How the road to Vršič was built

Beautiful Russian mountain road to Vršič pass at the sunset

The diary of Franc Uran, who lived on Vršič from 1909 to 1916, takes us live into the times when and, above all, how the road to Vršič was built.

(Planinski vestnik, XIII / 1957, s.151-163)

There have been several writings about the road over Vršič, both in the old Yugoslavia and now after the liberation, but these descriptions were brief and incomplete because the authors of these lines were not familiar with the location well. I believe that it is necessary for the public to become well acquainted with the history of this road, which remains tremendously important even today.
Since I lived near the source of the Soča River for a full seven years. t. j. from 1909 to 1916 and was employed in the construction of this road from beginning to end, t. j. Until the arrival of that terrible avalanche on Vršič, which buried 110 Russians, I consider it almost my duty to describe this event, as I was present during this catastrophe.

In January 1909, I started working for Ivan Zakotnik, the master carpenter and mayor of Gornja Šiška at that time. Shortly after I started working, a trader from Kamnik named Franc Cvek came to Zakotnik and offered to sell him the Velika Planina forest in Trenta.

The personal diary of life on Vršič pass when the Russian road was built.

 

Zakotnik se je za nakup odločil in tako smo šli konec marca istega leta Zakotnik, Cvek in jaz v Kranjsko Goro, kjer smo se oglasili pri gostilničarju Pristavcu. Ta je bil lastnik gozda, kupil ga je pa od kranjskogorske občine. Takrat je bilo v Kranjski gori skoro en meter snega. Odločili smo se, da gremo v gozd prihodnji dan, za kar smo se morali temeljito pripraviti, ker so nas opozorili, da je na »vrhu« dosti snega. Zato.smo se opremili s krplji in smo prihodnji dan zgodaj odrinili iz Kranjske gore. Vodil nas je pa oče Mrak, občinski mož, ki je situacijo dobro poznal.

Do Klina je šlo še kar nekam v redu, ker je bila do tam pot izvožena. Od Klina dalje pa je bilo treba navezati krplje, ker smo gazili sneg na celem. Poti nismo videli nič. Kdor je poznal staro pot, ki je bila izredno strma, mi bo pač priznal, da je bila ta hoja s krplji na celem snegu izredno utrudljiva. Gazili smo sneg menjaje, da ni bil vedno eden in isti prvi. Pristavec je bil debel možakar in ga je najbolj zdelovalo.

Končno smo le prišli Na Močilo, od koder smo videli tudi takratno »Vosshiitte«, ki pa je bila zaprta. Treba je bilo torej iti dalje in smo končno le prispeli z veliko težavo na vrh do Jezerca, kot so takrat rekli Kranjskogorci ali pa na Kranjski vrh, kot so rekli Trentarji.

Gozd, ki smo si ga šli ogledat, se je pričel takoj pod vrhom na levi strani sedanje ceste in se je razprostiral spodaj ob Lemi, kjer je danes drevesnica proti Zadnjemu Prisojniku do Razorskih Korit in proti vrhu Prisojnika, dokler so pač rasle smreke in macesen. Gozda dosti nismo mogli videti, ker je bila pot v gozd nemogoča in tudi mi smo bili že pošteno utrujeni, zato smo si ogledali le del gozda Na Lemeh; potem pa smo šli dalje v dolino. Mimogrede smo si ogledali tudi izvir Soče, ki pa je bil s plazom zasut in smo do izvira morali iti s svečo pod snegom. Potem smo pot nadaljevali do Loga v Trenti, kjer smo se ustavili pri Čotu (Zorž) poleg Baumbachute.

Zame je bila to silno utrudljiva pot, ker takrat nisem bil še prav nič vajen planin. Spali smo pri Čotu, prihodnji dan pa smo nadaljevali pot peš do Bovca, ker ni bilo nobenega prevoznega sredstva. Iz Bovca smo se odpeljali s poštnim vozom do Sv. Lucije, kjer smo zopet prenočili. Naslednji dan smo se z vlakom odpeljali proti Jesenicam. Med potjo pa je barantija napredovala tako, da smo v Boh. Beli izstopili in šli tam v prvo gostilno, kjer se je kupčija zaključila. Popoldan istega dne pa smo se odpeljali v Ljubljano.

Gozd je bil torej kupljen in jaz sem bil določen, da bom delo v gozdu nadzoroval. Poiskali smo sekače in tesače. Čim smo zvedeli, da je izginil sneg, smo se odpravili v gozd in to maja meseca istega leta.

Z njimi sem odšel tudi jaz. Ker je bila takrat Vosshiitte že odprta, sem se provizorično nastanil tam. Medtem pa so sekači podrli nekaj smrek in si iz smrekovega lubja napravili zasilno strehov Tu moram omeniti tudi takratno pot iz Kranjske gore čez Vršič, ker je pozimi zaradi snega nismo mogli videti.

Do Klina je bila slabo oskrbovana gozdna pot, tam je bila zasilna brv čez Pišenco. Od Klina dalje pa je bila pravzaprav le steza, ki se je v nekaterih krajih zelo strmo dvigala. Pri Žlebiču (pod sedanjim Mihovim domom), je bil studenec, kjer se je običajno počivalo. Od Žlebiča dalje je bila steza na več krajih razrita od hudournikov, malo pod Močilom pa je bila zasuta od peska in kamenja od plaza. Tudi od Močila dalje proti vrhu je bila pot zasuta od plazov. Pešec je prišel lahko do vrha, z vozom pa je bilo nemogoče. Zato so morali takrat hrano in pijačo v Vosshiitte nositi na hrbtih.

Druga stran proti Trenti pa je bila še slabša. Na kranjski strani je še ta ali oni gozdni posestnik kak les »vlačil« proti Klinu, s čimer je bila pot do Klina kolikor toliko utrta. Na trentarski strani je pa bila pot prepuščena sama sebi in torej silno zanemarjena, uporabna samo za pešce. Bila je to prava kozja steza, ki se je vila po obronkih sedanje ceste do Hude ravne, mimo Komacovega spomenika naprej do Lemi, kjer je sedanja drevesnica. Od tu dalje je ta steza še popolnoma taka, kot je bila pred 45 leti. Tak je bil takrat prehod iz Kranjske gore v Trento, samo za pešca, nikakor pa ne za kako vozilo.

Trentarji so pravili, da je pred nekaj leti, preden sem jaz prišel v Trento, avstrijska vojska imela tam vaje in da so takrat pripeljali čez Vršič tudi nekaj manjših topov, ki so jih privlekli tudi do Trente, vendar z veliko težavo in da jih je več zdrknilo tudi pod cesto. Takrat si nikdo ni mogel misliti, da je avtomobilska cesta čez Vršič sploh izvedljiva.

Treba je bilo torej skrbeti najprej, da se napravi primerna cesta, da se bo mogel dovažati v gozd proviant in orodje, ki je potrebno v gozdu, istočasno pa odvažati nazaj posekan in obdelan les. Moja naloga je bila, da za vse to skrbim. Najel sem delavce v Kranjski gori in v Trenti. Z delom smo pričeli v Kranjski gori in predvsem očistili in popravili ter razširili cesto od Kranjske gore do Klina, da je bila uporabna za vozila poleti. V Klinu je bila takrat le brv čez Pišenco, zato smo morali napraviti nov most. Iz Klina dalje proti vrhu pa sem se moral držati stare gozdne poti, ker bi kako novo smer takratni posestniki skozi svoje gozdove ne dovolili. Trasiranje nove ceste pa bi bilo tudi predrago. Ta pot je bila v nekaterih krajih izredno strma, večkrat pretrgana od hudournikov in plazov. Mostički čez hudournike so bili razdrti.

Vse te ovire smo za silo odpravili, pot po možnosti razširili, napravili nove mostičke čez hudournike in v splošnem usposobili pot za voznike, in sicer vse do vrha prelaza. Seveda takrat še nikdo ni računal s tem, da bo prišla jesen in zima in z njima hudourniki in plazovi. Kljub temu pa je bila pot v dobrih dveh mesecih sposobna za vožnjo z vozili. Ves ta čas sem stanoval v Vossovi koči, ker naša naselbina ni bila še gotova.

Medtem pa smo si poiskali prostor, kjer naj bi bila centrala našega podjetja in kjer naj bi se postavila tudi potrebna poslopja za bivanje osebja in delavcev, hlevi itd. Zaradi nevarnosti plazov je bilo treba vprašati domačine za nasvet in so nam Trentarji nasvetovali, da se naj to napravi v malem kotlu pod Hudo Ravno, kjer je tudi studenec dobre zdrave vode, ki ga pa danes ni več. Tu smo najprej napravili hišo iz celih debel (Blockhaus), pokrito s smrekovim lubjem; prav tu je bilo tudi zasilno stanovanje za Zakotnika in mene in tudi pisarna. Drugi del hiše pa je bil za delavce sekače in tesače. Istočasno pa smo na bližnjem gričku pričeli graditi lepo planinsko kočo s štirimi sobami, kuhinjo, kletjo in podstrešjem, ki je imela tudi železne peči in štedilnik. Tako sem se konec junija preselil iz Vossove v našo kočo.

