My parents left Slovenia but love brought me back

My parents left Slovenia but love brought me back

My parents left Slovenia but love brought me back

avtor 26. decembra, 2023

His parents moved to Canada from Slovenia in the 50s or 60s of the last century to find a better life. There they met, grew close and fell in love. Their son, our interlocutor Randolph Dresar, left Canada for love and started a family in Maribor, Slovenia. How does he live in his parents’ country?

How did you decide to come to live in Slovenia?
The choice to experience life in Slovenia was influenced by various factors. Firstly, my wife is a professor at the University of Maribor  at the Faculty of Education  and secondly, we have three little girls and the environment is a lot safer, healthier and more for kids in Slovenia.

When did your parents go to Canada?
My father, originally from Medvode, journeyed to Canada in the late 1950s to escape the communist regime. Meanwhile, my mother, was from Kamnik and migrated in the mid-1960s, seeking a brighter future.

How did they adjust to life in Canada?
From the stories, I’ve heard from my parents when they came to Canada for the first time and to be adjusted into Canadian life was not easy they were not able to  of any knowledge of the English language or the culture or the Canadian values at that time. I do recall hearing the challenges and opportunities of finding work and taking anything that killer way for example, my father, working on the potato farm collecting potatoes, then working in the slaughterhouse for pigs and and then eventually working as a truck driver. My mother was working in doctored office before she left Slovenia so it was a huge shock for her when she came to Canada and had to start from the beginning. However, she learned English very fast and soon got a job at the hospital.

Did you converse in Slovenian at home, or did you learn this language in conversation with your wife?
Growing up in Toronto, I predominantly communicated with my parents in English, while they would converse with each other in Slovenian. When they addressed my brother and me, it was often in broken English. While my brother attended Slovenian school at a local church in Toronto, I only began speaking Slovenian in my mid-20s. This started during my visits to Slovenia, where I met my aunts, uncles, and relatives in Kamnik. My fluency grew from conversations with my parents back in Toronto and interactions with my relatives in Slovenia. Soon, I found myself effortlessly switching between English and Slovenian. As for my wife, Darja, and me, our primary language of communication is English. She speaks Slovenian to our kids, and I converse with them in English. As a result, our home resonates with the sounds of two languages.

How did your parents react to the idea of you planning to go back?
My parents were still alive when Darja came to Toronto and I introduced her to them. They both liked her right away and every evening we sat at the table, having long conversations about life in Slovenia. My parents were very curious and wanted to hear how Darja perceives life there. She said it was beautiful, safe, modern… My parents agreed and shared memories from their youth and fond memories of Slovenia. My mom was extremely proud of Darja, as she was so young yet already held a teaching position at the University of Maribor. (In the summer of 2014, she completed her doctoral studies at the University of Maribor and became a doctor of science in the field of mathematics in education. She is employed as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Education of the University of Maribor, where she teaches and conducts research in the field of early learning and teaching mathematics, author’s note).
My father was also proud of her for being so educated. When the time came for Darja to return to Slovenia, I heard sadness in my father’s voice when he said, “You’ll never return to Canada. You have it too good in Slovenia.” Darja didn’t know what to reply as we were still deciding on our future together. Weeks later, I told my parents I wanted to go to Slovenia to visit her. I believed she was the right girl for me. We had a strong bond, and I believed we would get married and start a family. My mom asked me if I was willing to leave Canada for her. I replied, “Well, mom, I’ll try it out, see how it goes, and we’ll figure something out. We’ll try Slovenia/Canada…”

How do you feel in Slovenia?
I feel less stressed  and a lot  less of the “rat race mentality” in Toronto where it was rushing nonstop. Here in Slovenia, I actually have time to sit down and have a coffee at a coffee shop and I actually have time to relax think and reminiscent of my time here in Slovenia. I’ve been living in and out of Slovenia since 2015.
In Slovenia, I find a sense of well-being. The commendable quality of the food, the serene landscapes, and the warmth of the locals resonate with me. I truly value everything Slovenia offers, from the inviting seacoast of Portoroz to the majestic mountains of Kamnik, and the expansive fields of the Prekmurje region.

