Burying the Dead

An oath by Slovene collaboationist Home Guard on Ljubljana Stadium, 20 April 1944 (source)

Slovenes like to divide ourselves along various lines. Political, geographical, alocholical, etc… One is therefore not surprised when one finds out that Slovenia sports its own version of the old Jewish proverb. Show me three Slovenes and I’ll show you five political parties. Most of these divisions are rather benign and can be used as a sightseeing attracion, much like hooligan clashes with the police.

However, Slovenes seem to be unable to bury our dead. As avid readers of the more serious posts of this blog know, Slovenia and Slovenes have had a rather nasty World War II. Being earmarked for extinction (ethnical clensing is the modern phrase, I believe), divided between three occupying countries and split internally between guerilla resistance and collaborators.

It all brought plenty of pain and suffering to everyone and even today, more than sixty years later, there are still innocent people who have suffered greatly during the war. Previous (socialist) regime maintanied the hollines of the war and held a position that only those who were on the right side were victims, whereas others were not to be compensated for their trauma. This left our plenty of innocent civilians who were hurt by Partisan or Allied forces (either through mistake or malice), people who were forcefully drafted into German military (and usually sent to the Russian front) or who were mistreated because some of their relatives were colaborators.

It is a shame the previous regime failed to compensate them and it is indeed an ever bigger shame that in sixteen years of democracy this country hasn’t been able to do that. But why is that? Well, because it goes down to the very core of what Slovenia is about and what our values are.

With emergence of democracy emerged (or “re-emerged”, rather) a different vision of Slovenia. A vision held by those, who were defeated in WWII. A vision of a Catholic, anti-communist Slovenia, which has to claim its rightful place among the ancient European nation, a place which it was denied by the success of the Communist revolution and the social upheaval which followed the end of WWII.

It soon became clear, however, that the not-so-secret agenda behind it had called for nothing less than equaling those who have actively fought against the occupator with those who actively fought with the occupator. And it all came down to a bill, which in its present form equals both sides, allowing everyone who was involved to be declared a victim of war. This bill was introduced several times already, but it never made it through the parliament. It always stirred too much emotion, and that was not a good thing for a country that was on the fast track to join the EU and NATO. So it was swept under the rug for as long as possible. Until yesterday, when the right-wing parties re-introduced the bill in the parliament.

My position on the issue is well known and you may freely call me biased. The Bible sayeth: “Judge not, lest ye be judged!“. But I’m more than willing to be judged (at least on this issue) and I say “judge on, oh Pengovsky!

Namely (and I will say this time and again, if necesary): There was no middle ground during WWII. Not in Slovenia. One had to chose sides. Some people chose unvisely and were ready to sacrifise their own nation to a “lesser evil”. Today, perhaps we understand their reasons better. Surely there must be place for forgiveness in our hearts and minds. Surely the choices of the losing side do not justify the attrocities that were commited when the war had already ended. But never – never – must a fight for a nation’s survival be equaled with condoning a nation’s destruction.

Yes, it is time for us, Slovenes, to finally bury our dead. But those who died for us to survive must be respected, and those who died in vain must be mourned and forgiven. But never glorified. Their deeds are deeds of us all. And their deaths only show that we must make moral choices every day and that we are not inherently right in making them.

Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons

After missing out for a week, here he is, bigger and better… The one and only…. Dr. ARF! I must admit that I’ve been looking forward to this post for some time now, because… well, there’s juicy scandals and then there are Belgian juicy scandals. Enjoy! I know I have


What with our good P reporting on Slovene scandals (just recently about the vrtički) (pengovsky’s note: At last, someone noticed!), I felt I couldn’t stay behind and give you the scoop on a choice of happenings over here that politicians, industry fat cats and other good law abiding citizens do that they don’t want to see the light of day. Let’s roll…

Willy Claes, former NATO chief who had to resign because of Agusta scandal

The Pink Ballets

In the early eighties, in the wake of the attacks of the so- called Bende van Nijvel (The Nivelles Gang), police detectives and journalists – I forgot who got there first – discovered a network of high society people, ministers, police chiefs, army top brass, judges, magistrates and captains of industry mingling with top gangsters. They all got together in secret elaborate mass orgies with a plethora of hookers (allegedly minors too), wine and dine. Deals were made there, people were blackmailed there, indiscretions on a large scale were swept under rugs… You name it, it happened. It showed that there was a small yet powerful network that had each other’s backs when it came to running the country and running its businesses. Suffice it to say, it created an outrage within the public and was never heard of since.