Prvo leto, t. j. 1909, smo sekali le na levem pobočju sedanje ceste proti Prisojniku, medtem pa nadelovali cesto do vrha, ki je bila v silno slabem stanju. Z vožnjo pa smo čakali do zime, ko se les lahko vlači po snegu. Ker pa na tem pobočju ni bilo veliko lesa, temveč je bil glavni del gozda na južni strani Prisojnika, je bilo torej treba skrbeti za cesto v ta del gozda. Edina steza v Zadnji Prisojnik je bila tista, ki je držala do Prisojnikovega okna in na Prisojnik, ki pa se je nekoliko pod oknom odcepila na desno v Zadnji Prisojnik ter steza čez Robec. Obedve stezi pa nista bili primerni, da bi se uporabili za izvoz lesa iz Zadnjega Prisojnika. Zato sem trasiral cesto od naše naselbine čez Šupco in potem dalje proti Zadnjemu Prisojniku ravnice »Na Ležah«. Na Ležah je bila ravnina, kjer smo postavili drugo naselbino. Izdelava ceste od naše naselbine pod Hudo Ravno do Šupce in naprej Na Leže je bila silno težavna in nevarna, ker so pred Šupco hude strmine in svet brez trdnega fundamenta. Istotako tudi onstran Šupce. Pod Šupco pa bi bilo nemogoče izpeljati cesto, ker bi tu morala biti vsekana v živo skalo, to pa bi bilo predrago. Dalj kot do Lež mi nismo delali ceste, ker nas je prehitela vojska.

S sekanjem gozda smo tako nadaljevali do leta 1914, ko se je pričela vojska. Poleti smo sekali in tesali les, pozimi pa smo ga vozili na postajo v Kranjsko goro. Sekače smo imeli običajno iz Bače pri Podbrdu, tesači pa so bili iz Loške doline, deloma pa tudi Trentarji. Ves čas, dokler se ni pričela vojska, nismo pri našem obratu imeli nobene nesreče.

Mountain road covered with snow. The Russian road was built during the war, and it takes more than 10.000 lives when was built.

We also got used to winter conditions and took precautions in time to protect ourselves from avalanches.

The avalanche below Močilo, the one from Slemen that usually went towards Vršič Pass, and the avalanche below Mojstrovka were particularly dangerous. During winter, we used to plant long poles in the snow from Močilo to the summit so that the drivers could orient themselves when they arrived late in the evening from Kranjska Gora. As soon as it seemed that avalanches might occur, we would stop all traffic over the pass. Once the avalanches had cleared, we would create a path over them for sleds and continue with the transportation. We were never overtaken by any accidents.

I spent all my free time climbing all the peaks around there: Mojstrovka, Prisojnik, Razor, Jalovec, and so on. I often visited Zlatorog on Log, where I would meet with the innkeeper and the then-mayor Cundro, p. d. Tondrom was a very good friend. Today he lives in Maribor, where he had to move after his estate in Log was sold. I used to hike alone most of the time, but occasionally I would take along a worker who enjoyed the mountains.
In my cabin, I often had various visitors. During that time, it was very rare to find a Slovenian who would come across Vršič to Trenta. There were often Czech visitors, among them two, one of whom was supposedly named Dvorsky, who would come to the Julian Alps every year. There were many German visitors, especially from Carinthia, and also some from the Reich, mostly Bavarians. Many of them stopped at our settlement, rested, and asked for information. Even Dr. Kugy and Bois de Chesne stopped by us on several occasions.

Many came to us for official purposes, including foresters from Bovec and Tolmin who indicated the wood for us. With them always came Andrej Komac (Mota), the son of guide Andrej Komac, who has a monument on Huda Ravna, where he froze to death a year before our arrival. I became friends with Andrej Komac and visited him several times at his home in Log. During the First World War, he disappeared without a trace. “Špik” – Tožbar from Sv. Marija also came several times, whom I visited at his home a few years ago. He did not recognize me anymore as he had lost his memory in old age. Among Slovenian tourists, I remember only Dr. Bogdan Žužek, who was once with his mother in our cottage.