What did they quickly get used to, but what they never got used to – yet?
One thing I’ve readily adjusted to in Slovenia is the fact that almost everyone speaks English. However, I still relish every opportunity to practice my Slovenian. On the other side I haven’t quite adapted to is that here no one believes in sarcasm and when you talk, you talk directly to the point you don’t waste peoples time and tell some story or what not and I noticed that it’s efficient here…

Your daughter gave a good illustration of this difference in style of everyday life, can you repeat (that she has a dry bag)….

While discussing the school systems in Slovenia and Canada with my eldest daughter, she expressed liking aspects of both. However, what she truly appreciates here are the warm meals provided in school, noting, ‘so my school bag doesn’t smell or get wet from bringing a packed lunch to school.’

You have kept your job, how do you manage it?
I work in property management and, as much as possible, I handle most matters from here, thanks to technology. New technological advancements make coordination easier through platforms like Skype and WhatsApp. With technology, the world feels much closer. Although I manage most of my work from the office in my bedroom, I still frequently fly to Canada.

The food is definitely better here. What did your parents cook that resembled Slovenian cuisine?
Without a doubt, the food in Slovenia stands out. Growing up in Toronto, I fondly recall moments when my mom would prepare traditional dishes like filina paprika, sarma, polenta goulash, and strudel. However, these were special occasions, perhaps once a month. Our daily meals were typically Canadian: meat and potatoes, meatloaf, casseroles. I distinctly remember my dad yearning for vampi, a dish he couldn’t find in any Toronto restaurant at the time.

Randolph Dresar with his love in Maribor

You were active in the community of Slovenes in Canada, you also met your wife there, correct?
In Toronto, during my mid-20s, I became deeply involved with the Slovenian community. I was a part of the Nagelj folklore dance group, dancing passionately for about a decade. We performed at various Slovenian picnics throughout Toronto and Ontario on weekends. My life took a beautiful turn when I met my wife, Darja, at a Slovenian event in Bolton, Ontario. It was a summer day in 2011, during a picnic/veselica celebrating Slovenia Day. We were introduced by our priest, leading us to playfully say our meeting was ‘God’s will’. Moreover, I’ve been an active member of the board of directors for the Slovenski Dom, Slovenian Home Association  in Toronto for over 10 years. Our aim is to foster a sense of belonging among both older and younger Slovenians in Toronto, bridging the gap through various events and banquets. My association with these organizations is precious, symbolizing our rich culture, the roots my parents stemmed from, and the legacy of our ancestors.

How much is this difference in mentality known when it comes to your relationship with your wife, who is from the area around Murska Sobota?
My wife comes from a small village in the Prekmurje region. I appreciate the humbleness, simplicity, and warmth of the people there. The food, with its generous portions, is truly delightful. While I can communicate with my in-laws without any issues, the local dialect can occasionally leave me feeling a bit out of the loop. Otherwise, my wife is quite traditional and nationally conscious, insisting that we celebrate Slovenian customs and holidays, which I really like, as I was also raised in a Slovenian family. If I were, say, a Canadian without Slovenian roots, I would surely have some problems understanding all that and adapting to it…

How come you decided to live in Slovenia?
We’re still not entirely sure where we’ll live in the long run… For now, we’re here and we like it, but we’ll see how things evolve and where the future takes us.

Where do you think it is easier to raise children?
In Slovenia, we benefit immensely from the continuous support of the grandparents, who are always ready to assist not only with childcare but with other things as well. And we are truly grateful for that. Additionally, we feel it’s a safer environment here for kids. Plus, day-care prices in Toronto are way more steep than here.

What do your friends say when they visit you in Slovenia?
When my friends visit Slovenia, they often remark, “Wow, it’s such a small yet beautiful country. It’s like a green oasis in Europe,” and they consistently praise the delicious food.

You currently have a home in Maribor, how do the people of Maribor, who love their city, accept ‘foreigners’?
So far, my experiences in Slovenia have been overwhelmingly positive. The majority of people I’ve met are friendly, and I often receive compliments for trying to speak Slovenian. However, a common misconception I’ve encountered is that people assume I’m American. I usually have to clarify and explain that being American and Canadian is not the same thing.

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Foto: osebni arhiv sogovornika


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