National Geographic grantee Riley Arthur is documenting the Erased of Slovenia- 200,000 non-ethnic Slovenian residents who were not automatically granted citizenship after the country split from Yugoslavia in 1991. Without legal documentation, these people could not legally travel, own property, obtain medical care, vote, marry, attend school or work without a visa. A decade later, the community is still fighting for documentation.
Expedition Journal Excerpt: Izbrisani
Ljubljana is beautiful in the Fall. The warmth of Summer continues into October and the first fresh brisk winds of Autumn are so gentle I didn’t protest. While the days have gotten shorter and the tourists have thinned out, there seems to be no less bustle in the streets.
I recently discovered that my small apartment resides in the center of Emona, an ancient Roman town developed in 35 BC. About two blocks away from my building is a long stretch of Roman wall. In the Summer local rock climbers traverse it, smearing chalk all over the ancient stones. High School students come to drink here after school and leave their cigarette butts and beer bottles, having no regards to sanctity of the place. With numerous Roman ruins throughout the town, seemingly every new construction site is temporarily halted due to new discoveries. During a reconstruction effort Jože Plečnik, Slovenia’s most famous architect, build a masonic pyramid in the center of wall. Re-appropriating carved stones from other Roman sites, the pyramid provides a bizarre aesthetic contrast.
On my walk to the wall, remains of an ancient Roman sewer lay on display in front of the University of Ljubljana School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. There is a plaque, but it seems out of place in front of the busy crosswalk and bored looking University students. Despite the city’s varied efforts to showcase the past, the juxtaposition of a modern European capital provide an interesting backdrop to my research.
My research focuses on a group of 25,000 people, struggling to survive after being stripped of their rights twenty-one years ago. People who try to bring attention to their plight, despite living within a population eager to move on.
After snapping photographs of cigarette butts piled in a Roman basin, I stood at the light and considered the Roman sewer. The pride the residents of Emona would’ve felt knowing that over two thousand years later tourists like myself stand at their ruins in wonder.