In 1910 Prof. Ludwig, then President of the D.U.O.A.V., came to Zakotnik and agreed to extend the then Vosshiitta. I was commissioned to draw up a plan and a budget, and indeed the opening of the enlarged Voss hut took place in 1911. The eastern wing of the current Erjavec hut, where the bedrooms are, is as I designed it at the time and has not been altered.

Among the workers, many of whom were Trentarians, there were also a number of poachers. Since I started, I have had no way of knowing who is fishing. We knew he had a hidden gun somewhere near the settlement. As dawn broke, a wild goat fell somewhere in Prisojnik. Finally, we found out that it was Škafar and Vertelj Anton, who were each hunting for themselves. As we sat around the fire in the bailey, they told us various adventures about these poachers: how Škafar carried a chamois through Pi-isojnik’s window to escape the hunters, how the poachers tied the game warden Košir from Kranjska gora above the anthill with his head above the anthill, and how he was accidentally saved by a shepherd so that the ants didn’t devour him. Škafar was said to have fished for trout in the Soca. The hunter watched it with binoculars from the top of the hill. Škafar went home with his prey, and the hunter made a trail in the sand and went to Škafar’s home to prove the theft of the trout. The proof failed, however, because the footprint in the sand did not match the shoes, because Škafar had a pair of huge shoes that were not suitable for his feet.

Our settlement consisted of an administrative house on a hill, a building for workers, a kitchen, a smithy, a charcoal store and two stables. We had 6 to 8 horses, sometimes more. Šmon, a saddler from Črnuče, repaired the horse equipment. Once he asked me to go with him to Mojstrovka and to collect some mountain pine trees to take home. I led him from the top over the scree behind Sito, so that we could then go along the ridge to Mojstrovka and collect the mountain lilies there. My husband was very excited to get so high. But when we came out from behind Sito on the ridge, where there is a very nice view of the upper Trenta, Grintovec, Jalovec, etc., his head spun, he covered himself with his cape, sat down on the ground, and I couldn’t get him out of his seat any more. I took him by the hand and led him back to the scree, where he was relieved. I went to collect the mountain lilies for him. Apparently my husband still lives in Črnuče.

The winter of 1912 was extremely severe. A lot of snow fell and we stopped all work over the winter, including sending the horses to Kranjska Gora. Before Easter, I came to our settlement to sort out a few things. I was alone. Meanwhile, it has started to snow and it is a terribly cold night and day, without a break.

I tried to snowshoe my way to get over the summit and into Kranjska Gora, but with the greatest effort I barely made it to Huda Ravna. So I went back to the hut and gave in to fate. I had enough food to get by, but it was monotonous. Days passed and 14 days passed, and still no one from Trento was there to go to Kranjska Gora. That day Šilov Lojz brought me some milk and eggs, because in Trento they knew that I was alone in the hut. I was very happy to see it. I still didn’t dare to go over the top because the snow was soft. So I was left alone for three whole weeks. After three weeks, the first Trentars arrived, paving the way over the summit, and we arrived together in Kranjska Gora. At home, they were convinced I was snowed in. Nobody could reach me from Kranjska Gora either. This was the time when the “Titanic” sank and Dr Cerk was killed a short time later on the Stool.

As spring began, avalanches began to rule. From all sides, from Prisojnik, Mojstrovka and Travnik, they made their way into the valley. Then there was thunder and roaring, especially at night, so that it was impossible to sleep. Huge masses of snow used to pour down into the valley. A particularly large avalanche came every year from Travnik and rolled into the ravine below our settlement. It never reached our settlement.

The most dangerous avalanche for our settlement was the one from Prisojnik. That’s why we didn’t dare to cut any wood above our settlement, because every year it was the forest that held back this avalanche. The forest was under the protection of the forestry administration and we were only allowed to clear certain areas, and not densely.

Our hut was built with a very strong ceiling over the cellar, so that we could hide there in case of danger. This cellar still exists today, but the hut was washed away by an avalanche in 1917.

In those days, it was a real pleasure to walk from Močil over the summit and on towards Trenta. In spring, all these slopes were a single rose bush. On the Goriška side towards Huda Ravna, there were mountain flowers of all kinds.

I have always felt very comfortable among the Trentarians. I loved them. They were good, soft-spoken people who were a pleasure to talk to and listen to. Trentar was used to suffering and was content with little. For a year and a day, he ate only polenta and sometimes “chompas”. He did not know bread.

