Woman named Zala gives birth at the local hospital and everything goes well.
There is only a small, bureaucratic problem; Zala’s file is not on the computer. A software glitch, probably nothing serious.
Within a few days, Zala is entangled in a web of Kafkaesque proportions; Not being in the computer means no social security, no permanent address. All of a sudden Zala is a foreigner, even though she has lived in Slovenia all of her life.
Legally, she doesn’t exist.
So, her child is an orphan.
And orphans are put up for adoption.
On 26th February 1992 the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Slovenia erased 25,671 people who were born outside Slovenia, in the states that once were part of Yugoslavia:
“The “erased” were mainly people from other former Yugoslav republics, who had been living in Slovenia. They are mostly of non-Slovene or mixed ethnicity, and they include a significant number of members of Romani communities.” (wikipedia)
Some of them thought themselves Slovenians until they have to show their identity card.
The majority of them still haven’t been able to regain their legal status.
Miha Mazzini wrote an article about erasure A Foreigner in Your Own Home for Przekrój magazine.
Another article from 2017, Politico.eu: Justice evades Slovenia’s ‘erased’ citizens.
States often rounce some of their citizens, turning them into stateless persons.
Award winning feature film Erased is based on this novel.
- United Kingdom, 2018: ‘They erased a bit of my life’: Windrush generation on Home Office treatment
- India, 2018: Assam register: Four million risk losing India citizenship
- Dominican Republic, 2018: The Dominican Republic’s Revocation Of Citizenship Creates 200,000 Stateless People
- Myanmar, 2012: Rohingya: Stateless and ‘friendless’ in Myanmar
- “Intoxicating, passionate writing”, Igor Bratož, Delo newspaper (2014)
- “Vehemently written”, Gabriela Babnik, Pogledi (2014)
Slovenian edition: Goga, 2014, 270 pages, ISBN: 978-961-277-056-3.
Serbian edition: Orion Art, 2015, 223 pages, ISBN: 866389026-8, translation by Dragana Bojanović Tijardović.
Macedonian edition: Goten Publishing, 2015, 273 pages, ISBN: 978-608-4625-54-4-8, translation by Ivanka Apostolova Baskar.
Italian edition: Bottega errante, 2018, 285 pages, ISBN: 9788899368197, translation by Mihael Obit.
Polish edition: Ezop, 2020, 296 pages, ISBN 978-83-65230-60-7, translation by Marlena Gruda.
Hungarian edition: Metropolis Media Group, 2020, 240 pages, ISBN 9786155859984, translation by Gállos Orsolya.
German edition: Edition CONVERSO, 2021, 320 pages, ISBN-13: 9783982225234, translation by Ann Catrin Bolton.
Why I wrote the novel Erased?
Nikola removed his sunglasses and put them in his pocket. With them his macho pose disappeared. Suddenly he appeared confused and his eyes emitted a weakness of sorts. Zala kept her guard; perhaps he had just switched faces for one of his cunning tricks.
“All right then, let’s chat,” he said. “If a girl is good-looking, guys don’t have a problem when she wants to talk.”
“ . . . so, last month I was driving a little too fast, as usual, what can I do, I was born with a heavy foot. What was I going to say? Well, I turn . . . into that street . . . I can’t remember what it’s called . . . it’s not important anyway. It’s nighttime, even the run-over cats on the road have closed their eyes, you get it, I thought of that myself right now, to illustrate the scene . . . Well, I’m driving along. Here, shit, suddenly the police appear in front of me. One in the car, the other flagging me down, I’m taken by surprise. In my own car, all my papers in order. I don’t know what came over me, it felt as if I had set off for the market stark naked. I stop, what can I do. The policeman starts walking toward me, I do a quick tidying up, you know, like at home when you are expecting guests, you need to straighten a few things out. I chuck the small amount of grass under that plastic mat, what is it you call them, and step on it, everything will be fine, they didn’t have sniffer dogs with them. Along comes the policeman, shining his torch. At the number plates, the car, straight at my eyes. This all takes a long time, get it. I thought it was a bit strange. I felt a sort of . . . how can I put it, not fear, after all I am a man, but an unpleasant feeling . . . he continues to shine . . . it brought tears to my eyes, the whole thing shocked me, the light in the dark. Shining at the car, at me, the fucking cop. I want to make conversation, so I say, ‘I was a bit fast, wasn’t I? I won’t go that fast in the future, I promise . . .’ but he says nothing. Silence. Anyway, I’m no longer one of those kids they would stuff in the back of the police van and take for a ride to teach a lesson. But there were a couple of cops who still begrudged me, my brain ticked away like a pneumatic hammer, going over all my sins to guess who it could be. Lots of sins, countless possibilities. Now this was really getting to me, the palms of my hands were all sweaty, slippery on the steering wheel. Then the guy turns the torch upwards, just briefly, toward his face, and I see that it’s Tine!
