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Franc in Helena - Ilonka Matjašec

Franc Matjašec was born in 1911 and Helena Matjašec in 1914. At the time of the interview they were the oldest married couple in Slovenia, married for almost 75 years. After they got married Franc and Helena Matjašec bought a house in a village called Kamovci near the Hungarian border. Since they could not provide for their family with the meager land that they had, Franc started to smuggle matches, tobacco, salt and sugar across the Hungarian border to Slovenia already before the Second World War. At that time, smuggling was strictly prohibited and sanctioned with shooting. This activity became even more dangerous when in 1939 Franc started to smuggle people across the tightly controlled border. The groups of eight to fifteen people were largely composed of Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, Austria and Germany. "The first group came in the end of 1939," recalled Franc Matjašec, "the first ones were Poles, some fifteen fighters. That went well. They were saying: 'We'll win over Hitler.' Then they started coming regularly. Mostly Austrians and Germans, some Poles and even one Russian with his German wife."


Hannah Starman and Bojan Zadravec


They did not count how many refugees they helped. For fear they kept their story secret for more than sixty years and only revealed it recently.