Only if he went to Kranjska Gora did he buy it. He drank Trentar “gajst”, i.e. j. He bought some plain spirit, which he diluted with water at the first well. Every Trentar carried a bottle of this when he left home and offered a sip to everyone he met. At that time, the Trentans went shopping in Bialystok.

The curves of Russian road in winter from the drone

They also drove their small livestock to the seminary in Bialystok. They usually went there to see a doctor. So he walked the whole way, first over Vršič and then over Podkorensko sedlo.

If Trentar went to Kranjska Gora, he said he was going over Kranjski vrh to Kranj = Kranjska Gora. But no one said it was going over Vršič. The Kranjska Gora people said they were going to “Jezerec” because at that time there was a small lake right on the pass, which never dried up. Our road withdrew, and then the military road broke it up. Voss’s hut was called both by the Trentars and by the Kranjskogorci the Hut on Močil. Officially, it was then called Vršič Prelaz Mojstrovka. During the war, the military commandos also called Vršič “Mojstrovka-Pass”.

But when the First World War broke out in July 1914, we had to temporarily stop all work because the workers had to leave for the war. In the autumn, we started work again, but on a very reduced scale. Despite the triumvirate, Austria had no confidence in Italy and slowly began to prepare for war against it. In the meantime, negotiations continued, but, as is well known, they failed. Thus, in the autumn of 1914, the High Command began preparations on this section as well.

One of the most important issues for trips to the mountains in that era was the question of good shoes. The first time we walked across Vršič in the winter in the snow, I was wearing ordinary walking shoes, which of course got soaked immediately and I suffered a lot on the way. Later, when I came into contact with hunters and foresters in Trento, I saw that they had excellent, strong, waterproof and brilliantly shod boots. Such shoes were worn by Črnigoj, a forester from Bovec, Andrej Komac-Mota, Tožbar-Špik and others. When I asked where such shoes, which are indispensable in Trento, are made, I was given the address of the shoemaker who makes and supplies them. This was Franz Plieseis, a shoemaker in the village of Goisern in Upper Austria.

I wrote to him immediately and got an immediate reply that he was ready to make my shoes and that I should send him the measurements as soon as possible. Such shoes cost 10 crowns at the time, with a box of excellent lard. I stayed in contact with this shoemaker until the First World War, and I was constantly ordering shoes from him for myself and my acquaintances. The shoes have always been excellent and everyone has been happy with them.

At that time, it was not possible to buy mountaineering shoes in Ljubljana or elsewhere. It was only after mountaineering became more developed and the shoes of the Goisern cobblers became better known in the mountaineering world, that similar shoes started to be made in our country and were called “gojzerji”. The first and true mountaineering shoes came from the village of Goisern. The shoemaker Franz Plieseis died at an old age about five or six years ago in Goisern. He is, in fact, the inventor of the so-called ‘Goisers’.

In autumn, the military commandos sent 25 Russians to Kranjska Gora. They were Siberians themselves, tall, dignified people, who were accommodated in the Pečar’s salon. They were guarded by Austrian soldiers. Every morning they went from Kranjska Gora, each carrying a bar of iron, which they then handed in at Močil. These iron bars were then used as wire barriers on Vršič. This was the daily work of these Russians. In the evening, they usually sang various Russian songs, and the locals loved to come and listen to them and bring them treats. Initially, the Austrian Guard did not defend this, but later any contact with the Russians was strictly forbidden and also dangerous, because anyone was immediately considered a traitor to the Fatherland.

This was only the beginning, as the state of war between Austria and Italy had not yet begun. That winter, there were no major war preparations on Vršič and in this section. As soon as the month of May was approaching in the spring of 1915 and it was certain that Italy would take the other side, the

Preparations for the road over Vršič to Trento. The women’s corps arrived with engineers and they started to measure and route the road to Trento. They brought a lot of building materials to Kranjska Gora, and more and more Russians came with them. Various barracks, warehouses, offices, etc. were built in Kranjska Gora. There was, in fact, a huge amount of traffic. The route to Trento was soon completed and divided into 12 or 13 sections. One engineer took over each section. The engineers were mostly Czech Germans and a few Hungarians. The commander at the time was still Major Rimi, also a Czech German, but not a bad man for the Russians. The first section from Kranjska Gora (from Baba) to Erika was assigned to Slovenian Eng. Beštru, who was not particularly popular with his German colleagues, among whom were also many Jews, because of his Slovenian origin.

