The Erased - Information and documents

Assistance to the erased persons in regulating their legal status and awareness raising of the public on the erasure and the status of remedying the violations.


I was lucky

I was born in one of the former Yugoslav republics, in Croatia. I didn’t know that this fact would mark my whole life. I lived there until my thirteenth birthday, then I moved to Belgrade. In our place there were many Orthodox Christians and in schools the Catholics discriminated against them. That is why I decided to move to Belgrade and continue my schooling there. I completed secondary school in Belgrade; I’m a chemical laboratory technician. I looked for a job for quite a long time but unsuccessfully. So towards the end of the 1980s I came to Slovenia on the initiative of my brother and sister, who assured me that I could get a job here. In the beginning, I didn’t know anyone in Slovenia except my brother and sister, who soon after my arrival moved back to Croatia, so I had to find my way around.

I was lucky because my sister got me a job with a renowned factory which dealt in medicines. I arranged a residence permit. I lived in a rented apartment in Tabor, which I got through my workmate. I lived there for 18 years. These were the best years of my life. I lived an intense life then. I had friends, we went out and socialized. In my free time I sewed and did fortune-telling, but all of it for free at that time. However, things soon got tough for me. It all started when I lost my job. I had been promoted, so I went to Mikroelektronika. I had hardly begun to work there when Mikroelektronika went bankrupt. So in the second half of the 1980s I was on the street. I registered with the Employment Service and since there were no jobs, I had to find some other solution. I began to sew, and I was lucky again that a lady who owned a boutique noticed me in a shop. She offered me a job and, of course, I grabbed the opportunity. I gave her 30 percent of my salary – the rest was mine.

Two years later my son was born. I worked for that boutique right up till he was born and later. I worked all day to be able to save money for the one year of maternity leave. Since I was registered with the Employment Service, I was insured, so I was entitled to a three-month minimal maternity benefit. I didn’t have any problems during pregnancy, but the delivery was very complicated, since because of my age I was in the high risk group. Fortunately, my son didn’t have any health problems. Throughout that time I lived in Tabor and my life was normal, right up to the independence. And in 1991, when there was a ten-day war in Slovenia, I didn’t flee as many of my friends did, but I stayed in Ljubljana.

I had to submit quite a lot of documents. The fact that my son went to school in Slovenia throughout this time was not enough. They said that he could as well have lived with a foster family and that it was not sufficient proof that I lived in Slovenia. I had to bring two witnesses to testify that I had lived here for 34 years.

When Slovenia set the six-month deadline to apply for citizenship, I respected it. I went to Mačkova Street, where they required my birth certificate with a stamp. I didn’t have such a birth certificate. I even went to the factory where I worked before, but unfortunately they didn’t have it either. Later on I tried to arrange it through my brother’s wife, who is a judge in the town where I was born, but she could only send me a birth certificate stamped by Republika Srpska. At that time I still didn’t know what the consequences would be. I knew someone who was in the same situation, but he was granted citizenship. In my opinion, my application was rejected because I was a single mother, and on top of that unemployed. I found out that I and my son had been erased when I went to the social service office to fix some papers for kindergarten. Naturally, I was shocked. In addition to all the other difficulties caused by the erasure, from that time on I had to pay fees for the kindergarten in one lump sum.

Once when I went to the kindergarten to fetch my son I met a lady who worked at the Mačkova Street office. She told me that I mustn’t go there because they’d punch my documents. I remember that I had been receiving blue envelopes from them with the invitation to visit the office to arrange my status. This lady warned me against going there, because if I did they’d have invalidated the documents I still had. Needless to say, I was grateful for her warning. I was able to use those papers for some time more to settle various things. That is, until 1993, when the documents had to be replaced. I had some savings in the bank which I later got back when I obtained status. I earned a livelihood by sewing illegally; I worked for network marketing companies – in short, I found my way around it.

After some time things changed; the employment situation got tense, money was in ever shorter supply. Eventually, I and my son lost the apartment. I couldn’t pay the rent for that month, or to be accurate, I was one day late and when I came to the apartment there was a new lock, so I and my son were left in front of the closed door. This hurt me, my things were still in the apartment. When they realized that it was inhumane, they gave me one week to collect my things. There was nothing I could do but ask my friends if I and my son could stay with them for some time. They said it was no problem, but I couldn’t stay for long because they too had to move out. To make a bad situation worse, the owner was renovating the apartment and they were without water. So during the day we used our neighbor’s toilet, and during the night we peed in bags and threw them out the window. I stayed in this apartment for only 20 days, and then found an apartment in Šiška. I couldn’t register, of course, since I didn’t have status.

I lived there for four years and then had to move out. I moved to Štepanjsko naselje, and the story of Tabor repeated itself. The owner threw me out of the apartment, because I couldn’t pay the rent. During the time I lived in Štepanjsko, my life was anything but good. If I didn’t pay in time, the owner charged 50 marks more next time. He studied law and threatened me that he’d tip off the office for immigrants about me. This lasted for four years or so. When he increased the rent, I complained and didn’t want to pay. And he tipped off the police. The policemen came but didn’t do anything. I was lucky that they checked only the rent agreement and bills, but not my documents. Then one day the owner called and asked me to come to a nearby bar. His friend changed the lock in the meantime, and I and my son were again on the street.

A friend who lived in the center took me in. I lived there for about half a year. I paid for the roof over my head by cooking, washing and cleaning – in short, I was a servant. This friend was so mean that she did not even let me dry my hair with a hairdryer because it would use too much electricity. Heating was a rarity in that apartment. During that time I fell so seriously ill that I weighed only 52 kilos; I had a high fever and couldn’t get up. That situation lasted one month or so. I treated it myself, using echinacea, aspirin, syrups, tablets, herbs and the like.

