Collective Experience of Defection and other Types of Youth Emigration after the Second World War in Written, Oral and other Auto/Biographical Sources
The article deals with the period of emigration in the Slovenian territory from the end of WWII to the beginning of the 1960s. Beside the limited possibilities for legal crossing, the prevalent forms of emigration in this period were the illegal crossing of the western and northern borders or defection. The many reasons for emigration or escape are most thoroughly described in the auto/biographical testimonies of the agents of these practices. The article is based on an overview and comparative analysis of the personal experiences of emigration and escaping of the selected individuals. It aims to highlight the complexity of the reasons for the departure of young people during this period.
KEY WORDS: emigration, illegal migration, auto/biographical sources, migration control, Yugoslavia/Slovenia
In Yugoslavia and Slovenia, the period between 1947 and 1963 was characterized by closed borders, minimal opportunities for legal emigration and strict control of people’s mobility. The estimated numbers show that of all those who left the country illegally in this period, around 75% were below the age of 25. Young people wanted to leave the country for political, economic, social and cultural reasons, as well as a general resistance to political control, economic hardship, cultural deprivation and social exclusion. The article presents seven testimonies about defection and other types of youth emigration from Slovenia/Yugoslavia after the Second World War. It focuses on their agency and aims to avoid the discourse of their victimization or stigmatization. In their testimonies, they reveal diverse combinations of intimate, personal reasons for their decisions and the different ways of escaping or emigrating. Their common circumstances included not only political repression and lack of economic development but also the existing transnational support networks and the migrants’ social capital. It is clear that the illegal emigration of young people should be understood as deeply embedded in already established “migrancy”, and the survival strategies of families and local communities, and, since emigration is a crucial part of the history of the Slovenian ethnic territory, of the whole country.