But when on 24. Italy officially declared war on Austria in May 1915, work on the road across Vršič was already in full swing. At that time I was also called up for the war, but because of my position in the construction of this road I was temporarily exempted from military service.

The military administration occupied our settlement and our work in the forest was completely stopped. The tremendous overhead in the forest almost ruined him financially and he was on the verge of collapse, because he was only eating the forest and not giving enough of himself. But when he saw that the war administration had decided to build a road across Vršič, he had the good idea to cash in the wood from his forest. He went to Bialystok, where 6 was stationed. General Rohr, to whom he suggested that he would be prepared to make a so-called avalanche protection roof over Vršič from his own wood (Lawinenschutzdacher), thus ensuring safe passage for the Austrian army over Vršič, even in the winter when snow fell. The Military Administration approved Zakotnik’s proposal and the construction of these roofs over Vršič began.

The military route of the new road followed our road only as far as Erika, where it crossed Pišenco and then gently ascended with a few curves to Mihov’s home. There it crossed with our road, left it again and then only met again a few times until it reached Močil. This route took a completely different direction and came back to our road at Močil, followed it for a while, then took a turn and rejoined the old road at the top of the pass.

On the Goriška side, our road, except for two curves, goes continuously to Huda Ravna, t. j. to the Komac monument, which they wanted to demolish at the time, but I went to Ing. Schutt intervened to keep the monument. The route then follows our road back to our village and then on to Šupka and then on to Lez. From here on, the route is completely new, because from here on, there was no track at the time. It winds its way and over very rough terrain; it finally reaches the valley at the present bridge and from here on to Logo in Trenta. The tunnel did not exist then. This was later done by the Italians.

The new road was built exclusively by Russian prisoners of war, around 12 000 of them. They were accommodated in various barracks from Kranjska Gora to Trenta. These barracks were very primitive and very cold in winter. The food of the prisoners was very poor and insufficient. They were divided into squads of 25 men, guarded by one Austrian soldier and one Russian interpreter, usually a Jew, who did nothing. There were also many Germans from the Volga among the prisoners. The prisoners were poorly dressed. Because they had to work in good weather and bad, most of them had their uniforms torn. The Austrian military administration did not give them any other clothes. As a result, various diseases such as dysentery, dysentery, cholera and smallpox spread among them and many died.

The Russians were treated very badly. Some engineers and officers in particular behaved savagely towards prisoners. For the slightest offence, the prisoner was tied to a tree and fainted in no time. Then they splashed cold water in his face to make him conscious again and left him hanging like that for two to three hours. The wildest of the engineers was Ing. Kavalir, a Hungarian, who built the section under Močil. When he was drunk, he would come with a heavy stick into the street among the Russians and he would beat the Russians with the stick, no matter where it fell. Many Austrian guards also liked to beat up Russians. An appeal was impossible. When the guards brought the captured Italians along the new road, the Russians always attacked them with picks and shovels, saying that it was the Italians’ fault that the army was still going on, because the army would have been over a long time ago if Italy hadn’t helped.
To the Russians. They barely kept the Italians from being killed on the spot.

So, as soon as Zakotnik got the go-ahead from the military command to build the flood-proof roofs, he teamed up with Weissbacher, a master carpenter from Ljubljana, and the two of them immediately started preparations. In particular, they got us to move back into our settlement, which had been occupied by the military. Half of the rooms in our cottage have been returned to us, i.e. j. two rooms, and the soldiers kept the other half. At that time, loggers, carpenters and drivers were mobilised all over Slovenia and even in Tyrol and Solna Graz to work on the road over Vršič. These flood protection roofs were to be built from Močil over the top and then a little further on from Tičar’s house. The flood protection roofs were designed to be raised on 35 X 35 cm strong columns to which strong rafters would be attached and then embedded in the ground above the road. The rafters would be roofed by 6 cm thick slabs, over which the avalanche would then slide. But it was all connected by strong iron couplings. In theory, this was a good idea, but practice and the avalanche have shown otherwise.
The construction of the columns and rafters started immediately. At Leža, the prisoners of war were sawing the slabs by hand, with one prisoner on top and two prisoners holding and pulling the handsaw below. In this way, up to two wagons of slabs were sawed daily at Leža.

Work started at Močil. In the meantime, I got another bowmobile with a circular saw and we started sawing sheets with the circular saw at our hut. Meanwhile, the road was being worked on with all haste. The road was not solid because round spruce wood was used for various trusses, which could not hold for long. This became apparent later.

