The final issue of American Home, the oldest Slovenian newspaper in the world arrived in my mailbox last month. The masthead, as always, featured the Statue of Liberty and the slogan, “American in Spirit; Foreign in Language Only.” It proudly announced, “Serving American Slovenians for 110 years.” The inversion is deliberate: those of Slovenian heritage living in the United States are American first.
The publishers’ statement under the American flag printed in red, white, and blue specially for the occasion, described the mission of the newspaper: “Ameriska Domovina has tried to acclimate persons of Slovenian nationality into American culture, and relate the customs of our Slovenian heritage to second and third generation readers, while championing the cause of an independent Slovenia, and keep readers informed of Slovenian activities throughout the world.” It goes the way of other similar newspapers serving central and eastern European communities made up of refugees from the dictatorships of Stalin, Tito, and Hitler.
The newspaper, some years ago, succumbed to a half-English and half-Slovenian format, for those like me, who did not have access to schools to learn to read and write in their mother tongue. In the few years that I have subscribed, I have come to appreciate its notices of activities in the city that includes the largest number of Slovenians in the country. I will miss learning about how Slovenian children learned to be good before the arrival of Saint Nicholas or else expect a visit by the devils. I will miss the corny jokes and recipes, and bragging about American-Slovenians’ accomplishments, like earning advanced degrees, getting academic distinctions, serving in public office and the military, and performing in recitals. I will miss reading about the various activities, camps, gatherings, polka masses, singing festivals, children’s performances in native costume—coordinated by volunteer efforts, without a cent of tax money. The newspaper, too, was a “grass roots, independent, and unencumbered newspaper,” according to publishers Jim and Madeline Debevec’s parting statement.