly a Slovenian citizen. I was forbidden to fly, and the explanation was that the federal army could not educate foreigners. It is interesting that this happened in June 1993, one month before the end of my studies, when I already had 197 hours of flying out of the required 200-hours quota. The diploma was important for me, but I couldn’t obtain it without practical training. So I asked for one week to arrange citizenship of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I travelled to Vrulja in the municipality of Pljevlja, the birthplace of my father in Montenegro. The clerk in the register office found my father’s citizenship certificate, and based on it he issued a certificate of citizenship of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in my name.
I returned to the academy in Niš with the certificate, hoping that this would be the end of bureaucratic hurdles. But there were further obstacles, and this time they were obviously ideological in nature. There was a suspicion that I’d return to Slovenia with the helicopter pilot diploma, which for the army would have meant money wasted on my schooling. My mates at the academy also believed that I’d return to Slovenia with my pilot diploma once I completed the academy. And indeed I didn’t do much to conceal my wish to return home.
The education of military pilots is free and very expensive for the state. Therefore, on completing schooling, before receiving a diploma, a graduate must sign a contract stipulating certain years of work for the army. At that time, this period was 16 years (twice the number of years of schooling), and during this period you were not allowed to work in civilian employment, or, if you wished to do so, you had to reimburse the entire cost of the eight years of schooling. Five generals convened to decide on my case, and they voted on whether or not to give me a diploma. The result was “no,” 3 to 2. Only after one of the generals intervened in my favor (it was Blagoje Grahovac, at that time the head of the Flying Academy and now the consultant to the President of the Parliament of Montenegro) and warranted that I’d not return to Slovenia, I managed to obtain the diploma. So I became officially a helicopter pilot in time, I obtained the diploma. Immediately after that I was appointed as lecturer-instructor at the academy in Podgorica, since in 1993, the training for plane and helicopter pilots was moved to Podgorica.
But I secretly hoped that soon after completing the academy I’d return to Slovenia. I missed Slovenia, I was born there. It’s also what I wanted to do when I became a lecturer-instructor in Podgorica. I persuaded my retired father, who after thirty years of life in Slovenia wanted to return to Montenegro, not to sell the apartment in Slovenia, because I intended to return as soon as possible. Only when all the possibilities for my returning to Ribnica evaporated – among other things, I had a lot of problems with documents, since I didn’t have an ID card or passport until September 1995 – my father eventually sold the apartment and moved to Montenegro in 1998. If there had existed the slightest possibility of my returning, my father would never have sold that apartment. There was another reason, too, why I wished to return to Slovenia. I had a girlfriend of many years in Ribnica, and I wanted to marry her. She visited me several times in Montenegro, but our relationship died out in 1995 because we couldn’t marry and live together. I wanted to return to Slovenia by all means, so I didn’t want her to come to Montenegro and live here with me. After the erasure I first went to Slovenia in late December 1995, on a time-limited visa, which I obtained based on an invitation letter from my parents.
Since then, I’ve visited Slovenia around fifteen times. On five occasions or so I had problems with obtaining an entry visa, and once the Slovenian embassy rejected my visa application; that was when I wanted to attend the twentieth anniversary of graduation, to which I was twice invited in writing by my schoolmates from elementary school. My other trips were facilitated, thanks to the Schengen visa, which I obtained when I switched to civil aviation in 2007. At the moment, I work for the private company Vektra Aviation as an AW-139 helicopter pilot.
I enjoy going to Slovenia, it’s my country and I feel at home there, although my parents have moved. In 2002 I obtained a balloon pilot’s license in Slovenia from the Administration for Civil Aviation of the RS, and bought my first balloon for four persons from the Association for Free Flying in Kostanjevica na Krki. Balloon flying is my hobby, and I now endeavor to promote this sport in Montenegro. I was the main organizer of the third international balloon festival, with most participants coming from Slovenia.
I got married in 1998, but my marriage didn’t last long; it ended in 2004. I have a son, he is nine. Seven years ago I went to the administrative unit in Ribnica to ask about my status and the possibility of regaining it. But this inquiry was not a pleasant experience, I don’t like to remember it. The clerk first tried to convince me that it was me who unregistered from there. I know very well that I didn’t, so I insisted that she check it. She then pulled out my file where next to my name there was added “foreigner” in pencil. Then this clerk dressed me down and insinuated that I had come back only for the compensation.
I couldn’t believe what she was saying. I called the chief, Janez Henigman, who was very kind, since he knew my parents. He advised me to check the Aliens Act, and he also gave me the form you need to fill out to obtain status in Slovenia as a foreigner. I don’t know why the clerk couldn’t have done that. Do you really need to know someone’s parents to be kind to him?