The Local Community of Bukovo: people under the Kojca hill

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The Local Community of Bukovo lies in the western end of the Cerkno municipality and is one of the largest local communities by area.

It has about 220 residents, who live in several villages and settlements under Kojca, a heap-like hill, which can be seen and recognized from far away with its characteristic position and shape. The summit is actually not a summit, but a flat piece of land where mountain meadows used to be mown. Today there is a bench where you can sit and see far and wide, or just lie and marvel at the sky above you.

“To visit the summit of Kojca” is something that many locals must do at least once a year.

A few hundred meters below the summit villages, tiny settlements and isolated homesteads are strung around the hill as if in a wreath.

France Bevk described the village of Zakojca like this:

»Measure it as you will, but you won’t measure it from the lower end to the upper in half an hour. Look at it from any side, from close up or from a distance, it never reveals itself in entirety. This house or that one has hidden itself in a hole, tucked away behind the rocks or behind a thick group of trees…«

We could describe the other villages and settlements in a similar way.

What is the view from under Kojca like? It is different from every window and every path. If the view is not obstructed by a spruce tree, you can see the village of Police and the Šebrelje plateau, somewhere back in the distance you can feel Mt. Golaki, right in front of you is the Bukovski Vrh village, and you know that the Šentvid plateau is right behind it. In the “V Kotu” valley stands Mt. Matajur and then the Peči ridge with Mt. Črna Prst and from the village of Zakojca you can of course see Mt. Porezen.

An hour to get down, two hours to get back up

The village of Bukovo is a small, tightly clustered settlement on the slope of the Kojca hill and is the center of the local community. From far away you can see the Church of St. Leonard at the end of the village. There is an hour of walking from the church to the most distant houses. Today we talk about the length of the path in kilometers, of course, since we mostly drive, but in the past people used to measure distances in hours of walking. An hour to the valley, two hours back up the hill. You can reach Bukovo from many directions. All the paths are full of turns, steep, narrow, and in need of repair here and there, but you won’t be disappointed by the view!

From the valley you can continue past the small villages of Laharn, Žabže, Selce, Kojca, and Krtečne, and then past Bukovo to the village of Zakojca. If you set off to the Vrh Križa hill from Cerkno, you will have the villages of Jesenica, Orehek, and Bukovo with the Church of St. Leonard on the horizon in front of you. You can descend into the valley on the other side, into the valley of Baška Grapa, if you of course don’t turn to the village of Bukovski Vrh, where a few farms are still in the Local Community of Bukovo and some already on the Šentvid plateau. There is another path to the valley from the Zakojca village, which leads to Hudajužna.

From mules in the mud to asphalt

We don’t know exactly how long this area has been inhabited. It is presumed that people already lived here in prehistoric times. There are documents about the formation of a parish and the construction of a church in Bukovo, where a chaplaincy was formed in 1747. According to oral tradition there was already a wooden church here a few centuries before. There are also a few legends of people, who wanted to preserve their homes for the following generations through hard work and faith. The most well-known is the story from the time of Turkish invasions.

One Saturday towards the evening the Turkish army was going to the village from the direction of the Baška Grapa valley. When they reached the top of the Bukovsko Sedlo pass, they heard the bell in the Church of Leonard tolling, as the villages warned each other with bells that the Turks were coming. The commander responded to the bell, “Just you toll, but as soon as tonight my mules are going to feast on oats on your altar and my soldiers will drink wine from your goblet!” As they wanted to continue their way to the village, the mules started sinking into the mud and they had to turn back. Even now that place is still called “V Žrelu” (Eng. In the gullet).

In the middle of the previous century most residents still depended on what they produced at home. People walked to their errands and to the doctor, to Cerkno, to Grahovo, to Hudajužna, and then continued by train to Jesenice and to Tolmin. Maybe a few people had a moped, especially those who decided to work in Anhovo, Jesenice, or even further away. The biggest change was the possibility of regular jobs and earnings in Cerkno, at the factory Eta. Villagers, especially the young ones, could renovate their houses more easily, buy cars and machinery, and could afford to go on holidays. The bus started driving on the main road and the gravel was covered with asphalt. However, the development was also the end for the school, the shop, the pub and many other things.

Nobody is going to work instead us

Today the local community is alive and active. A look back to the past and staying in touch with one’s roots influences the present as well, but one must look ahead to the future.

»Whoever lives here knows that nothing gets done by itself and that nobody is going to come here to do the work for us. We need to come together for matters that concern us all, we need to talk, collect money, and do what needs to be done. Only then can you ask if we can be given what belongs to us as citizens as well,« says the determined president of the local community, Silvo Jeram. This is already his fifth term in this position. He is happy with everything that has happened and still is moving in the positive direction.

