Life and Times of Magdalena Peršič (known as Elka ) and Ivan Mesar
told by Magdalena Hribernik ( their daughter)
My mother was born in Pobrezje Maribor on the 25th May 1931 named Elka Grabner. When mum went to get baptized the parish priest said, that the name Elka was not a real Christian name and so as the church was St. Magdalena she too will be named, Magdalena. Not being present at the Christening, apparently my grandmother Matilda was furious with this decision.
So to her family and anyone who met my mother she was Elka. For legal purposes she was of course Magdalena Grabner.
She grew up in Haloze in “Štajerska” with her younger brother Ivan. I believe her other brother Franc left home and joined a monastery. In Haloze, my grandmother had property and a house. My grandmother, Matilda died when my mother was nine years old from a heart attack after hearing of her brother’s unexpected arrival from the “front”. He was known as uncle Karl and had been in the king’s guard.
Soon after, my mother Elka, got a stepmother, who was the embodiment of all the nasty things you hear about stepmothers. In fact so bad was life that mother’s little brother aged six was not allowed to sleep in the house, he had to sleep with the cows in the barn. My mother was rented out to neighbours at the cemetery to help dig holes, apparently the people there liked her and wanted to adopt her but her stepmother didn’t want to miss out on any allowance.
She was thrown out and left home, at the age of 16 to go to Ljubljana. Here she stayed with her cousin who found her a room and studied to be a salesperson. The course was for two years, but her high marks enabled her to finish in just a year. She loved living in Ljubljana where she said she saved her studentship money and preferred not to eat at times or use heating, so she could go to the opera. Escapism into this world was a wonderful release.
On completion she got a job in Radeče where upon she encountered my dad Ivan Mesar. She had been in a long distant relationship with a sailor but he was soon forgotten when she met dad. After some time she became Magdalena Mesar or Elka Mesar to her friends.
Ivan was born on the 22 June 1926, in Saint Janž, Trebnje. He grew up in a farming community and his large family had six horses. He became a clerk in Radeče and had a family of eleven brothers and sisters in the same area.
As dad lived in Radeče number 87 and mum resided at Radeče number 1, they got to see a lot of each other and married in 1951 in a civil wedding there. His father Rudolf was a witness.
The Germans had conscripted my father, Ivan, during the war, at the age of eighteen. He became a despatch rider who delivered messages on the front line between posts on a motorbike. He had been wounded and had shrapnel in his back and legs, which remained in his body all his life.
Escape and travel to Australia
They planned to escape illegally over to neighbouring Austria, in the dead of night, taking only a suitcase with them which they did.
As they escaped through a forest, they could hear shots, and as they were not the only ones there, they saw bodies fall as they made their escape.
Only to be captured on the other side by the English who encamped them for a while. Dad was interrogated to see if he had any information and was released with mum with a few days’ supply of cigarettes for later. Compelled to seek emigration they headed for Australia where they could make a new beginning.
What I think dad missed the most over the latter years was his family, which he never saw again. Having already completed over twenty walking hikes to the top of Triglav with his friends, I’m sure he also missed his mountain walks. Hiking is a very popular past time in Slovenia. One might go as far to call it a national passion and none more so than in the Gorenjska region, home to the Karavanke and Julian Alps. For dad’s fortieth birthday mum gave him a huge painting done by Mr. Benko, a Slovenian artist residing in Moonee Ponds. The painting was of the surrounding mountains around Radeče which now proudly hangs in my hallway. Mum and dad reminisced of the paths that lead alongside streams, which lead up to the mountains, which could be pretty slippery and treacherous. Then emerging to meet a path along a sunny balcony to open at a rewarding view of mountains and valleys.
Stari ata – the Grandfather
Slovenian culture work
In 1978 Mum passed away after having flu like symptoms, declared a doctor on his visit. She died alone. I was in Europe with my brother and husband.
I am very proud of both my parents and their hard work and achievements. I think I had the most loving, respectful family you could have and the perfect childhood thanks to them. They worked hard, lived life to the best of their ability, loved their children and gave us all they had.
My father died a week before his sixtieth birthday in 1986, from a heart attack. He too is buried in Keilor cemetery.
I’m so lucky to have had such wonderful Slovenian Australian parents and loving brother.
…. And I still miss them every day.