Never Again! 1
Speaking about the communal effort which went into mounting a concert on April 4, 2008 to raise money for mesothelioma research, local resident and concert organizer Mrs. Rahotina said: Everyone said yes, when I asked for their help.
Lidija Rahotina, a retired teacher and principal of a local school in Deskle, Southern Slovenia, is well aware of the toll asbestos has taken on the local population; few families have been unaffected by the fallout from decades of asbestos-cement production at the Salonhit Anhovo factory, the town's biggest employer.
Six months of planning went into the concert; all the services, equipment and performances were donated and this sell-out event raised €10,000 ($15,700) for the medical research being conducted by the team from the Clinical Institute of Occupational Medicine, Ljubljana, headed by Dr. Metoda Dodic-Fikfak. The entire event was recorded by local television and was broadcast on Sunday night (April 7). Recordings were being made available to other TV channels in the hope that other communities might decide to hold their own fund-raisers.
Hundreds of people joined Mayors from five local towns, in which asbestos-cement workers had resided, a Member of Parliament and a Slovenian Prosecutor in the school auditorium for an evening which featured performances from all age groups and from both amateur and professional musicians. Some individuals made multiple appearances and I am sure I spotted the same young woman with auburn hair singing in a choir, playing the clarinet in a band and performing gravity-defying feats with a baton.
The evening kicked off with a performance by local drum majorettes who set a brisk pace as they went through their musical routine.
The youngest performers were kindergarten children who were adorable as they sang in their yellow costumes.
An orchestra made up of amateur and professional musicians from Italy and Slovenia and conducted by Jurij Kriniè played a few pieces including Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
Towards the end of the evening, a surprise was sprung on the audience when the emcee announced that Helena Blagne would be appearing; Helena is among the most successful Slovene singers of all times having sold millions of records. With her red lips, long blonde hair and black costume, it took the audience some while to figure out that this was a Helena-lookalike and not the real thing. No one seemed to be bothered by this discovery as the performance was both lively and good humoured.
The final performer was another famous name. This time it was the real thing. Vili Resnik is a popular male singer who represented Slovenia in 1998 at the Eurovision song contest. Having performed his first song, he co-opted a group of young children to join him and got the boys to play air guitar while the girls acted as his backing group.
The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves as did their families and friends in the audience. It was a great performance by Vili who judged the audience perfectly.
After the concert, there was a goulash supper in the cafeteria. The delicious stew was prepared and served by local hunters.
The inclusion of so many groups and individuals in the preparation and realization of this event underscored the community's resolve to take action to help those who had been so cruelly injured by their exposures to deadly asbestos. When asked whether another concert would be held next year, Mrs. Rahotina sighed wearily but confessed that work had already begun on a theatrical production to raise further money for mesothelioma research.
April 8, 2008
1 This slogan was emblazoned on a massive yellow and pink wall hanging which acted as the back-drop for the concert.