»Long-term work takes quite a lot of energy and time, of course, but you also learn a lot and open many paths. You learn that when working towards a goal, it helps to know what you want and to keep your expectations within realistic possibilities. When I go to the municipality meetings in Cerkno, I know that I won’t return completely empty-handed back to Bukovo. But you need to be diligent, persistent, and hard-working.” “It’s just like anywhere else here. Sparks fly in the meetings quite a lot sometimes. We are different, but there is nothing wrong with that. But when matters need to be taken seriously, we join forces, and that is important,« says Irena, who is also a member of the council.

Every common project takes some energy, will, money, and hard work. The decision to build a new community building, where all the activities could be held, was definitely a very courageous decision. First, it was necessary to overcome the mindset that we don’t need this project and that it is going to be yet another empty building … Then of course comes the money and the work. Since 2010 the villagers’ center in Bukovo is a building where fire fighters, young people, and local community representatives have found their home. The hall is a venue for cultural and social events. The residents also take care of the church, which is important for the village. In recent years they have renovated the roof of the bell tower and the church clock and cleaned up the surrounding area.

Most of the resources and work are allocated to vital communal matters: roads, ensuring the quality of water, keeping the environment tidy, and providing communal services. These things are always relevant, but such is life! After insisting and pressuring for a long time, the works to lay new optical connections finally started, which will make it possible for the villagers to have normal phone services and access to internet. This was necessary after the great damage caused by the glaze ice. The villagers also hoped for the road connection Zakojca – Hudajužna to be reopened after five years in 2014, since it was impassable due to a landslide. It is hard to gather the money. There should be an agreement and contributions from the Tolmin and Cerkno municipalities and the local communities. Contracts for asphalting the roads in the small village of Selce are in their final phase. These are short routes, but for individuals they are extremely important.

Something for the soul

It is very thankless to write about plans. Is it time to talk loudly about a sports field in this small local community? Of course it is and it’s going to happen once!

Everyone writes their own story and, after penning a few lines, certainly becomes part of the story being created in the place where they live. It is necessary to take care of the body and the soul and it is no different here either. Beautiful houses and good road connections are not the only conditions for happiness.

People need something for the »soul«, ; and it is nice both to receive and also share with others. This is where the activities of the societies in the local community originate. All residents take part in major events, as much as they can or would like to. In summer it is merry in the village of Zakojca, in autumn in France Bevk’s homestead, and in the beginning of November the parish celebrates the feast day of the patron saint St. Leonard. All who were led elsewhere in the course of their life still like to return to the place under Kojca at least for the holidays.

We all carry different talents and abilities inside. Nuša is a young and promising competitor in orienteering, Tone is well-known among radio amateurs, Jože is an organizer of memorial events from our recent history, every summer mowers and rakers are active in competitive mowing and raking, the Flander family is active in tourism, and there are many others too.

The Pod Kojco tourist society

Branko Mavrič, president: »The society was established 27 years ago on the 100th birth anniversary of fellow resident France Bevk. Bevk’s words are an encouragement and commitment to preserving cultural and ethnological heritage and passing it onto young generations. Every year we organize the Poletje pod Kojco (Eng. Summer under Kojca) event. Together with the Baška Dediščina society and the local tourist organization LTO Laufar, we also hold the Hike along the Bevk Trail

The volunteer firefighting department PGD Bukovo – Zakojca

Primož Rupnik, commander: »The department was established in 1981 and has 145 members. It connects all the villages under the Kojca hill. The terrain is extensive and difficult. This especially proved to be true in winter 2014, when there were 30 – 40 fire fighters on site every day for more than a week. Apart from the rooms in the new villager’s center we also got a new fire engine, which we named Podkojčen. It will serve all the villagers, who support us very much.«

The KUD Iris cultural society

Petra Jeram: »ŽPZ KUD Iris Bukovo has been active since the beginning of the year 2011. There are ten singers in the choir led by Vojka Svetičič. They sing folk songs and lately have also expanded into other genres. They share the songs with listeners at annual performances in the broader Cerkno region and also in the Idrija region. Once or twice a week the singers gather at rehearsals in the rooms of the youth club called Šeškarji in the villagers’ center.«

The KUD Šeškarji cultural society

Friderik Mavrič, president: »We are still here! The society has been active for ten years. Our rooms are especially full of life on weekends. We hold table tennis tournaments and attend them elsewhere. We also have a street football team. We traditionally organize: the night hike to the Rodne hill, bonfire night on 1 May, the St. Nicholas Day celebration, and another festive event in December.«