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  • Day3

    Where in the world is Vrtača 19? Part 1

    May 31, 2019 in Slovenia ⋅ ⛅ 61 °F

    It will be hard to top our first full day in Slovenia. With the help of a series of strangers, we embarked on what turned out to be a memorable detective hunt and ended with an emotional meeting. The day was too full to capture in one post, so this is part 1 of 3.
    Mark and Carina met us at our hotel for our expedition to the Bela Krajina region. Our guide Gregor drove us to the beautiful and scenic countryside through a number of small villages and farmlands. The area looks much like Oregon. There are small family vineyards and farms everywhere along the hillsides.
    Upon arriving in the village of Semič, Gregor drove us to the Google location for Vrtača 19, the site where my grandfather, Jože Mihelčič was born. We walked along the little gravel road looking at each little house or cottage. We found #16, #17,#18 but no #19. Myj stopped a young man driving a forklift to ask if he might know where #19 was (thankfully the young people all speak English fluently) or if he might know of the family. He didn't know but called his boss.
    Meanwhile, our guide Gregor had found an older gentleman who wasn't sure but he thought perhaps #19 was across the valley because an industrial warehouse had come in and they had relocated the road. We resigned ourselves to not finding the homesite, thinking progress had destroyed it.
    Since we couldn't find the ancestral home, we next went to the cemetery to find the headstone. Again, however, despite searching the entire graveyard, we had no luck. Perhaps there was another graveyard, or the stone had been destroyed. As we were leaving, a man drove up, so Myj showed him the sketch of the tombstone we were looking for, Gregor helped to translate. He didn't know, but said his brother had done a lot of genealogy research. He called the brother, who agreed to meet us at a restaurant.
    The brother, Tone Plut, met us armed with his research on the family names in the family tree Myj had brought along. He couldn't quite come up with any matches, but said he would do some research. We enjoyed a coffee together, and learned that Tone had traveled to America, playing accordion at Slovenian gatherings and festivals. Tone took us to the local cultural center and St Stephen's, which would have been my grandparents' church.With Tone's promise to do more research, we exchanged emails, and went on to our lunch stop.
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