The Story of Lyenko Urbanchich
(Ljenko Urbancic)

Lyenko Urbanchich was born in December 1922 in a small village in Serbia. His father had just recently been transferred there in his duty as a public servant in the Ministry of Finance in what was then known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Both his parents were Slovenes and Catholics.

Slovenia is the most north-westerly of the Slavic states, bordered by Italy, Hungary, Croatia and Austria and having a small sea coast.

When he was four years old the family returned to Slovenia. Life was quite pleasant for Lyenko, in fact he published short stories in literary magazines and the daily newspaper Jutro (Morning) until about his 17th birthday when the baptism of fire came in the form of the Italian occupation, the German occupation and the raging civil war that communism brought. Slovenia was the biggest slaughter house of Europe. Boys had to quickly become men.

When the Germans attacked Yugoslavia Lyenko, an 18 year old student, volunteered to join the Royal Jugoslav Army and fight the invading Germans, much to the dismay of his parents as he was their only child. He argued that every citizen should know his duty.

In 1942 he was captured sent to the Italian Concentration Camp at Udine. Some of his concentration camp experiences were later published in Jutro the Slovene daily newspaper.

Lyenko in Ljubljana with his mother 1943

In October 1943 he was one of the chief organizers of the Slovensko (Slovene) Domobranstvo (Anti-Communist Home Guard), inspired by patriotic General Leon Rupnik. He was also a journalist and propagandist for it. He wrote the words for the first song for the nationalist units.

Read this report Our Nation Keeps the Evidence written by Lyenko himself in 1945 (it has been translated into English) of how he visited the caves where the communists had thrown the bodies of the Slovenenians they had murdered.In recent years archeologists and speleogogists in Slovenia have been excavating the caves to recover and rebury the remains of the slaughtered Slovenians.

In 1944 his motherís family home was burned to the ground by the Germans. In fact, the entire village was burned down in payback for some act against the German occupiers by one local man.

This was the world of the young Lyenko Urbanchich.

Lyenko with his parents in Ljubljana, 1945

In May 1945 at the age of 22 he left Slovenia along with a few other young Slovenes who would have been slaughtered by the communists had they remained. By night they jumped from a bridge onto a passing train that was bound for Austria. He lived in and travelled in Germany and Italy until in 1950 he and his then wife were cleared by the British to migrate to Australia.

Meanwhile all the six slavic counties Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Monenegro had been overrun by the communists under the dictator Tito (real name Josip Broz) and unified under a one-party communist dictatorship into a new state called Yugoslavia. Tens of thousands of people who opposed the communists had been murdered indiscriminately and their bodies dumped in mass graves.

Arriving in Australia on March 3rd, 1950, Lyenko and his wife were sent to the Bathurst Camp for migrants, formerly an army camp, actually, about 200 km west of Sydney and shortly afterwards a farmer came looking for a jackaroo with a wife who could do domestic work on his sheep station north of Cooma some 300 km south west of Sydney.

Later Lyenko, like many other post-war European migrants, became a labouror working 12 hour day and night shifts in a concreting gang on the enormous Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme while his wife did pathology work for local doctors in Cooma. He said on his first day he moved more than 100 barrows of concrete. He worked with Norwegians, Slovenes, Italians, Poles and Serbs. While working on the Snowy Scheme and living in Cooma he also wrote, published and printed a local newspaper.

A few years later they moved to Sydney. There he became an iron worker and a supporter of the legendary anti-communist trade-union leader Laurie Short. While living in Sydney, in Kings Cross, in fact, he was the victim of an attempted political assassination attempt by agents of the Yugoslav Communist Government when he answered a knock on his front door to be confronted with two assailants one of whom fired a shot at him, luckily only grazing him.

Lyenko could speak seven languages - Slovenian, Serbo-croat, Russian, English, Italian, French and German and some Polish, Bulgarian and Spanish. In 1956 he worked at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, first as a linguist and translator for The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, and then also as a reporter.

This is an article he wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald when he interviewd some Olymopic athletes.

Lyenko built a mountain retreat in the mountains 80km west of Sydney and named it after his mother, Mount Milena

Photos show the entrance to the mountain retreat, the Australian, Slovene and American flags being flown for American Independence Day on the tower
that Lyenko built there, and Lyenko working on his sculpture of Crtomir and Bogomila

Later he tasted the glory and sorrows of being the publisher and editor of his own periodical in the Slovene language.

Lyenko in Florence, April 29, 1989 by the Ponte Trincta bridge where Dante met Beatrice

He was President of Sydney Slovene Association, a member of the world Slovene National Committee and one of the prominent organizers in the struggle for a free and independent Slovenia which materialized in 1991.

He founded and edited The Liberal Spectrum and the conservative Esprit de Corps magazines. He was one of the prominent conservatives in the Liberal Party of New South Wales. Members seeking pre-selection for seats would seek audience with him to "pitch" their case as they knew he had great influence in the party.

Spectrum Magazine, December 1975, edited by Lyenko, featuring then Liberal Prime Minister
Malcolm Fraser and NSW Premier Tom Lewis at a campaign launch

He was very active in getting other people who, like him, had escaped from Communist countries like Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to join the Party. He can be seen marching in the photo above, proudly holding high the Slovene flag, in a Captive Nations parade through the streets of Sydney. He was elected President of the Liberal Ethnic Council that was formed in 1978 in an effort to involve more European migrants in the party, which made him automatically a member of the NSW Liberal Party State Executive.

Sydney Town Hall June 2,1979. Lyenko addresses the large audience that had assembled to watch the second Grand Ethnic Cavalcade

Executive of The Liberal Party Ethnic Council 1979
Seated: Lia Looveer, Mario Porapat (Vice President), Lyenko Urbanchich (President), Geoffrey Farrow.
Standing: David Clarke (later MLC), Eugene Anderson, Tom Bakker (Treasurer), Milton Nikolaou, Roberto Gonzales

Sadly the Council was dissolved in 1980.

From 1979 until 1986 Lyenko Urbanchich was exposed to savage media attacks stemming from his nationalist commitment during the civil war that raged in Slovenia between the years 1941 to 1945. These attacks were inflamed and kept alive by the now defunct Bolshevik Titoist regime of old Jugoslavia, plus fabian elements as well as the left "trendy" wing of the Liberal party itself.

Lyenko was cleared of the allegations not only in the Liberal Party, but in the Australian Senate. In the Supreme Court of New South Wales he sued for defamation and won. His defamation case established a legal precedent which is recognized worldwide.

The only book Lyenko published in English, a collection of recollections and portraits spanning the period from World War II to his life in Australia. The statue he is carving is of the Slovene Knight Cromir bidding farwell to his bride Bogomila in the 8th century AD

He visited liberated, independent Slovenia in 1992 after 47 turbulent years of exile.

Lyenko in 2003 at Krimska Jama cave mass grave. In April 1945 he as a journalist had to go into the cave to make his report. Communists killed the people and threw the bodies into the caves.

He is the author of several books, the second of which was published in Slovenia. His native village of Logatec gave him a civic reception combined with a literary evening in his honour.

In 1997 the Slovenian Government invited him to be an honoured guest at a conference of Slovene writers from abroad. His writings are acknowledged in literary circles for their contribution to documentation of the history of the period of which he wrote.