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President Pahor and Polish President Duda unveiled a memorial dedicated to Slovenians killed during World War I in Gorlice: “The issue of war or peace is a fundamental political issue.”

Gorlice, 23. 5. 2018 | press release, speech

At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, participated in an unveiling ceremony in the town of Gorlice of a memorial dedicated to the Slovenians killed there during World War I. On this occasion, Presidents Pahor and Duda also held talks, during which they discussed cooperation between the countries and in the general region.

In his speech at the unveiling of the memorial, President Pahor thanked the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, for help erecting the memorial, and he emphasised that efforts to achieve peace were our debt to the memory of the victims of all wars and a responsibility to future generations, so politicians must primarily focus on the peaceful resolution of conflicts. “Peace is not self-evident, and efforts for peace must be made daily,” said the President.

Polish President Duda thanked President Pahor for attending a few months earlier the unveiling of a memorial to the Polish soldiers who fought on the Isonzo Front. “Slovenian and Polish soldiers lost their lives here and there. At the time, they were not even fighting under their own flags. Since then, great political goals have been achieved and the freedom of our nations was born from the blood of our soldiers, so today we would like to show them great honour and gratitude,” said the Polish President at the unveiling.

The ceremony ended with the lament Domovini (To My Homeland) by Benjamin Ipavec, by way of which the memory of Slovenian soldiers who died on foreign soil was honoured.

The unveiling of the memorial in Gorlice was a part of the observance of the 100th anniversary of World War I. In Gorlice, one of the two memorials in memory of the Slovenian soldiers who died on the Galician Front in World War I was erected. At his recent state visit to Ukraine, President Pahor and Ukrainian President Poroshenko also announced the unveiling of another memorial to be erected in Lviv in Ukraine. With these two memorials, Slovenia will honour the memory of more than 30,000 Slovenians killed in this part of the Eastern Front during the bloody battles of World War I. They were designed by Janez Suhadolc and hand-made by Slovenian stonemasons, who carved the memorials in tonalite from Oplotnica in the Pohorje Hills (granite).

President Pahor's speech (spoken word applies):

"Dear Mr President,

ladies and gentlemen.

War and peace. In times of war, people dream of peace every day. In times of peace, we just forget to even think about it.

We assume that peace is the natural state of affairs. It is natural, but certainly not self-evident. There is a big difference. The difference between laughter and tears, hope and fear, pleasure and suffering – it’s a difference between life and death.

Peace is not self-evident. We must strive for it every single day. By saying no to hate speech, by respecting each other, by seeking peaceful ways and methods of resolving all problems, and by not excluding anyone.

Peace is not merely a time without war. Four years ago in Sveta Gora nad Novo Gorico, the former Italian president, my friend Giorgio Napolitano, shared an important thought as we commemorated the 100th anniversary of World War I. “Peace is not just the absence of war; peace is based on much closer ties of friendship, cooperation, and solidarity.”

With this memorial, we remember the victims of the Great War. It was so great that nothing could stop it; it went beyond every border, every atrocity, beyond every morality and humanity. It took young men as far from home as Gorlice is from the Adriatic Sea. These were killing fields for our young men; vast expanses of grief of their mothers. The most Slovenian soldiers were killed not at the Isonzo or Tyrol Front, but far away, in Galicia.

When the Great War began, no one suspected that this would be a conflict of global proportions. After the devastation that it caused, it was unrivalled in human history. The wounds that it inflicted on people were so deep that it seemed that only a very long period of peace could heal them.

When it ended, no one wanted to believe that this was only the first war of its kind. No one could imagine that a new one, the second, would follow soon. We started counting them, as if it made us aware that wars simply do follow one another. That they repeat. That they are unavoidable.

However, war can be avoided. It has to be. The belief in this is of fundamental importance for resolving conflicts peacefully. The issue of war or peace is a fundamental political issue. It is the subject of choice and decision.

When war begins, it does not begin because it was unavoidable. It begins because someone who could prevent it decides otherwise. Because someone’s words die down, the muses are silenced, and hope is dissipated.

Peace is a time that must be taken advantage of by having a firm belief in it. We must show with our actions, judgments, and decisions that none of the issues that we face in human and social development question peace itself. This is the debt that we owe to the victims of all wars. It is the responsibility that we have to their memory and to the future of new generations.

Wars do not solve problems. All wars create new problems. World wars create global problems. The First World War was the best proof of this tragic fact. It was not necessary; it was not inevitable. It was the decision of political and military leaders. They were incorrectly convinced that the war would solve all problems and that it would be short. None of that was true.

The long four years of bloodshed did not solve any problems. New problems appeared, so that a new world war happened merely twenty years later. The seventy years of peace that we have experienced since World War II has been the longest period of peace in European history. This is an achievement that should be celebrated. It cautions us. It is an inspiration. It proves that peace is always possible, but never self-evident. Peace must not be driven by the terrible memory of war, but by wonderful dreams of a happy future for our children. All of our children.

Dear Mr President,

dear friend, Andrzej Duda,

please accept the expression of our great gratitude to the Polish authorities for offering such support with erecting this memorial.

It was a great honour to me, my homeland, and our nation that you attended the unveiling ceremony of this memorial.

It means a lot to us. Thank you."

Predsednik Pahor s poljskim predsednikom Dudo odkril spomenik Slovencem, padlim med 1. svetovno vojno v Gorlicah: "Vprašanje vojne ali miru je temeljno politično vprašanje."
Photo: UPRS

Predsednik Pahor in predsednik Duda
Photo: UPRS