Principal Investigator (postdoc project): doc. dr. Urška Lampe

Research Organisation:

  • Institute IRRIS for Research, Development and Strategies of Society, Culture and Environement
  • Period: 1. 3. 2019 – 28. 2. 2021
  • Financed by: Slovenian Research Agency (Grant n.o: Z6-9361)



The project addresses the question of the fate of Italian prisoners of war in Yugoslavia after World War II, with special emphasis on those who were interned in Slovenia. Their fate will be placed in a wider historical context, while we will as well try to understand the personal experience and economic situation of their families, especially women (mothers, women and sisters) and children, whose life circumstances were conditioned by the unknown fate and late repatriation of their relatives. The aim of the project is to understand the fate of those who were not directly involved in the military operations, but suffered the consequences. The state of research in fact shows that there were some studies dedicated to the problem of Italian prisoners of war in Yugoslavia, but we do not yet have a more in-depth study, which would highlight various aspects of this issue and especially the fate of prisoners in Slovenia and their relatives. In addition, there are not many studies dealing with the experience of families of prisoners of war after WWII in general.

The project intends to fill the existing gap with an original analysis and interpretation of several types of sources. As is evident from the current state of research, there is a general lack of combining two basic sources for a good and qualitative research: archival sources (diplomatic and military documents, ego-documents (diaries, letters, memories)) and oral sources. For the purposes of the project, the researcher will carry out a research of archival sources in several archives (in Rome, Belgrade, Geneva, Pieve Santo Stefano and Ljubljana) and collect oral testimonies of relatives and descendants of former Italian prisoners of war in Yugoslavia and Slovenia.

The project is divided in two specific objectives. The first specific objective is to understand what were the reasons (political and/or ideological) for the prolongation of the captivity of Italian POWs in Yugoslavia. The second specific objective is to understand the social and economic position of the families during this time and after the repatriation period as well, since the fate of some POWs remained unknown because the Yugoslav authorities have never issued the certificates of death to the relatives. The aim is to understand how did this unknown fate of the POW influence on the life of the POWs relatives.

The project appears to be particularly original for the Slovenian area, but for the Balkans and Europe as well, in its theoretical and methodological approach. The issue of POWs in Yugoslavia (and Slovenia) is not very present in Slovenian (and in the area of former Yugoslavian countries) historiography (or in historiography in general). There are several reasons for that, among which probably the most important is the dispersion and inaccessibility of sources. However, with an accurate methodological approach, the issue can be deeply researched and bring important scientific knowledge on the problem of POWs which up to now was only vaguely described by historians. In addition to that, the project approach interferes on various areas, among which the most relevant are woman and social – family studies. The project thus follows the contemporary trend in researches, which is rightfully oriented towards the experience of women and families (children), who were not directly involved in war operations, but suffered the consequences, and towards the transfer of war traumas from one generation to another.

The project will thus make a significant contribution to the development of historiography, while at the same time the study will be useful for other professions in the field of humanities and social sciences, which use similar methodological and theoretical approaches. In addition, the project will significantly contribute to understanding the complex situation Europe was facing at the end of World War II and will bring new insights into the post-war period of transition to peace in general. In this way, the project intends to increase the tolerance towards the situation that Europe is facing today with a survey on what was the general situation in Europe 70 years ago, and only tolerance and mutual understanding, despite the cultural/ideological differences, enabled Europe to become a union of countries that live in peace and understanding.


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