Mariana Poznič is a lawyer and legal interpreter in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She lives with her husband Ariel Mazzières, who comes from Argentina, and her children Ignacio, Magdalena and Clara, who are high school and university students. The whole family is proud of their Slovenian origin and speaks the Slovenian language. Mariana is also actively involved in the Slovenian community and attends numerous activities.
You currently live in Argentina. Were you also born there or did you move? Can you briefly summarize your story?
I was born in Argentina and I have always lived there. As children, my parents arrived there with their families. They had to leave their homeland after World War II due to their anti-communist political views – they had to move abroad in order to remain free. Argentina accepted them and gave them an opportunity to start anew and to create their new home in peace and freedom. Despite that, they never forgot their homeland which is why they quickly started putting their efforts into establishing common Slovenian institutions, where – still today – many activities take place: from Saturday Slovenian language classes and choirs to theater and folklore groups. These institutions also offer room for various sports activities and social gatherings. The people who participated in the setting-up of the Slovenian community wanted to preserve and pass on to their descendants not only the love for Slovenia but also the faith and the convictions on the basis of which they had to leave their homeland in the first place. Almost seventy years later, these institutions are still alive and kicking.
When was the first time you visited Slovenia and how do you feel here?
I first came here when I was twenty-five years old, just a couple of months before Slovenia became an independent country. I like visiting and I feel at home whenever I am here. My brother and sister, who both moved to Slovenia before 1991, live here, as do many of my friends. Some of them, I have known since my childhood and they later on decided to move to Slovenia. Others, I have made during my many visits. I love the Slovenian nature but I am also fond of the Slovenian cities. I admire how clean and orderly Slovenian roads are – it is something you won’t find in Argentina.
Are you in contact with other Slovenians living in Argentina? How are you connected with one another? Do you hang out, meet in any clubs, or organize any activities and gatherings?
Slovenians have been coming to Argentina since the 18th century. A large group of immigrants moved there around 1930 and the last ones came after World War II. The lively and active Slovenian community in Argentina today includes some of these last immigrants. Most of us live in Buenos Aires, a city with 15 million inhabitants. There, we have six Slovenian societies and the so-called Slovenian House (Slovenski dom). These establishments hold Saturday Slovenian language classes, choirs, theatre groups, sports activities and folklore groups. We also have holy masses in the Slovenian language. But due to the lack of new immigrants, our community is slowly but steadily decreasing in size. Not all the descendants of Slovenian immigrants are ready to pursue the work required in order to preserve the language and customs brought here by their ancestors. The future of the community is, today, a big challenge for us. We are only encouraged by the contact with our homeland.
I have been actively involved in the Slovenian community in Argentina. I work at the Slomšek Society (Slomškov dom) in Ramos Mejia, and I am also a member of the committee at our umbrella organization United Slovenia (Zedinjena Slovenija) that brings together all the Slovenian societies and associations. I like singing and it is something I also do in the Ex Corde choir. The work done in the community is pro bono and is executed in the time after our day jobs and at weekends. Each week, we organize at least one celebration, event or gathering and almost all of them call for some form of cultural activity. It is definitely hard work but we do it happily.
How often do you come back to Slovenia and what do you normally do here? Do you have any favorite places you like to visit and activities you take part in?
I visit Slovenia, let’s say, every two years. Whenever it is possible. Mostly I come with my family but I have also done it alone. When I arrive, I visit my relatives and Friends and that alone can take a whole month! I like discovering new places and Slovenia is full of wondrous hidden places full of history and natural beauty. And since Slovenia is located so close to the center of Europe, it is also a perfect starting point for visiting other countries. My eldest son and daughter have both visited Slovenia with the RAST Group, following the graduation from our Slovenian language high school course. After 15 years of learning in the Slovenian language course, graduates visit Slovenia. They attend the youth summer school organized by the Center for Slovene as a Second and Foreign Language; they perform at the Welcome Home gathering; and visit the most beautiful Slovenian points of interest. This trip has been organized each consecutive year for more than two decades. Since it is of grave importance for the preservation of the Slovenian consciousness among our youth, the Republic of Slovenia has been aiding our efforts.
How often do you get Slovenian visitors and where do you take them?
In Argentina, I am mostly visited by my relatives and Friends who have moved from Argentina to Slovenia. Then, of course, there are other Slovenians who are interested in the Argentine Slovenian community and want to get to know it better. We welcome them happily and love showing them around our “Slovenian” lifestyle in Argentina and Buenos Aires in general. Every Slovenian is eager to see the world-famous Argentine landmarks, e.g. the Iguazu Waterfalls, the Northern Desert, the glaciers in the south, and Bariloche … but those places are all at least 1,500 kilometers away from Buenos Aires.
You are currently visiting Slovenia. What have you been up to and what have you seen?
This year, I came for a short two-week visit and this time, I came alone, without my family. The primary purpose of my visit was to attend the meeting of the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenians Abroad, where I represented the Argentine Slovenians. Slovenians from all over the world came to discuss the problems and conclusions that we wish to communicate to the Government. As we all agreed, the meeting was very positive. This time, my visit was more business-oriented but I am using all of my free time to call on my friends and relatives.
Recently, Slovenia celebrated 25 years of Independence. How does that make you feel? How did you celebrate? Do you celebrate Slovenian holidays?
The 25th anniversary of the independent Republic of Slovenia was, in Argentina, celebrated with various celebrations. The biggest celebration was held on 25 June in Buenos Aires. We started the day with a thanksgiving mass at the Buenos Aires Cathedral. The celebration was then moved to the center of the city, the famous Avenida de Mayo, which was closed for traffic due to our celebration. Nine music and folklore groups consisting of Argentine-Slovenian artists performed on the main stage, while later on the celebration was graced by the performances of multiple choirs with more than 100 singers (I was among them aswell) and also a quite big children’s choir with pupils attending the schools in the area. Among the performers from Slovenia were two musicians, Janez Dovč and Boštjan Gombač, and a dancer of the Buenos Aires tango. Waving atop the big stage was a Slovenian flag and the Slovenian anthem could be heard far away. In total, there were more than 300 performers and the celebration that lasted a whole day was attended by thousands of visitors, whom we offered our Slovenian delicacies, unique Slovenian products and the information about our ancestors. The event was organized by the members of the Slovenian community in Argentina with the help of United Slovenia, the Slovenian Embassy and the Municipality of Buenos Aires.