The Society of Native Gottschee Settlers
On the main road through the village of Občice in the municipality of Dolenjske Toplice stands a restored, blue-painted old farmhouse. Since 1998, it has housed the Society of Native Gottschee Settlers. The society was founded in 1992 and promotes and preserves the cultural heritage of the Gottschee region. The main activities of the society include a folklore and singing group, the publication of the newspaper “Bakh – Pot“, German and Gottscheer language courses and children’s workshops. In 2014, an orchard was planted next to the main building, where old varieties of fruit trees typical of the Gottschee region are preserved. The association also actively participates in the Days of Gottschee Culture, an event starting in 2015 alternately organised by the municipalities of Kočevje, Dolenjske Toplice and Semič.
The redesign of the ethnological collection of the Gottscheers in Občice
Co-workers in the arrangement of the Gottscheer collection
Within the framework of the so-called student project for sustainable development “Ethnological collection of Gottscheers and the walking path among old varieties of fruit trees“, funded by the University of Ljubljana, the already existing ethnological collection and the orchard of old varieties of trees were reinterpreted and redesigned. The students who participated in the project, which started in June 2023 and ended in September 2023, were Jana Rajh Plohl, Pika Pipan, Gaja Slapnik, Klara Vrabl and Kaja Večko. The project leader was Dr. Anja Moric from the Department of Ethology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. Other co-mentors of the project were Dr. Tanja Žigon, Department of Translation at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, and Primož Primec, the President of the Society of Native Gottschee Settlers. Urška Gruden from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana was responsible for the administration and coordination of the project.
The process of setting up the ethnological collection of the Gottscheers
In the attic of the main house, the outbuilding and under the adjacent hayrack, we have set up a collection of objects used by the Gottscheers from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century in their work in the fields and in their daily lives, such as dormouse traps, scales, agricultural tools, beehives, etc. In addition, two models of Gottschee villages made by forester Anton Prelesnik are exhibited in the outbuilding.
The students conducted several interviews with Gottscheers from Občice and the surrounding area and, as far as possible, recorded Gottscheer expressions for the exhibited objects. Nowadays only a few can speak the Gottscheer language. In the interviews we inquired about their daily life, customs, beekeeping, fruit trees, etc. Through the conversations with the locals, we learned firsthand how the people of the Gottschee region used to live. Sometimes the conversation also revolved around the differences between generations. In one of the interviews with Johannes Hans Jaklitsch, the topic of pasture farming came up. We compared how differently young people grow up today. Mr. Jaklitsch regretted that the games that children used to play in the pasture are no longer played by the younger generations.
During the project, two students from the Department of Translation translated a section from the book “Abbildung und Beschreibung der südwest- und östlichen Wenden, Illyrer und Slaven” by Balthasar Hacquet. In it Hacquet described the Gottscheers; therefore the texts were also used for the exhibition panels. This was the first time we were confronted with a 19th century German text that had to be translated into Slovenian. Although we updated the text for today’s readers, we tried to keep the original writing style, as we felt it was important to preserve it. Later, all the texts on the exhibition panels, which were originally written in Slovenian, were translated into English and German. In addition, the project produced an information brochure for visitors about the ethnological collection and the orchard, also in three languages.
Anyone interested in the historical and ethnological features of the Kočevje region, such as: dormouse hunting, peddling, waggon driving, fruit growing, etc., is invited to visit the renovated ethnological collection and the orchard with old fruit varieties of the Association of Gottscheer Native Settlers, which was opened on September 18, 2023.
The authors of the article, Klara Vrabl and Kaja Večko, are students at the Department of Translation Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana.
In September 2023, 130 years have passed since the arrival of the railway in Kočevje. Read more.