“Uroš, where do you hail from? Where is your official place of residence?” This past week, these questions have been some of the most popular among those around me. For many, these inquiries seem to supersede even the simple, “How are you?” This seemingly unreasonable line of questioning has inspired me to pen down a few thoughts on the subject.
So, let’s start from scratch. I was born in Trbovlje, still in the former country. My mother says that I was the embodiment of punctuality – born precisely at 4:00 pm. Even though several kind souls helped me into this world on that September Wednesday, that might be a tale for another day.
For the first two years of my life, I resided in Hrastnik. Despite this fact, I must confess that when I visit Hrastnik, I feel strangely alien, as if I don’t truly belong to the place that hosted my early years. A curious anecdote from this time is that the local priest in Hrastnik staunchly refused to baptize me (when I was barely a month old) because my parents attended mass at the church in Zagorje. What’s that quote from the Old Testament psalm? “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
As a result, I was baptized as a one-month-old infant in the parish church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Zagorje – almost as if the priest then had a premonition that I would, in the same church where I was baptized, later serve as an altar boy for over a decade, play the organ for 13 years, and even help with the church’s renovation. Here’s another fun fact that I enjoy sharing with my students. I often jest that the most beautiful aspect of the church in Zagorje is the fruit of my labor. Specifically, I assisted in gilding all sixteen indicators on the bell towers, both spheres beneath the crosses, and both crosses. If you look at both bell towers, you’ll see that the gold color has stood the test of time, enduring for more than a decade. To quote from Genesis, I can thus say: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” 😉
I celebrated my third year of life in Zagorje ob Savi, which became my new home. Yet, I must admit that I felt like a “stranger” even in Zagorje. Even though I knew that my mother hailed from Zagorje (my father spent his youth in Hrastnik), I didn’t quite feel embraced, despite my best efforts. I even wrote in the third grade that I would become the Mayor of Zagorje ob Savi – that’s how serious my plans were! It was only later, when I had already moved to Trbovlje and started researching my ancestors, that I realized more than half of my ancestors were from Zagorje ob Savi. So, I really shouldn’t have had the “impostor syndrome”. Presently, I can confidently delineate my familial ties to every Ocepek in Zagorje — a question that left me stumped during my primary school days.
Indeed, I’ve been a registered citizen of Trbovlje for six years now. Yet, at times, it feels as if I’m compelled to justify my existence here to my fellow Trbovlje citizens, clarifying whether I’m just a transient passerby. With all due humility, I can confidently assert that my teaching endeavors have enriched Trbovlje, stitching together many a success story.
As of today, a plethora of processions and promotions will kick off in local communities. My guiding beacon to everyone would be the desire to compose an authentic and heartfelt ode to freedom and collective welfare. If assistance is needed, consider tuning in to the recipe penned by Benny and Björn, members of the iconic band ABBA.
So, where do I hail from? Given everything I’ve mentioned, my first response is that I originate from Zasavje. However, I swiftly clarify that I was born and currently reside in Trbovlje.
I think, therefore I am. Made in Trbovlje!