Alenka Bizjak is a Slovenian environmental activist, a lawyer by training, who was born in Maribor in 1937, to the parents who emigrated from Trieste to Maribor after the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy. Upon graduating from secondary school in Nova Gorica, Bizjak worked at the Yugoslav Railways Directorate in Ljubljana (1958-1962), the Organization of Clubs of the United Nations in Slovenia (1962-1968), Institute of International Law and International Relations of the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana (1968-1972) and the administration of the School of the Medicine of the University of Ljubljana (1972-1990). In 1990 and 1991 she was a consultant in the Office of the Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister, Leo Šešerko, who was responsible for environmental protection and regional development.
Bizjak was active among Slovenian grass roots activists that established the Association of Environmental Protection of Slovenia in 1971, and she was the Association's secretary between March 1982 and December 1984 as well. Under the Association’s aegis, intellectuals of various professional backgrounds collaborated, while her role was writing press releases, preparing materials and writing articles. All of those activities earned her reputation and label by government as "someone who is blocking progress and development."
Bizjak's task was to draw the Slovenian public’s attention to environmental issues in Slovenia and Yugoslavia. The cases of the River Krupa in the Bela Krajina Region (1985), and then the Rivers Reka, Koritnica, Kamniška Bistrica and Krka should be mentioned. In all major cases, the common denominator was the plan to build hydroelectric power stations even in national parks (the Rivers Soča, Idrijca, Sava Dolinka) or on highly polluted rivers (Mura) or at the intermittent Lake Cerknica, and last but not least the construction of the Vršič and Triglav cableways. In the 1980s, she even participated in opposition to the use of electricity from the Krško Nuclear Power Plant due to the unresolved issue of nuclear waste.
Bizjak, together with her sympathizers, established the Green Party of Slovenia in 1989. In the first democratic elections in Slovenia in April 1990, the party won seats in the Slovenian Parliament, and afterward the party became part of the new Slovenian government led by Lojze Peterle. Despite its success, the party was torn apart due to infighting, and thus lost support and members, including Alenka Bizjak.
Following the formal introduction of democracy, Bizjak continued her environmental activism, warning the Slovenian public of the negative effects of the construction of golf courses on arable land, and the issue of illegal construction, even in protected areas. Since 2008, she has been active in the civil initiative Tržnice ne damo (We’re Not Giving Up Marketplaces), an initiative that opposes the construction of garages in the city centre of Ljubljana, and also opposes the support of the Slovenian government in setting up Magna Steyr, a paint shop at Dravsko polje near Maribor.
- Maribor, Slovenia
Author(s) of this page
Oset, Željko, interview by Bencetić, Lidija , Shek Brnardić, Teodora , July 06, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection