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Kaštel / Castelvenere

21 August 2024


6:00 p.m. exploration of the middle Dragonja Valley by a local guide; departure from old Kaštel square- Kaštel 85, 52460 Buje

8:30 p.m. refreshments provided by the local community in the garden of Vlasta Svetina's house - Kaštel 90, 52460 Buje

9:30 p.m. start of the performance in a terrace next to the garden of Vlasta Svetina's house 

event language: Croatian

information: +386 30313488

thanks to: Vlasta Svetina

As far as we know, in the beginning it was known as Castrum Veneris, but it’s not clear whether this was due in ancient times to the existence of a temple for Venus, or to the survival of a previous Celtic etymology for cliff, namely "vein". There is no doubt instead about the castrum/castle and perhaps it’s for this reason, as well as for the beauty of the view over the Dragonja valley down to the sea, in addition to the simple stone houses and terraces abandoned by the exiles, that memory immediately goes to القسطل/al- Qàstal on the road to Jerusalem, where the crusaders built a castle which they called Belveer, and where during the Palestinian Nakba of 1948-49 the village was destroyed and all the inhabitants expelled. 

The same church of San Sabba, with its reference to the saint who founded the homonymous laura in the Judean desert just outside Bethlehem in the 5th century, keeps the suggestion alive: I can't wait for Muhammad, the protagonist of our performance, a Syrian man of Palestinian origins, to come here to see if this place evokes memories of the stories that his parents and grandparents told him as a child in the an-Neirab refugee camp, on the eastern outskirts of Aleppo.  

“It happened two years ago, in December, when Croatia was not yet Schengen and the European border was down here, a tough border with fences and barbed wire. A Kurdish family attempted to cross the stream at night so as not to be seen, up there, further upstream. The Dragonja had swelled up due to the rain of the previous days. There were five of them, a mother and four children: first the eighteen-year-old son crossed with the youngest, then the mother with the ten-year-old girl, who was deaf-mute. The mother was thrown off balance by the current, she clung to a rock but lost grip of her little girl, who disappeared into the river. The thirteen-year-old son who was still on this side of the river called for help, but it was too late. They found the body only two days later.”

Vlasta Svetina is the lady who has since then kept a candle alive on the bridge near the site of the tragedy. That same bridge that the Kurdish family hadn’t been able to cross because they didn’t have any documents. "The last straw is that after what happened, the rest of the family wasn’t even welcomed into Slovenia, but sent back to an immigration center in Zagreb, where they still live. Today Croatia has become part of Europe, but what kind of Europe is it, if it continues to act as a fortress?"