So many years, so many memories – read what our dear ex members remember about us and what they wish us at our jubilee 20th Bazaar in 2013. Generously collected by Vida Rudolf.

Dominique Couillerot, France (ex president)

When I moved from Novo mesto to Ljubljana in the 1992 automn I got a phone call if I wanted to take part in the project of an international welcoming association. As I already had that experience from France, I readily accepted and it was the beginning of a new, great and enthusiastic experience.

Only a handful of ladies attended the monthly meetings at first. It was pleasant to meet with the international population and we all enjoyed more and more those coffee mornings. But, without the idea of an international Bazaar – the idea came from Nuran, the wife of Turkish
Ambassador – it would have been less interesting.

We had great fun in setting the first Bazaar – 20. years ago – when only 13 countries were represented. I remember the thrill of preparing everything, plus the particular French table I was in charge of, I remember the Hall of Trg republike 3, packed with people, ambassadors, journalists, businesmen and woman. I also remember the stress I had when I had to open the Bazaar, as my Slovene was not so good.

I also remember Mrs. Kučan, so sweet and smiling, who helped us all so much. I remember our tired out faces in the evening of that great day, but so happy all of us.

Yes, it was a great experience. We showed that with good will things could work out beautifully.
SILA-IWCL – the strenght has fulfilled its duty of bringing people together and has shown that it had been a necessity and still is after 20 years. Long life SILA-IWCL.

Hilary Naqui, Great Britain (ex president)

It is 8.15 am and Ingelese has just arrived. Having recently undergone keyhole surgery she is anxious to show us her scar. About to whip up her Tshirt, we point out that it’s a bit early and we need to have a coffee first. Some of us are not natural early risers.

Such is the beginning of a typical monthly SILA-IWCL committee meeting way back in l997; this indicates the relaxed easy relationship we enjoyed with each other. On the committee we were at least 5 different nationalities, Danish, Slovene, American, Dutch and a British.
We enjoyed lots of laughs, got things done, had different meeting places for the monthly coffee morning. Hotel Lev was »home« for quite a while, also Hotel Slon. Wonderful outings were organised, particularly to Novo mesto, to Postojna, to wineries where we enjoyed the delights of at that time less known Slovene wines and the joys of »mošt« and the consequences for the uninitiated.

In those early days planning the annual bazaar took much thought and discussion before deciding who would be the beneficiaries of the proceeds. Miša and I had a few sleepless nights over the mammogram for the hospital in Kranj.
Thanks to Mrs. Kučan, the lovely wife of President Kučan at that time, we also had a memorable reception in the grounds of Vila Podrožnik.

Amazing friendships were made in those early days, and many are still intact. I think it is true to say that Slovenia occupies a very special place in all our hearts thanks in very large part to SILA-IWCL.

Pearl Di Pasquale, USA (ex vice-president)

Shortly after arriving in Slovenia in l994, when I accompanied my husband to his new diplomatic assignment at the US Embassy in Ljubljana, I discovered SILA-IWCL. The organization was rather new, like Slovenia itself, but, also like Slovenia, SILA-IWCL was most welcoming to those of us from other countries>

It’s always wonderful to be »present at the creation«, since it brings out a pioneering spirit of sorts. It was fascinating to see Slovenia, an independent nation for only three years at that point, developing into the modern democratic country that it is today. And it was equally fascinating for me to be an active partner in SILA-IWCL’s early evolution as it grew from its humble origins 20 years ago to the thriving organization that it is today. But whether we’re talking about the SILA-IWCL of l994 or the SILA-IWCL of today, the same word applies to it: dynamic .