“‘Tine, mate, what’s up?’ I say. He turns the torch downwards and doesn’t say anything.
“‘Tine, what’s wrong with you? Stop scaring me! For fuck’s sake!’
“I laugh, expecting to hear him laughing too, you know how they say that laughter is contagious. Fuck it, Tine is immune, nothing is contagious with him. He just stands there, silent, as if carved out of wood.
“‘Tine, what is it? What is wrong? Come on, mate, don’t do this to me!’
“He finally speaks:
“‘You were driving too fast,’ he says.
“I thought it’s all strange, you know, him being all official as if he didn’t know me from the neighborhood, we grew up together.
“‘You know me . . .’ I say.
“‘I do,’ he says so quick as if air was on credit. I’d thought my heart was squeezed as far as it could be, but those two words tightened it even further, like a screw, you know, when you think you have tightened it and then you try again and it turns just that little bit more.
“I was lost.
“‘What’s wrong?’ I ask him again. And now he, get it, there in the night, his torch shining down at the ground, I can see him in the darkness, suddenly loses his stony face and becomes the old Tine I’m used to. It’s not nice to deride people you grew up with, but we always knew he’d become a soldier or a policeman. Well, that Tine.
“He looks at me with his typical Tine face and says:
“‘We both know what I owe you. You pulled me out of the river and saved my life. Now I can return you the favor.’
“I still don’t get what this is all about, but it is clear that we are negotiating here, bargaining over something. Big time apparently, he’s mentioning his life. You know, I really did save him.
“So I say:
“‘What are you talking about? Not issuing me a fine? You value your life at a few banknotes of what?’
“Tine sighs, like it’s me who’s short in this equation:
“‘If I issue you with a fine I need to confirm your details with headquarters. But you do not exist.’
“‘Ah?’ I gaped.
“‘You don’t exist,’ says Tine. ‘I’ve checked all my friends. Some of you no longer exist, you amongst them. Since the twenty-sixth of February. We received a brief about how to deal with you.’
“He spoke as if he was standing at my graveside sending me off into the great beyond. I needed to get him to think straight again, so I thought of the most logical explanation:
“‘Do you have a fever? Perhaps you need some sick-leave?’
“He shook his head.
“‘Go to the town hall tomorrow and show them your identity card if you don’t believe me.’
“‘Tine, you are kidding me, aren’t you? Getting me back for all those pranks I played on you and you fell for, fell for many times and often. A joke, eh?’
“He still shook his head:
“‘You were erased from the Registry. You no longer exist. They say you didn’t want citizenship, that you are against us.’
“‘Against you, you being who?’ I got agitated. ‘Us who grew up on the first staircase against you who grew up on the next one along, or what? What are you on about?’
“I could sense that he was annoyed by all this. That he just wanted to get it over with, leave and forget me.
“‘Because you are erased I cannot issue you with a speeding ticket. I’m supposed to take you to the shelter for asylum seekers. From there they’ll take you to the border and hand you over to the Croats. The Croats will say, oh, look, a Montenegrin, we are at war with them, and they will do stuff to you that I would not wish on my worst enemy. So I won’t even take the tickets out of my pocket, you are erased and I can’t see you. Now we are even, but I must not see you ever again.’
“He switched off his torch and I really have never seen him since.”