meet the family

slovenia has to be one of the most beautiful places hardly anyone ever visits. 

and it happens to be the land of my ancestors......... fact, this very spot~

my mother's family came from this southern region called bela krajina, known for its grape growing climate. thanks to my mother's brother, who tracked down our long lost relatives some 23 years ago, we now know the exact town where we came from. only a handful of us have visited since then, and it was amazing for the first time to look into the eyes of long-lost blood relatives.

my mother's grandfather and his brothers all emigrated to america in the late 19th/early 20th century, but the oldest ultimately returned to take over the family farm. the next eldest - my mother's grandfather - never did return to the old country, but never wanted to give up his land. in the end, his children (my grandfather and his siblings) sold the land to their uncle and gave up their birthright. 

my cousins anton and maja helped me trace our family trees - we ended up filling in each other's blanks

anton showed me his great-grandfather's record book of all accounts from my great-grandfather's land - my great-grandfather paid his brother a certain amount each year to maintain the land, and this ledger kept all the accounts straight.

don't you just love the perfect, old-fashioned script?

grandfather joze took me to see where he was born. this monument is dedicated to all the villagers who died when grabovec was bombed in WWII.

one of the bombs killed his little sister, who was playing in a nearby well

in metlika are three churches, side by side, which have templar roots - this is where our ancestors are buried. it was a few days before all soul's day, and slovenians take great care to decorate the graves with flowers and keep candles burning all night....

once we got back to the farm, anton, tanja and their daughters gave us a tour of the vineyard and wine cellar - anja the eldest daughter beckoning us on

anton tapping the vat in his wine cellar

being october the harvest is finished and now the process of winemaking begins --

lucky us got to share in the latest vintage!

daughter katya is an accomplished harmonica player (what we call the accordion - a treasured slovenian instrument) and she treated us to an impromptu concert, filling the house and our hearts with music~

before we left, anton and tanja gave us bottles of their finest wines to take back home with us......a gift from their hearts to ours. 

just seeing my mother's name on the label made me feel so close to her, and understand for the first time what roots really are and how powerful it is to connect with them......

joze, francesca, maja, marija, yuri, urske, katja, anja, tanja and anton, thank you for making us feel at home♡

slovenia is no longer some place on a map that i mix up with slovakia -- no longer a place 'somewhere over there' where people live with whom i have no connection --- no longer a place lost in the mists of my memory. it is real and now it lives in my heart, too.

we are already talking about returning next september - (and hopefully encourage many more of our family to come along) - to help with the harvest: picking grapes during the day, making meals together (if tanja lets us in her kitchen!) and celebrating with the fruit of the vine in evenings...

here's to looking into the eyes of distant relatives and then closing the distance........


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