To fight and win – or die!

Ljubomir Sancin - Stojan, partisan commander

Ljubomir Sancin - Stojan

Ljubomir Sancin – Stojan
Dolina, July 9th 1919 - Jelšane, March 18th 1944

Ljubomir Sancin was born on July 9th 1919 in the country village of Dolina near Trieste to a family of peasants. Like the rest of slovenian Littoral, Dolina fell within Italian borders following the 1920 Rapallo treaty and was thus to suffer, as every slovenian homeplace, the consequences of the efforts of ethnic ‘bonification’ ruthlessly pursued by the fascist regime.

Ljubomir could so have one only month of schooling in his native language before the school reforms planned by Giovani Gentile took hold and disposed of every form of schooling bar those in the kingdom’s language. A livvely kid with a passion for reading, Ljubomir witnessed the growing pressure of the fascist upon Slovenians: first the italianisation of schools, then in 1927 the abolition of every kind of social, cultural and economic form of association. As temperamental as every youth, he disdained the calls to join the ‘Young fascists’ movement and refused to sport the macabre ‘balilla’ uniform.

At 17, due to the unbearable social and economical conditions, Ljubomir tried with his best friend to do what many other did: run across the border to Yugoslavia. They were instead caught by the ‘Carabinieri’ (a militarized rural police corp) and only the intercession of their schoolteacher saved them from persecution as ‘enemies of the state’.

At 20, Ljubomir was drafted into the Army and assigned to the 127th Infantry Reg. Even in uniform he didn’t try to hide his national conscience and, having found a score of like spirits, quickly set up the national pastime of Slovenians – a choir. Soon he sensed the surveillance around his movements and, indeed, ended up in preventive arrest without explanations together with a score of soldiers from the same region. In the letters he wrote home he clearly stated his ignorance of the reasons for the arrest until released, same without explanation, after eight months and ten days of solitary confinement. It wasn’t until his 22nd month of service that he managed to obtain a leave to visit his parents and his sister Doroteja (Dorka).

After September 8th 1943, the day Italy collapsed under the pressure of advancing allied armies, Ljubomir returned home with his fastest pace and at once joined the partisan movement. Those were frantic days in Dolina too: the local committee of the Liberation Front has already formed an armed company against fascism and for Yugoslavia. Their primary duty was the collection of weapons and food to be delivered to the command post of the Istran brigade. This become easier as a moltitude of italian soldiers headed home from the formerly occupied territories. Dispirited and unled, they were all to ready to surrender their weaponry to the compact and decisive locals.

The situation changed abruptly with the German offensive of October 1943, when the troops forced the population to rebuild many destroyed bridges under the menace of shooting every male in town the morning after, and then moved on to burn the neighbourly villages. Soon after that, the Dolina company become the 1st company of the 1st battalion of the Istran brigade. Ljubomir was expected to stay in place as an underground activist, but the police has already begun to follow his steps and he had no choice but to leave home again and join the fighting formations.

The Istran brigade didn’t survive the Nazi offensive. Its place was taken by the Istran detachment, whose duties comprehended the drafting of new volunterers for the 14th Division and other partisan units, the prevention of Nazi activities against the civilian population and the disruption of enemy communications. Ljubomir Sancin, better known then by his partisan callname ‘Stojan’, was early noticed by his commanders in the 2nd battalion and allowed to form an assault company which become famous for its daring and successful surprise strikes. The very first of these actions happened to have place in his hometown Dolina, where they besieged and took the Carabinieri station. Other actions followed, among them ambushes, assaults to bridges and even a resounding attack to a railway bridge in the immediate suburbia of Trieste. One of these actions took place before the unbelieving eyes of an allied military mission, under escort of Stojan’s company while traveling from the partisan headquarters to the seashore.

Ljubomir’s last destination was the small village of Jelšane, where on March 17th 1944 a German unit had suddenly left and three partisan companies quickly occupied the place. The inhabitants of Jelšane, relieved by the Nazi’s departure and overwhelmed by the joy, managed to set up a dinner and dance to welcome the liberators. In the confusion, nobody took notice of an italian road worker who left the place and run to inform the Germans. Early in the morning some three hundred Germans had encircled Jelšane and begun to attack. The forceful reaction of the partisans and the presence of barbed wire slowed them down, so the partisan company managed to divide into three squads and run for safety in different directions. Two of the squads, included those led by Stojan, reached safety beyond the Nazi positions, while the third one found itself stuck in crossfire. Stojan, having led his squad to safety, returned to help the comrades in peril. Wounded, he fought to the last and didn’t give up, altought bleeding and fainting, until the enemy came close. Then he used his last breath to shoot again at them until machine-gun bullets reached him for the last time. Thanks to his diversion, at least half of the last squad managed to hide before the German troops, while the remaining half, having surrendered after running out of ammunition, were killed some on the spot and some later in the nearby Ilirska Bistrica.

As the survivors later witnessed, Stojan’s last command has been: To fight and win – or die!

Sixty years has passed, but his memory is still alive. It is his sister Dorka – the partisan activist Jasna – that takes care of his legacy of handwritings, newspaper articles and pictures, never forgetting an anniversary.

Ljubomir Sancin – Stojan as a heroic commander and Ivan Sancin – Jovo as the first casualty among the Littoral partisans are to every generation of Dolina natives bright examples of fighters for freedom, justice, equality and peace.

Monument in Jelšane

Published at the 60th anniversary of death
Published by: Section Dolina-Mačkolje-Prebeneg of VZPI-ANPI
Sponsored by: Občina Dolina
Editor: Boris Pangerc
Italian translation: Marko Štoka
English summary, graphics, web edition: Dejan Kozina
Dolina (TS), March 18th, 2004

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