During the Second World War, Bela krajina made an important contribution to the success of the national liberation struggle.

Semič was occupied by the Italian army in 1941. In cooperation with the resistance movement, the locals soon began various sabotage operations, making it difficult for the occupiers to control Bela krajina. In 1943, after the capitulation of Italy, Bela krajina became the centre of the Slovene partisan movement.

On 28 October 1941, the Semič Troop was established on Smuk hill above Semič. On 30 October, they were joined by fighters from other parts of Bela krajina and they formed the First Bela krajina Troop. In high snow on the same day, they set out to fight in Dolenjska. Their hike was poorly planned as they knew too little about the route and the obstacles on it. When they reached the River Krka, they could not cross the rising water. They returned to Gornje Laze in the snowstorm to spend the night there exhausted. In their inexperience, they did not set up guards. They slept in the house of the Šobar family and in the Mavsar family’s stable.

The Italian soldiers found out where the partisans took shelter. They surrounded the Mavsar homestead in Gornje Laze and set fire to it. The partisans were prevented from retreating and killed, and the master of the homestead Alojz Mavsar was also killed. A few partisans from the Šobar house managed to withdraw, but were captured in the following days. A total of nineteen Bela krajina first-soldiers lost their lives.


The commissioner of the troop Jože Mihelčič was captured a day later. In November 1941, the Italians sentenced him to death in Ljubljana, shot him and buried him in Trieste. He was proclaimed a national hero in 1951.

On the site where Mavsar’s homestead once stood, a monument stands today, the work of academic sculptor Stojan Batič. 

In memory of the events around the establishment of the Semič Troop, the Municipality of Semič celebrates its municipal day on 28 October. The memory of these fighters also lives on in the name of the Semič Elementary School of the Bela Krajina Squad. Every year, the Semič Mountaineering Association organises a hike along the paths of the First Bela krajina Troop.


Foto: Uroš Novina