Westland New Post and the Shooting Clubs

Also in the wake of the Gang of Nivelles reign of terror (which was from ’82 to ’86, in which they attacked supermarkets, emptied cash registers and killed customers in military commando style, highly organized), it became apparent there was an extreme right undercurrent running through the state police and the army. They all came together under the banner of Westland New Post, an extremist right wing paramilitary movement, which organized shooting clubs. Two State Police officers, Madani Bouhouche and Robert ?Bob’ Beijer and a Walloon baron, Benoît de Bonvoisin, were members and were also suspected to have ties with the Nivelles Gang. Bouhouche and Beijer deserve their own chapter of scandals, really. They were also involved in killing weapons supplier Juan Mendez and the daylight robbery of a shipment of diamonds from Brussels National Airport. Nice cops we had here, in the 80’s… Robert Beijer was murdered, Bouchouche died under mysterious circumstances while living in France after his incarceration and de Bonvoisin has dwindled out of the limelight. And so has Westland New Post. Instead, we now have neo nazi skinheads, like everywhere else…
Funny side note : eleven years ago, I cooked for a camp of cub scouts on a terrain which lay next to Bonvoisin property. The weekly mag I read back then reported on the – still ongoing – investigation into… the Nivelles Gang attacks in the ?80’s.

Patrick Haemers and the VdB kidnapping

Still in the mid ?80’s, Brussels criminal Patrick Haemers kidnapped former prime minister Paul Vanden Boeynants. His accomplices were Axel Zeyen, Philippe Lacroix and a Kosovarian : Basri Bajrami.

Vdb, as he was then sympathetically known, was held in a villa in the north of France and released after payment of a hefty sum of money, now 1,5 million Euros. Haemers and his accomplices then escaped to Brazil and later extradited.
There are a few weird things going on here. First off, Haemers’ gang was specialized in robbing – rather brutally – money transports. Second, VdB was about to be indicted for embezzling state money and laundering it through his own meat processing company. While it was never sufficiently proven, it is widely accepted he staged his kidnapping. After all, he could afford it. Haemers getting caught was dangerous and could have implicated him. But Haemers died in his cell a while after being extradited. He hung himself… on his cell radiator. You’d really want to have to die to deliberately tightening the noose around your own neck when you can’t hang properly, don’t you? Or, how unlikely it may seem, Haemers was murdered because he knew too much. But that’s certainly not true, is it? Nah, couldn’t be : he really wanted to die, that’s the only real explanation… 👿

Insteresting side note : Philippe Lacroix got back into the news a few weeks ago, when it became known that he had studied to get a teacher’s degree in prison and was now looking for work as a teacher. At least someone paid their debt to society as well as cleaned up their act…


In the early ?90’s, parliament needed to decide where to buy new helicopters. So, offers were made by companies and reviewed by a board. And after a meticulous selection process, the Italian company Agusta was chosen… Or, at least, that’s what the Belgian public thought.

But then came the news – those pesky investigative journos! – that bribes had been given to the key players in the selection process. And they were all from socialist parties. Walloons Guy Spitaels – or Dieu (God), as the Walloon socialists called him, Guy Coëme and Guy Mathot were behind it, as well as the Flemings Frank Vandenbroucke and then NATO secretary-general Willy Claes. No surprise when they all had to step down, albeit reluctantly.

But the clincher of this story is not the bribe, it is an interesting side note. Frank Vandenbroucke, then minister of Foreign Affairs, was assigned to take care of the bribe money in possession of the Flemish SP (now SP-a; the name change being a direct result of the Agusta scandal) felt he couldn’t do anything but… burn the money. And when questioned in court, he maintained he ?didn’t know it was illegal to burn money’. As punishment, he got sent away to study in Oxford and later returned as minister in the last two administrations. We have a great sense for justice, don’t we?

The Dioxined Chickens and the Fall of the Christian Democrats

January 1999, six months before national elections. The Christian Democrats of the CVP have been in power for over 50 years. Nothing indicates at this time that this will change any time soon. Prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene is a rough and tough politician and is set to lead the party to another victory.

But then, an animal fat processing company, Verkest, mixes animal fat with motor oil and the dioxin in it. This animal fat is used to feed other animals, mostly chickens. A few months down the line, a decline in egg laying and an increased death of chickens is noticed by food controlling agencies. So you’d think the involved ministers (of Agriculture and Public Health) would get the chooks out of the food chain, but while they did that, they also decide to cover up the mass scale of the crisis, until Flemish public TV station, VRT (no, not a garden, but Vlaamse Radio en Televisiemaatschappij – Flemish Radio and Television Broadcasting Company) brings it to light.
The involved ministers have to resign and since the whole scandal broke out right in the final election campaign weeks and people being tired of the long standing Stalinist reign of the Christian Democrats, it is the final blow for the party. They lose big time and in doing so paved the way for eight years of Liberal – Socialist government, which reign ended about a month ago and the now reformed and transformed CD&V is currently leading the formation talks for our new government…

Interesting detail : A guy with the surname Dehaene (translated : The Rooster) loses an election over a roost of poisoned chickens. Sometimes life can be so poetically just…


High Noon In The Garden of Good And Evil

It’s been nearly four months sice “vrtički” were the top issue in Ljubljana… As you might remember from this post, the little plots of land near Žale cemetary were demolished at the time, mostly by their owners. But it was said then that it was just the beginning…

Area of “vrtički” on the bank of the river Sava. You can actually see illegal buildings by zooming in

Obviously this is not the only case of illegal or semi-legal plots of land in Ljubljana. Perhaps even more explosive is a situation at the banks of the river Sava in the north of Ljubljana, where hundreds of illegally built cottages have been erected over the years and decades. The Mayor has woved to chase them away, but they refuse to go, filing lawsuits and being rather successful. Namely, they have just recevied a decision by a court that notices of removal of illegal bulidings, which the City Administration has issued carry no legal weight.

