The Mission and Role of the Ameriška DomovinaWeekly in the History of Slovenes in America, 1919-1991
The Ameriška Domovina Slovene immigrant review in the United States Was at the time issued as a Slovene-language daily and today is published as a weekly half of the pages in English. The author of the paper and current editor of Ameriška Domovina depicts the role of the review as a publication of Slovenes of Catholic orientation in the U. S., with special emphasis on the period during and after World War II. He examines the relationship between the review and other contemporary political and ideological orientations among Slovene immigrants in the United States within the frameworks of contemporary developments in the Slovene community. He also draws attention to the uncertain future of the weekly.
Ameriška Domovina is a Slovene immigrant weekly with half of the pages published in English. Under this title the review first appeared in February 1919, but its origins of a Cleveland Slovene daily date back to June 5th 1908, when the Amerika daily newspaper started to come out. The following year the daily changed name to Clevelandska Amerika only to change it again ten years later: Ameriška Domovina counts in its annual files the first Slovene-language daily Narodna Beseda, which appeared in Cleveland in 1899 and in November the same year changed name to Nova Domovina. The sequence of the titles - Narodna Beseda, Nova Domovina, Amerika, Clevelandska Amerika and Ameriška Domovina - points by itself to the energence and growth of the Slovene community in Cleveland and the USA in general.
Comparad with many Slovene publications, Ameriška Domovina has some specific features. It has always been published in Cleveland, the city with the largest Slovene population in the United States, it always expressed more or less conservative, Catholic views and under the name of Ameriška Domovina has always been the property of the Debevec family. From the first issue in 1919 until the death of its owner in 1952, it was owned by Jaka Debevec, then by his wife Mary who died in 1979, and now is owned by their son James V. Debevec. Ameriška Domovina has undergone several changes during its 72 years of life, mostly in the form and periodicity - first a weekly, then a daily and now a weekly again. Over the past decades it constantly increased the number of English-language pages intended for younger immigrant generations that do not speak Slovene.
Already before World War I, the Slovenes in the United States were divided into two big camps. On the one side, to put it roughly and in the broadest terms, there were those closely associated with the Church, the Slovene parishes in particular. Apart from the parishes, many of which were rather ethnic than territorial units, the Slovenes from this camp also established and sustained their cultural and other organizations, including their own insurance companies or “jednote" established primarily for the Slovene catholics in general, and not exclusively for the KSKJ.
A similar situation was with those Slovenes who were entirely or partly estranged from the Church, those for whom religion played a less central role in life. These Slovenes liked to call themselves progressive, "free-thinking, even socialists" etc. They too were associated in their own organizations, from insurance companies to cultural and economic organizations. Thus in 1904, exactly ten years after the foundation of the Catholic KSKJ, the SNPJ was created.
Ameriška Domovina has always been a publication of the first camp. Its most prosperous period was between the two wars, especially after it became a daily in 1929. A great credit for the flourishing of the daily goes to its editor Louis J. Pic, born in Slovenia, Pirc came to the USA as a very young man, started his career of a journalist as a young man and remained devoted to it throughout his relatively short life. He died in 1939 at barely fifty years of age.
Ameriška Domovina carefully followed the events in Slovenia during World War II, as did other Slovene immigrant publications. Its owner Jaka Debevec took part in the initial efforts at shaping a joint stand of Slovenes in the U. S. in favour of occupied Slovenia. When divisions between the Slovenes in the US opened again, Ameriška Domovina supported the anticommunist side, and this support deepened and intensified as the other side strenghtened its support of partizans and Tito.
The arrival of Slovene refugees after World War II no doubt prolonged the life of certain Catholic and Catholic-oriented institutions, among them the Slovene parishes in Cleveland and the Ameriška Domovina review, Ameriška Domovina wholeheartedly welcomed the process of democratization in Slovenia and regularly reported and commented on it. There was virtual nothing to change in the editorial policy of the review, as democratization and an independent Slovene state were the goals it had been advocating throughout the postwar period.
It is impossible to predict how long Ameriška Domovina will continue to be issued. One ought to take into account that those Slovene-American community members who can read Slovene and who support the continuation of the life of the review are going with the passage of time. And the fact that over the past twelve years the review has been edited by a man born in the USA, for whom Slovene is a foreign language, speaks for itself.