At the same time, a cable car was built to take people from Kranjska Gora to Vršič, where the station was located. The second station was in the ravine below our settlement, and the third was at the footbridge as soon as you get to the valley before the source of the Soča River. The cable car could pull up to 60 kg and mainly transported food for the army, hay for the horses and various tools. At Huda Ravna, the cableway went so low that the terrain had to be dug up. Here, various sacks of food were stolen several times by both Russians and Austrian soldiers. Guards also stole or were caught in the act. Most of the thefts took place when the so-called “Liebesgaben” were sent to the front. When the cable car was being built, I said that it was not the right way to go because it would be taken away by an avalanche, and they laughed at me, saying that it was not as dangerous as I thought it was. Many officers and engineers even laughed at the flood-proofing project.

The road works were progressing at a very fast pace, so that 1. In October 1905, the later Emperor Kari already drove a car along it. He drove to the Soča River in Trento, where there was a military reception. At the time, it was rumoured that he had contracted cognac at lunch and had fallen into the Soca River drunk. We had to hold the torch at Mochil.

The main construction team was based in Kranjska Gora. Then there were various intermediate commands, and Major Rimi built his villa above the Russian church. The second team was in Vosshutta and the third in Tičar’s home. In Huda Ravna, he built himself a magnificent one-storey villa, ing. Schutt. I advised him against the place where he started building because it was dangerous for a landslide, but he didn’t believe me. The villa was swept away by an avalanche that winter, but Schutt luckily still had his head. The foundation of this villa can still be clearly seen on Huda Ravna. The last commando was then in our hut. Strict care was taken to ensure that no one rode uphill on a horse-drawn carriage, and special road traffic wardens were set up.

As soon as the road was passable, the material, the cannons, started rolling down it. Dr. It was constantly occupied by various military columns. The wounded were being taken back. When the 24. May, the war with Italy began, there were no troops in the Soča Basin, except at Predilo. There were only 4 gunners in the firing trenches near Bovec, among them was the sentry Pogačar. They had rifles placed in the trenches at certain distances. The Italians were cautiously getting very close, but they didn’t dare to go any further, because these gunners were going from gun to gun and shooting all the way there in one day. It was not until much later that the first Austrian units arrived and took up positions there.

November has arrived. Meanwhile, the first columns for the flood protection roofs on Močil have started to be erected. But there was still no snow. Even in December, there hasn’t been any snow yet. Officers, engineers and the team that knew me, they were all making fools of me, Chesh, where are the avalanches. Christmas 1915 has come. During the night, some snow fell on Štefanovo, so that a small avalanche struck from Slemena, just above Močil, and buried two Russians up to their waists. Laughing, they dug themselves out of the snow. But everyone who saw it laughed at them, and even more at me.

Traffic therefore continued to flow uninterrupted across Vršič, because even in January 1916 there was still no snow. The work on the avalanche protection roofs has also progressed well and the second turn towards the top has already taken place. A lot of material has been swallowed up by these roofs. There was a constant need to bring in wood and everything seemed to be going well. Everyone also believed that the structure would be able to withstand any snow pressure, because it was really extremely strong and solidly built.
Meanwhile, a monument to Archduke Eugene, the commander-in-chief of the front against Italy, was being built at the top of the pass, where the Italian Carousel is today. The road over Vršič was also named after him “Erzherzog Eugen- Strasse”. The monument is meant to be something huge, an eternal symbol of Austria’s greatness. Over 200 Russian prisoners of war were employed in the construction of the monument’s frame alone. I also told the builders of this monument that it would be taken away by an avalanche, but they told me that it would be made so strong that it would withstand any natural force.

At the beginning of February, we were sunbathing shirtless on Huda Ravna. Still no snow and I was targeted again. I was almost ashamed, because I had never really experienced a winter like this before.

At the end of February, it starts snowing. Slowly at first, but then more and more, and finally it started to get so bad that we had to clear it off the road. The snow was dry as flour. That’s when some people started to believe that my promises were not for free. The Russians also said that while there is snow in Russia, they do not know the quantities. I could not have imagined that disaster was so close.

Russian prisoners built the road to Vršič pass.

