Warnings about dwindling minority numbers heard in Cividale

Cividale, 6 January - Demographics was at the centre of the 59th Emigrant Day, the largest sociopolitical event organised by the Slovenian minority in the Udine area in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Primorski Dnevnik, the minority's newspaper, reported on Friday. The event was attended by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Matej Arčon.

Igor Jelen, a representative of the minority's umbrella organisation SSO, drew attention to the community in Udine's demographic decline and social fragmentation.

He also stressed the role of spreading the knowledge of standard Slovenian, which he sees as a way of also preserving local dialects.

Tatjana Rojc, Italian senator of Slovenian descent, said that Benečija, as the Slovenians call part of the Italian area populated by Slovenians, was yet to be discovered.

While its past was difficult, its social and cultural present is very much alive, she said, adding that the Natisone Valley needed support, a vision and a common political project of environment-friendly development that would attract people back to the area.

Minister for Slovenians Abroad Arčon stressed in his speech that cooperation was a way forward, according to the Trieste-based newspaper.

Arčon's office meanwhile said that the minister pointed to the unique nature of the cross-border area that spans various cultures and nations.

"My thanks, praise and tribute go to all Slovenian organisations that cultivate Slovenian culture and identity, as well as to Italian cities that understand the situation of Slovenians, that accept and are aware that this diversity enriches us."

He also highlighted the opportunities the European Capital of Culture project in Nova Gorica and Gorizia in 2025 will bring for this area.

He hopes that Italy and Friuli Venezia Giulia will support Slovenia's efforts to pay particular attention to the Udine area in the coming period.

Emigrant Day has been organised since 1964 every 6 January in Cividale, Čedad in Slovenian, by the minority's SSO and SKGZ umbrella organisations to cherish the memory of the people who were forced to leave their homes because of difficult living conditions.

The Office for Slovenians Abroad sees it as an opportunity to thoroughly reflect on the situation of the Slovenian minority in Benečija (the Canal, Natisone and Torre valleys, and Resia) and to exchange ideas and visions.

Following a one-year break due to the pandemic, the event was held in-person again this year, also attended by Slovenia's and Italy's officials.

© STA, 2023