La version française est en cours de traduction. Merci de votre patience.
Shortly after we cross the border into Croatia, we look at our cool moto-specific maps and choose a route that seems way interesting. Narrow and twisty. No towns. Forests. Perfect! We have no particular itinerary in mind, no place that we have to be, nobody waiting AND we are no longer in the Schengen area so we can finally let go of that constant worry in the back of our minds.
After a little while, in the distance on the right I see a village. It’s calling me. I ignore it when I see the arrow pointing in that direction. Just because we don’t have a schedule doesn’t mean we can stop every fifteen minutes, my Swiss side objects. But when another dirt road on my right comes along, my bike takes the turn and ten meters later stops. In front of me a memorial. A memorial here? In the middle of nowhere? Curious, I get off to investigate.
May It Never Happen Again: Male Mune, May 5 1944.
I know I’m in for something traumatic. I read on. In order to prevent Male Mune residents from helping or joining the partisan troops, on May 5 1944 the Nazis gave people twenty minutes to gather their things and leave, and then burnt the town. During the period of October 1943 til August 1944, a total of 45 villagers from Male Mune were taken to the labor and concentration camps in the area of today’s Austria and Germany.
According to records of the parish chronicle, Male Mune was the most beautiful village in the parish. During the early 1940’s there were 490 residents living in 100 households. At that time there were three stores, a bakery, a tavern and a carpentry trade.
You sure can’t tell that from seeing the village today. We ride through it. It is frozen in time. It’s late afternoon but the clock tower still says 9. Seeing the grass growing through it, it hasn’t moved in years. Possibly in 72 years. What the villagers who came back after the war did is build new homes but leave the destroyed ones untouched. So nobody will forget. Ever. They live that moment of history every day.
I have a need to stay quiet, take it in. I decide to sit and paint. Every person I see looks more through me than at me. They barely respond to my greeting. A grunt. I am wondering who the memorial is for: themselves or for an occasional outsider? At first I took it as an invitation. Now I am not so sure it was. I feel like a voyeur. It is very awkward. This is a tiny, out of the way road. I can’t imagine too many “tourists” driving by, let alone stopping and driving through.
As I am standing besides the road, painting, I am enveloped by silence. Heaviness. The air is made of darkness. I am asking myself: are you making this up because you KNOW what happened or is it real? I will never know.
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