Thus they have called the mayor’s bluff who wanted to employ the same tactics as in the case of Žale, where a mere threat of destruction was enough. Not this time, though. It looks as if Zoki will have to use brute force if he really wants to clean a rather was area of Ljubljana of illegal buildings. Because that’s what they are – buildings, cottages, homes away from home. “Vrtički” are suppose to sport little huts to keep tools in, but in this case the building are – well – visible from space. Just zoom in on this map

So the point is that Mayor Janković will probably face an angry mob once again… Not a good thing for a mayor who rides the wave of populism…

Wanted! Prefferably Alive (Or Why Slovenes Love Canada)

Contrary to what Slovene Tourist Board would have you believe, Slovenia is not a neat and tidy country where everyone recycles, doesn’t swear and vacates his/her seat on the bus so that the little old lady can sit dowm. No, sir-ee!

Slovenia is also where white-collar crime was perfected into an art form, mostly because the criminals were people like your next door neighbour, the kind that you’d let your kids go to the seaside with, or invite to your lawn party. Like a former State Secretary (under-minister) for Economic Affairs Boris Šuštar, who was charged with demanding and taking bribes on numerous occasions in exchange for rigging results of various government tenders. In one particular case he was accussed of giving a government grant of 21 million tolars (nearly € 100.000) to a certain company, of which he took a 30 percent cut. Remember, this was done more than seven years ago. Eventually, Šuštar was arrested, caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Just like in the movies he was picked up while receiving some 70.000 deutschmarks (€ 35.000) in bribes in one of Ljubljana’s pubs. But it is here where the plot thickens…

A photo-job of Šuštar, circling the net shortly after his arrest. (source)

Namely… Our legendary justice system almost grinded to a halt on this one. People were unwilling to testify, evidence was lacking and Šuštar’s lawyers did their best to stall the proceedings and/or have a mistrial declared. But defence attorneys are paid to do that, so no problem there.

Why was evidence lacking? Because both crim-police and the prosecution were (and still are) ill equipped for bringing white-collar criminals to justice. I mean – how do you prove that the tender was rigged? Or that particular sum of € 200.000 at the defendants Cayman bank account was to get laundered? Well, you need experts. But if the people at the Attorney General’s office have no financial background, then you get to see bizzare scenes where the defendant is actually explaining the intricacies of financial world to the court, rather than explaining himself/herself.

And why people didn’t want to testify? Not because Šuštar would have some big mafia organisation covering his back and getting rid of witnesses… It’s just that some level of corruption is embedded into Slovene soul. Ripping the state off, making money on the side, not paying any more tax than absolutely necesary, getting better medical care by giving a bottle of whiskey to your doctor, making sure your kid makes it to the next grade by bribing the teacher… All you need is a shotgun and a pair of horses and you’ve got yourself a redneck Christmas!

And on top of that (or maybe precisely because of that), Slovene judiciary failed to revoke Šuštar’s traveling documents, enabling him to flee to…. you’ve guessed it… to Canada 😀

It’s not just that Les Canadiens are awfully nice people whom you generaly like to be around. As far as Šuštar is concerned, there was the small matter of Slovenia and Canada not having an extradition treaty – unlike Slovenia and the USA where Davorin Sadar, another “transition-criminal” took refuge, but a smartass at the ministry of interior dug up an ancient treaty between the USA and Kingdom od Serbia, which was (by quirks of history) inherited by Slovenia as Yugoslavia broke up.

So, if you gotta run, run to Canada! 😀

Importance of Being A Comma

dr. filomena is to blame for this post, which will forever remain a testament of my sick and perverted mind. Namely: While commenting on Friday, she said “stop taking me seriously“. This is where my perverted side kicks in… and it asks… So. Where’s the comma? Or any other pucntuation mark?

Let’s take a closer look:

This is the original:

Take me seriously.

Now.. Let’s add a comma:

Take me, seriously.

See what I mean? 😀

How about an exclamation mark?

Take me, seriously!

or even

Take me! Seriously!

Hot, ain’t it? 😈

We can even turn this into a dialogue:

A: Take me!

B: Seriously?

Damn… Who knew grammar could be this sexy 🙂