Memories of Old Yugoslavia, New Slovenia’s Capital Ljubljana

Ljubljana, Slovenia. In September this year, I was invited as keynote speaker to a medical conference in the Republic of Slovenia. This country was previously called Yugoslavia, a place where six countries gathered together to form one country; at that time it felt like a small Soviet Union.

At that time, the official name was called Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and a person named Josip Broz Tito was the president. After the death of Tito, a fierce war of independence took place one after another, and now, there became six independent countries, of which Serbia is one.

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Yugoslavia and President Tito

I visited this country many times in the past, while Yugoslavia was a communist country. Because of its special geographical position, Yugoslavia was described as “seven borders, six republics, five races, four languages, three religions, two letters, but one nation.”

From a geographical point of view, first, her border was in contact with seven countries: Italy, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania. And one of the countries included Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia.


There are five main ethnic groups, but there are many other ethnic groups, so altogether it has been described as eight ethnic groups.

When I was in Yugoslavia republic, I had a great respect its leader Tito. The six countries were treated equally, and they were well organized without conflicts. President Tito, was respected by people in each of Yugoslavia’s regions. These were people who worried about what would happen if he died.

I was also sad and cried on the occasion of attending the funeral held in New York. When I was crying, the ambassador asked me why I was crying about Yugo’s president even though I am Japanese.

So I gave my personal opinion, “I think that it was really wonderful that the six countries with such differences were reigned in peace and the each culture was also very active and respected.”

I knew firsthand how unified the nation had been as in my years as a cultural empresario, I had often invited companies of ethnic dancers from Yugoslavia or an orchestra from Zagreb City to the United States. I experienced how much the culture was developing and respected by each province – all of it excellent.

History and Country of Trade

The place I went to this time was the new Slovenian capital Ljubljana. Slovenia was always considered to be the economically richest of the six countries. It is a very small country, but because as it is a transportation hub in Europe, it has a history of constant wars between various countries to win over the country – crossroad of culture and commerce..

I have visited in the past important cities in Yugoslavia, such as Belgrade, Zagreb, Banja Luka and Sarajevo, but I have never visited Ljubljana. When I went there this time I discovered a very beautiful country.

Located on the south side, it was an easy access to various places such as Greece and Italy. There was a copper mines and because of this, it has been a wealthy place since long time ago.

39807844644_e5a9c73ac3_bThe place I went to this time was the new Slovenian capital Ljubljana.

Beautiful Lakes and Legends

It was my first visit, so I took a day’s sightseeing after the conference with my friend Shimizu veterinarian, from Tokyo. There is a beautiful lake there, and only the families that owned owned land in the vicinity of the lake can live there,  and land could never be sold.

My impression of this beautiful area was like being in Japan. It was a country with beautiful mountains and deep forest and pure water like Japan. The youngsters handling canoes here were also young people with pride born into such families.

There are many mysterious legends in many such lakes, and in the lake where we went, to see a small island in the middle, they say a prince and a princess committed suicide by sinking into the water. We heard a lot of similar romantic stories.

There is a world famous Domitza cave near there, said to be the world’s best cave. It is 8 km long on the Slovak side alone, spanning Hungary and Slovakia. We were disappointed not to be able to visit.

Resident who Speak Four Languages

What surprised me was that the residents were completely fluently with at least four languages. Not only can they can speak, but their English is also a perfect. In addition, German, French, Russian and Italian were among the languages I heard mainly during my stay.

As I heard from their stories, life was rich and the people kind. It was so beautiful and comfortable I felt like I wanted to live there one day.

Originally published as Vol. 52 in Weekly Biz, December 1, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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