In the recent few years the National Gallery of
Slovenia has been intensely organizing and digitizing its special collections
of personal archives of artists and their fellows. This collection also includes
a voluminous correspondence of the Šantel family, which, however, is only part
of the family archive, since the other part is privately owned.
The above-mentioned material also contains a war diary written in the
ethnically mixed city of Gorizia in German shorthand by Avgusta Šantel Sr (1852–1935).
The entries date from 23 May to 16 June, 1915, when, due to incessant Italian
attacks, the family decided to leave their beloved home city. They put off the
departure from day to day, waiting for Avgusta Jr (1876–1968) to join them from
Pola, where she was employed as a teacher at the Imperial and Royal
War Navy. They wanted
to leave Gorizia in a body.
After 25 June, the following members of the family left the “Austrian
Nice”, as Gorizia was popularly called at that time: the 63-year-old mother,
Avgusta Sr (descended from impoverished Austrian nobility, a painter, relative
of the Gorizian Biedermeier painter Jožef Tominc), the 70-year-old father,
Anton (a patriotic Slovene of peasant origin, retired grammar-school teacher of
mathematics and physics, music lover), and the daughters – the 41-year-old
Henrika (a painter), the 39-year-old Avgusta Jr (a drawing and music teacher, painter,
violinist) and the 28-year-old sickly Danica (a needlework teacher, gifted for
painting and music). On leaving, the Šantels were convinced they would be back
by October. They left the care for all their Gorizian property to their maid
and the acquaintance Eva Mlekuž as well as the care for Mother’s relative Marjeta Domide (née Jesenko) who was
unable to set out on the way because of ill health. The first station on their
refugee wandering was in Ljubljana. The Šantels stayed in the city for eight
days, after which they went on to Dolenjske Toplice where a suitable dwelling
Ample evidence of how the Šantel family experienced their refugee
situation is provided by the correspondence exchanged during the war between
the family members and their close relatives or friends and acquaintances. The
Šantel parents and sisters frequently corresponded with Saša (1883‒1945), their
son and brother respectively, whom Mother called Alexander. He lived with his
family in Istria (Pazin, Sušak) and had artistic talents too ‒ he was a painter
and illustrator, violist, composer, choirmaster, and also stage and costume
designer. In his letters the son often advised Mother how to act and decide in
difficult situations they had to face; among other things he also warned against
leaving their paintings in Gorizia but rather to get them out of frames and
take them along in rolls.
After four months the refugee family Šantel left Dolenjske Toplice and moved
to Vienna on account of Danica's illness. Mother's sister Henrietta, the widow
of the famous physicist Dr. Ludwig Boltzmann (PhD student of Josef Stefan, the
Slovenian professor at the University of Vienna), was living in the capital and
saw to it that the niece was received at the sanatorium for pulmonary diseases
at Alland already on the 2nd of November. Since Danica’s treatment
dragged on and the distance of the health resort from Vienna was a logistical
problem, the Šantels moved to a rented house in nearby Groisbach in the first
weeks of 1916. Although Danica was given several therapies at Alland, they did
not cure her and after a few months she was discharged from the sanatorium. Meanwhile,
military authorities summoned Avgusta Jr to come and teach in a refugee camp;
she chose Steinklamm near Rabenstein, where the refugees were mainly locals of
the Littoral and Istria.
The Šantel family saw no reason why they should continue at Groisbach. So
they decided to return to the Slovenian territory. They bought a villa with
orchard near Krško and moved there before the end of March 1917. They finally
had a home of their own again, on their own land. The peaceful milieu suited
them well: Father Anton devoted himself to fruit growing; they were again close
to their acquaintances – the refugees from Gorizia; the daughters resumed
painting; and also Saša with his family was closer by. However, they did not
enjoy the Krško villa long: on the 23rd of February, 1918, it burnt
down and they were homeless once again. At the end of the Great War, the
Šantels were living in Krško as tenants.
In April 1920 Father Anton (born 1845) died, in May 1921 Danica (born
1885) died too. Henrika (1874‒1940) and Mother then left Krško and joined Avgusta
Jr, who was a teacher at a secondary school in Maribor.
After the war, also Saša left Istria and moved with his family to
Ljubljana in 1920. At the State Crafts School he took up the post of a teacher
of decorative drawing and graphic arts. On his persuasion, the Maribor part of
the family also moved to Ljubljana in the early 1930s, after Augusta Jr had
retired. Mother and the two daughters bought a villa with a garden in
Verstovškova (today’s Teslova) street. Their new home finally enabled them to
live a calm family life for which the Šantels had longed fifteen years.
The former Gorizians never returned to their beloved city, which had
been destroyed during the war and, according to the Treaty of Rapallo, belonged
to Italy afterwards.