During this period I heard from some acquaintances about a Serbian association which could arrange a Serbian passport for me and my son for six hundred German marks. In the late 1990s we indeed got passports, so I could relax a bit. This didn’t mean that I got citizenship, but I felt better, because at least I had a document if someone stopped me. Fortunately, I never had any problems with law enforcement bodies. I must admit that I was afraid to walk on the streets while I was without documents. I was always on the lookout, waiting for someone to stop me.

I found a new apartment in Kodeljevo, and the owner said that I’d be able to stay there at least five or six years. But I was unlucky again because his daughter got pregnant and I had to move out after six months. I moved to Fužine, where I still live, although in another apartment. I was not satisfied with the first one, because the owners extorted me, the washing machine was leaking, and the price was exorbitant. In this situation a gentleman from the apartment below came to me one day to complain that the washing machine was leaking and the water dripping into his apartment. I explained the situation and he offered me his apartment. I still live there and I’m very satisfied. This gentleman promised me that I and my son could stay there for 15 years, because the apartment is meant for his son who is only three years old now.

Later, on my friend’s initiative, I registered a company. The company soon folded because I never did business through it. I registered it to have at least some basis for residing in Slovenia. But although I owned this company, I couldn’t arrange a residence permit, not even a temporary one.

After the registering of this company, my friend, who was a journalist, took me to the Croatian embassy to try to fix these things. I had to take my Serbian passport. And one year later I got the letter that I could come to Croatia to arrange status, that is to say, that I could obtain a Croatian passport. I couldn’t do it for my son, because he was born in Slovenia, not in Croatia. And although I obtained a Croatian passport, I couldn’t use it to submit an application for Slovenian citizenship. Despite this, I was very happy, a new world opened up for me.

Around 2000 the situation began to change for the better for me and my son. I went to Croatia and obtained a certificate of nationality and a birth certificate, so all my documents were in order. When this was fixed, I arranged a permanent residence permit. I had to submit quite a lot of documents. The fact that my son went to school in Slovenia throughout this time was not enough. They said that he could as well have lived with a foster family and that it was not sufficient proof that I lived in Slovenia. I had to bring two witnesses to testify that I had lived here for 34 years. I can’t remember when exactly I had to submit the application for permanent residence, but I know that I had to wait two years for them to reply. My son didn’t have status either, until his father, with whom he resumed contact in 1996 or 1997 after a long time, arranged it for him. As I said before, my son went to school throughout this time. I paid fees for the kindergarten in one lump sum, and since I never unregistered him from the kindergarten, they automatically enrolled him in school. Nobody asked anything, and I didn’t mention that we were erased. After completing elementary school, he went to grammar school, and at that time his status was already fixed; he now studies economics; he is a good, hardworking boy. So far I haven’t applied for citizenship, and the problem is financial in nature, among other things. In order to apply for Slovenian citizenship, I’d have to pay for unregistering my Croatian citizenship, which would have cost me around 1000 marks at that time. I didn’t have that money.

Some time ago I registered a company that deals in weddings, fortune-telling and clairvoyance. The company is officially registered, and everything has been done as it should be done. I’m not yet an employee of this company because my revenues are not so high. I will become employed when the company starts to make bigger profits. At the moment I have too many expenses with the rent, for apartment and the company. The apartment is most important for me, and I don’t want to lose it. Both my son and I are registered with the company, but my son works through the student employment agency. My son is officially my partner, but I arranged it in such a way that he is not liable in any way for the company.

I have only 15 qualifying years for pension officially, since I worked a little bit before I came to Slovenia, although I work every day. I’m still several years away from retirement, although I could already be approaching it, since I am almost 60. But I will work as long as I can, because I like to work. I am aware that I will fall short of pension, since I saved nothing during this time, because I used all the money for the rent, which was not low.

My son was very upset because of our constant moving, and he was very ashamed. He developed an allergy and I think that the cause was psychological, that it was stress. He was upset because of the shortage of money. My relatives are well-off and could have helped us if there hadn’t been a war there. During the 1990s, the war was raging in the place where I was born, and everything that my parents, brother and sisters had was destroyed. My relatives fled to Serbia and now they are scattered around. One of my sisters lives in Norway, the other is in Austria, and the brother stayed in Serbia where he opened a factory.

I never had difficulties when signing rent agreements because the agreement didn’t have to be authenticated by a notary. Later on, when I obtained a residence permit, I wanted to sign these agreements officially and not only formally as until then. The first address I officially registered was in Kodeljevo.

Slovenia is a beautiful small country and I like it very much. It’s a pity that this black spot will remain part of its history. I don’t know how those people who made this mistake can sleep peacefully. Are they aware of how many people they pushed into an abyss from which they’ll never recover? Many lost their health, property and dignity. Many died or ended up in the street. Others were forced to do all sorts of things, some even descended into crime. I know some of them. Therefore, my only wish is that nobody in this world should suffer such injustices, regardless of his skin color or religion. I truly wish peace and dignity for every man.

Even while I was erased I helped other people and will continue to do so in the future, too. When I and my son lived in a bedsit, we took in a fourteen-year old boy and he lived with us for 4 months. It was while I was erased. When a man is in distress, he needs direct help and he needs it immediately. I was greatly impressed by Oprah, whom I respect very much. And in Slovenia, I have respect for Mario Galunič, who collects money for families in distress. I like to help and I’ll continue to do so. If I ever have enough money, I’ll not forget poor people.

This story describes only the tip of the iceberg. How much uncertainty there was, how many nights without sleep, tears, and suffering because of the lack of money, when I and my son ate only spaghetti, alone in this world, without a roof over our heads, without money, without insurance and without dignity. For 12 years.