SILA-IWCL was the perfect way for Slovenes and foreigners like myself who were fortunate enough to live on »the sunny side of the Alps« to meet, get to know one another, and develop lasting friendships that have stood the test of time and distance. What better way to bond, in fact, than to organize something like the SILA-IWCL Christmas Bazaar? I remember well the first such event in l994, when we were uncertain how many people would attend, how much money we would raise, and even whether we would be able to organize such an ambitious undertaking. We needn’t have worried. On the day of the bazaar, crowds poured into the TR 3 building; the dozen or so nations represented sold out just about everything at their booths; and the money we raised for local charities far exceeded our wildest expectations. I would like to make particular note of how gracious First Lady Štefka Kučan was in opening the event.
From that point onward, the SILA-IWCL charity bazaar has continued to grow, to bring to other cities in Slovenia its eyeopening array of merchandise from around the world, and most importantly, to financially support a large number of local Slovene organizations as they conduct their charitable work helping those in need. Here’s to another 20 years – and more – of SILA-IWCL serving not only as a bridge bringing us together but also as a force for good in Slovenia.

Best wishes to all for many more happy and successful years ahead.

Ruth Mayrhofer, Austria (ex member)

Two days after I arrived in Ljubljana in 2000 I was taken to a SILA-IWCL meeting by a friend. It is there that I met wonderful ladies who showed me their country and their traditions. We visited social institutions and were able to help in many ways. Many friendships were established through SILA-IWCL which last until this day. I am grateful to have been a member of SILA-IWCL.

Patricia Torres-Burd, USA (ex member)

For us living in Slovenia was a marvelous experience from l995-2000. We cherish those times and I still treasure the friendships made in that wonderful and magical place.

SILA-IWCL was a huge part of the wonder of Slovenia and actively participating allowed me to learn about my host country, experience amazing things (like our trip to Novo mesto, Italy and persuading the Italian customs to let us in although we did not have the right tourist paperwork for the bus) and the camaraderie developed amongs ex-pats and Slovene’s sharing the wonderful times and activities of SILA-IWCL. We all became one big family, and I am proud to say that we still all keep in touch regardles of where we live in the world.

Another memory, some of you may recall, was volunteering my husband to play Santa Claus at the bazaar and erroneously attaching his »Santa« eyebrows with theatrical glue. He was a wonderful Santa and the children were mesmerized BUT the removal of the eyebrows took his own and he ended up with almost one eyebrow missing for a major corporate presentation! All in the name of SILA-IWCL and the yearly Bazaar.

I send you the warmest greetings and wishing a wonderful Bazaar this year, and if I can attend I will be there ready to work and shop.

Monica Winckel, Netherlands (ex vice-president)

The Dutch community at that time was extremely small (only three of us as residents ex pats),
So the first year we were there, we joined the stand of the European Union. But we became so enthusiastic that during drinks in a local pub we organized our own stand the year after and continued to do so during the time we lived in Slovenia.

In our days SILA-IWCL’s bazaar was not so big and could fit in the entry hall of TR3 building.
I have been back once to Ljubljana during bazaar time a few years ago and realized that the bazaar had grown enormously over the years. It was so impressive! But for me those early SILA-IWCL years were special, because of the community spirit, the friends we made and the beautiful country we were fortunate to live in for a while.

A bazaar before Christmas means the beginning of the festive season and I hope that SILA-IWCL in its 20th anniversary year will feel that even more this time.

Miša Tičar, Slovenia (ex president)

I haven’t been a SILA-IWCL member for years, but every year when Bazaar happens I remember all those years when I was coorganising lucky draw. For a few years, we organised it not only in Ljubljana, but also in Bled, Maribor, Celje, Murska Sobota, Koper and Novo mesto. It was a lot of work, but always every rewarding. I especially keep fond memories of Murska Sobota where the local ladies helped us with all their hearts. I still keep in touch with two of them.

We got our office in 2000, which enabled us a place for our meetings and archives. We received membership cards and honorary crystal medals.

It is actually quite remarkable that it has been 20 years since the beginning. I believe Ljubljana residents accepted our Bazaar in their hearts and that it became a tradition for the city. I wish Sila-IWCL many more successful years ahead.