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War Victim Memorial in Draga pri Begunjah

Begunje, Slovenia
1 of 12© Miran Kambič

Castle Katzenstein in Begunje was used as a Gestapo prison during the time of Nazi occupation with members of the resistance being held and tortured there. Today, part of the castle houses a Museum of the Victims while in the park by the castle and in nearby Draga, two burial sites for 667 victims were laid out by Edvard Ravnikar. The memorial space in Draga is designed as a restrained and exceptionally subtle intervention in the picturesque natural environment of the narrow valley rolling along stream Begunjščica, enveloped by the steep Karawanks slopes. The burial site of 161 victims located between the road and the forest is separated from its surroundings only by three segments of low stone parapets. Multitudes of stone monoliths shaped as three-sided prisms are placed in the undulating grassy terrain in clusters, like groups of victims. The different heights and orientations of the stones, arranged in an irregular geometry, emphasise each person's individuality. The victims' names, birth and death years, and places of residence are chiselled onto the stone tops. Between the stones, there is indigenous vegetation with colourful flowers. There is a small gathering space by the memorial obelisk, by the entrance to the area. The execution of the monument using local stone was technically undemanding and materially modest, but it creates a surprisingly rich world of mind associations, metaphors, and allegories. This intimate but at the same time extraordinarily poetical work is distinguished by a "spread-out plastic formation which projects into a natural environment [...]", which was Ravnikar's fundamental striving in all his memorial monuments, which are always a part of the landscape. By the forest, a statue of a victim, a work by sculptor Boris Kalin, was added to Ravnikar's project. The war victim burial site in Draga is maintained by the Municipality of Radovljica.

Symbolism

Ravnikar created a sort of partition between the cemetery and the surrounding natural landscape by constructing a rough stone wall around its perimeter. This wall, which is constructed in a very traditional way using local materials, is meant to act as a sort of mental buffer zone between a place of great tragedy and the landscape it is surrounded by. This not only accents the cemetery but also lets the viewer know that they are stepping into a sacred place. Meanwhile, the triangular pylon stone markers themselves are arranged in varying patterns, with some being solitary while others are grouped in significant geometric clusters.

As such, the triangle pylons themselves can be understood as highly reduced abstract versions of the hostages themselves. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that when Ravnikar later built his monumental TR3 Towers in Republic Square in Ljubljana, they also were of a triangular pylon shape and were even situated similarly to his stone markers at Hostage's Cemetery in Begunje.