A Foreigner in Your Own Home
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“Erased”. Photo courtesy of HBO Europe
Art + Stories, Experiences

A Foreigner in Your Own Home

The Story of Slovenia’s Erased
Miha Mazzini
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time 12 minutes

Just before Christmas 1997, T.D. drove to Austria for some shopping. With his pregnant wife and two daughters, they wished to decorate their home. The border police discovered that his documents were not valid. T.D. was taken to court, where the judge ordered his deportation. The police took him home to pick up some clothes and say goodbye to his family. He was deported to Croatia.

Almost six years earlier, on 26th February 1992, the government of Slovenia had erased 25,671 people (1.3% of the population) from its register of permanent residents. In doing so, these people had all their citizens’, economic, medical and social rights taken from them. The following day they woke up as illegal immigrants, living illegally in the country many of them had called home for most of their lives. None of them were informed about this. Their lives didn’t change until the time they needed to renew their expired documents, were stopped by the police for speeding, or needed to visit a doctor.

1992 and the erasure

The break-up of Yugoslavia was long and painful. President Tito died in 1980 and in the decade that followed, nationalist ideologies were strengthened. Most obviously in Serbia with Milošević, but also in other parts of Yugoslavia, including Slovenia. In 1991, Slovenia declared its independence and gave foreigners half a year to apply for citizenship. These ‘foreigners’ were never informed of this in writing and, in fact, nobody knew for sure who was classed as a foreigner – it was never entirely clear what the actual criteria for ‘foreigners’ were. Most of them had been born outside Slovenia, in other parts of the former Yugoslavia. If you were born in Vienna, however, you were not classified as a ‘foreigner’.

No such exemption existed

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You Don’t Exist
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Ljubljana reflections. Photo by Sean Dodson/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Art + Stories, Fiction

You Don’t Exist

An Excerpt from the Novel “Erased”
Miha Mazzini

On 26th February 1992, following its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia and victory in the Ten-Day War, the government of newly-independent Slovenia erased 25,671 people (1.3% of the population) from its register of permanent residents. Overnight, these people – many of whom had lived in Slovenia since early childhood and had Slovenian parents and/or children – lost all of their citizens’ rights, waking up as illegal immigrants in their homeland. This decision by the government was poorly communicated; many of the so-called ‘erased’ had no idea about their new status until they came into contact with the state via a hospital appointment or a border check on a trip to a neighbouring country.

It is perhaps surprising, then, that there has been little public debate in Slovenia about the erased. This is what spurred Miha Mazzini to first write the novel Izbrisana [Erased] about the topic in 2014, followed by a feature film of the same name in 2018. In this excerpt from the as-of-yet unpublished English-language translation of the novel, we meet two of its protagonists – Nikola and Zala – as they have an unpleasant surprise when trying to return to Nikola’s apartment in Ljubljana.

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