Fatherland deeply in the heart: Gottschee Germans in diaspora
The Gottschee Germans were the last German agrarian settlers in Slovenia. From the 14th century to the Second World War they settled an area of around 800 km2 in Kočevje. Their fate was tragically marked by the events during the Second World War, when they were evicted from Kočevje in 1941/42. Today they are dispersed around the world, mainly in the USA, Canada, Austria and Germany, while some of them remained in Slovenia Since Slovenia became independent, several articles have been published about the Gottschee Germans, which mainly address the issue from a historical point of view. There are no studies or authors who would deal with the present Gottschee Germans. The literature about the living Gottschee Germans refers in general to those still living in Slovenia. Information on those living abroad can be gathered only from the websites of their societies. The article is part of a yet to be published research into the identity of the Gottschee Germans. Based on a research carried out among Gottschee Germans living in the USA, Canada, Austria and Germany, the article presents the social and symbolic meaning the spaces, with which the Gottschee Germans identify, have for their life in emigration. These places are: the old country - Kočevje, and the spaces that are important for the (re)production of their traditions in their new homeland. It also describes the importance of rituals - pilgrimages to the old country and meetings in their new homeland - for strengthening their feeling of belonging to a group within the country of residence and for the transnational connections between the Gottschee Germans from the mentioned countries, as well as with the old country. The article concludes that the survival of the diaspora depends mainly on its ability to maintain its culture and traditions through ritual practices at various locations outside the home country. In its final part, the article presents some existing practices and possible directions which may contribute to the preservation of Gottschee celebrations and the Gottschee cultural heritage in the future.