A neighborhood of the former working class
Kolonija (sometimes Železničarska kolonija, literally Colony of the railway workers) is a 150 years old neighborhood in Maribor located on the right river banks of Drava (in Maribor we say Desni breg). Maribor was the first town in the Slovenian territory, that had a railway connection and the first railway bridge was also built in Maribor. From 1841 to 1857 the Austrian Monarchy decided to connect Vienna with Trieste by train and a big portion of these railways would go through Slovenian lands. The rails reached Maribor in 1846. The part, where today's Kolonija is located, started to grow in 1862, when Maribor was connected with Klagenfurt/Celovec and another station was built in the area. Many workers started to migrate to Maribor and industry started to flourish. In the late 19th century Maribor was one of the fastest growing cities in the region and one of the biggest industrial centers. The population grew and new houses were needed. And a railway workers' colony started to grow right next to the station with a specific architecture - big houses made of red bricks with gardens. Usually 8 families would live in one such house, each having their own apartment. I've seen these houses from close since I was young.
My grandparents used to live here and I would visit them as a kid. My grandfather came to Maribor from east Slovenia in the 1940s to work for the railways. My grandmother came to Maribor from northern Croatia to work in a textile factory (so by blood I'm 25% Croatian, but at that time it was one country Yugoslavia and people felt like Yugoslavs first). They married in 1950 and lived in one of these red bricked houses until they died. My grandpa died when I was 10, my grandma when I was 26. Imagine, she lived in one of these houses for 56 years.
Whenever I visit this neighborhood, I become a little sentimental. I remember, how happy my granny was, when I visited her. I don't have any special memories with my grandpa, he died when I was 10. But I had my grandma for 26 years and we shared a special bond. She was a very simple woman, apart from primary school, she didn't have any other education. She grew up in the 1920s and 1930s in a poor family, they had a small farm with fields and animals, which was their livelihood. When she was close to 20, she had to go to Hungary and work on the fields during summer to support the family. During WWII this part of Yugoslavia was annexed by Hungary and she told me how they forced them to speak Hungarian. She knew many Hungarian songs and would sing them to me.
Her native language wasn't the proper Croatian, but a regional dialect, that was very similar to Slovenian, so we understood each other very well. And even after living in Maribor for nearly 60 years, she still mixed some Croatian words and had her typical accent, which my sister and I thought it was funny. Sometimes, when we missed her, we would imitate the way she spoke, but we didn't make fun of her. It was just our way to remember her, especially after she died. I remember visiting her in hospital days before she died. She was so weak, her eyes were blurry and twitching, she could barely speak. She was laying in bed, but when she realized I came, she tried to get herself up for me and she managed to sit straight for a minute. I held her hand, spoke to her that I'm there and that everything is going to be alright, but I knew her days will soon be over. It was hard to see her like that, I was pretty shaken up. After a minute of being conscious, she slowly slided back and fell asleep. She was too weak. I sat there for few minutes, watched her and then left. That was the last time I saw her alive. She died few days later at age 83. May she rest in peace.
The railways are the veins of Maribor and part of my family's history.
Maribor as it once was in the late 19th century. My grandparents used to live in a house like this one. This house was renovated in the recent years.