Dr. Damjana Bratuz
Home Page < Family

The Catholic Register (Toronto), July 3, 1993

Death of a Friend
Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic [Ambrožič]

              One of my penances in the elementary school days was memorizing poetry ‑‑ not that the rest of it was all that enjoyable, except for games, the way to school and back, and an extraordinary teacher in Grade 5.  Among the names which remained in my memory was that of Ljubka Šorli:  her poems I could understand and, even better, they were short.

              Years later I met her, without at first knowing who she was.  I met her son [Andrej Bratuž] at the Catholic Institute in Paris, where I was trying to learn French, going about it in my own way, doing no homework but reading Albert Camus, detective stories, daily papers and going to movies.  A few years younger than myself, he invited me to visit his home in Gorizia, right on the border of the then solidly and firmly Communist Jugoslavia.  On the way from Paris back to Rome, I dropped in on him, thus without intending to, acquiring a large circle of friends which endures to this day.  I met his mother, a fragile-looking lady, with a smile both pleasant and reserved.  A teacher in a Slovene elementary school of the area, an excellent cook, an observant and unobtrusive hostess and an interesting and charitable conversationalist.  I cannot say how many visits were needed before I realized she was the poet I had memorized years earlier ‑‑ Gorizia had become a regular stop, once or twice a year during my studies in Rome, and now almost every time I visit Europe.

              She seldom spoke about herself; it was from what others told me of her and the odd remark she let drop that I began to see who she was.  Born shortly before the First World War, she grew up in a part of Slovenia which fell under Italian domination after the War.  Catholic to the core, she developed a profound appreciation of the natural beauties of her native valley:  her poems possess an extraordinary sense of unity between Christ and the nature surrounding her; Teilhard de Chardin's Divine Milieu would come as no surprise to her.  She married in the early '30s; her husband [Lojze Bratuž (Gigi)] was a composer, teacher of music and church choir leader; the Archdiocese of Gorizia put him in charge of music and singing in its Slovene parishes.  He was, however, a thorn in the side of the local Fascists, who were out to italianize the area.  A few days after Christmas of 1936, they forced him to drink poisonous machine oil; he was dead within a few weeks.  With the help of her mother, the widow looked after her two small children, doing whatever work she could find.  But, being what she was, she was not forgotten by the Fascists:  in April of 1943 they arrested her, and subjected her to repeated torture in order to force her to admit things of which she had no inkling.  She was released after the capitulation of Italy in September of that year.  After the War she qualified as a teacher and taught elementary school, editing children's publications and continuing to write poetry.

              The better I came to know her the more impressed I became with her taken-for-granted, undemonstrative and at the same time deeply experienced faith.  Her bodily fragility and lady-like reserve were always accompanied by a very sensitive womanly tenderness.  What was less evident, yet what made her sensitivity and tenderness possible, was her strength and toughness.  When I learned what was done to her in the Fascist prison and how she refused to bend in the face of physical suffering and humiliation, I realized her reserves of inner power.  She never complained, never licked her wounds, was never vengeful or bitter, even though one consequence of her tortures was repeated migraine headache for the rest of her life.  When she asked the post-war Italian government for a pension as the widow of a victim of Fascism, and as a victim herself, her request was denied ‑‑ this happened at about the same time as Rachele Mussolini received her pension as the widow of the Leader of Italy.

              In early May I received the sad news of her death on the last day of April.  I was so sorry:  I will not meet her again this side of my own death.  I would dearly wish to be "a fly on the wall" when she met her Risen Lord.  It must have been an immensely joyful and, I am sure, dignified meeting of two deeply loved and loving friends.  May she rest in peace!


  Damjana Bratu TOP

new concept design - web design london, ontario