 

Dne 8. marca 1916 po kosilu sem bil namenjen na vrh, da si ogledam delo. Šel sem od naše koče proti vrhu ob enih. Bil je pravi metež. Ko pridem do Hude Ravne, zaslišim en sam strašanski krik iz nešteto grl, ki pa je takoj utihnil. Grem počasi naprej, pa mi kmalu pridrve naproti ruski ujetniki s prestrašeni obrazi: »Lavina, lavina«. Pribežalo je tudi nekaj avstrijskih stražnikov. Vsi, kar jih je pribežalo z vrha, so bili tako prestrašeni, da nismo iz njih mogli spraviti ničesar jasnega. Tudi nazaj nismo mogli pripraviti nikogar. Vsi so izjavili, da se raje dado pobiti, kot pa da bi šli nazaj. Tudi oficirji in inženirji so zgubili glavo in niso vedeli kaj početi, ker je bila na mah pretrgana vsaka zveza s Kranjsko goro in tamošnjo komando.

Vse delo je zastalo. Ničesar nismo vedeli, kaj se je zgodilo na drugi strani Vršiča. Nikdo pa se ni upal na vrh. Tisti dan je bilo absolutno nemogoče pripraviti ruske ujetnike do k,ake rešilne akcije in tudi avstrijski oficirji niso imeli nobene volje in poguma, da bi šli na mesto katastrofe. Pričeli smo ugibati, koliko mora biti žrtev. Natanko se takrat še ni dalo dognati, ker so bili na prelazu zaposleni ruski ujetniki tudi iz druge strani. Približno pa smo že takoj takrat ugotovili, da manjka okrog sto ruskih ujetnikov in nekaj avstrijskih stražnikov. Tudi oficirji iz Tičarjevega doma so pribežali na našo stran in izjavili, da je na vrhu vse uničeno in da je Tičarjev dom popolnoma izpraznjen.

Komanda za naš sektor je bila v tako imenovani Schuttbaraki na Hudi Ravni, tabor ruskih ujetnikov pa je bil malo niže v naši naselbini. Naslednje jutro so prišli iz Schuttbarake vsi oficirji in inženirji v našo naselbino. Bili so vsi oboroženi z revolverji, kar običajno ni bila navada. Zahtevali so nastop vseh ruskih ujetnikov. Ko so ujetniki nastopili, je iz njihovih vrst izstopila deputacija treh Rusov, ki so takratnemu komandantu izjavili, da na delo na Vršič ne bodo šli več, ker to delo ogroža njihova življenja in jih avstrijska vojna komanda za taka dela ne sme uporabljati. Inž. Schutt jim je ponovno zagrozil, da bo v primeru nadaljnjega upora prisiljen uporabiti orožje. Deputacija pa mu je odgovorila, da so vsi ujetniki pripravljeni pustiti se pobiti, na delo na Vršič pa ne bodo šli več. Tudi poziv za reševalno akcijo so odklonili, češ, da bi bila brezuspešna, ker je na vrhu vse uničeno, kar je bilo živega. Le nekateri ujetniki so bili pripravljeni, da gredo na vrh, če bi se morda dalo kaj rešiti. Sicer so pa imeli Avstrijci z inženirji in oficirji še večji strah iti na vrh kot Rusi.

Kljub temu pa se nas je nekaj zbralo in smo jo mahnili na Vršič. Ko smo prišli tja, se nam je nudilo strahovito razdejanje. Tam kjer je bilo prejšnji dan skoro 20 metrov visoko ogrodje Evgenovega spomenika, ni bilo videti ničesar več, le tu in tam je ležal v snegu kak zlomljen tram ali deska. Snega je bilo ogromno, bil je nabit. Ker je še vedno snežilo in je bil ves vrh v megli, se ni dalo še ničesar ugotoviti, od kje in kako je plaz prišel.

Plaz je bil suh. Domneval sem, da se je morala utrgati na grebenih Mojstrovke opast, ki je padala na lavinsko področje in sprožila na novo zapadli sneg. Zato je še vedno obstajala nevarnost za nove plazove in to tembolj, ker se ni videlo na vrhove, da bi se presodilo, od kod preti nevarnost.

Človeških trupel nismo videli nobenih. Šli smo do Tičarjevega doma. Pri tej koči se je plaz ustavil. Pred vrati, ki so bila vsa zasuta s snegom, ga je bilo več kot tri metre. Pričeli smo odkopavati, da bi prišli v kočo. Kmalu smo odkopali dva Rusa, ki sta bila že oba mrtva. Kazalo je, da jih je ubil puh. Čeprav se je takrat, ko se je gradil Tičarjev dom, previdno iskalo in določalo prostor, da bi bila koča varna pred plazovi, je le malo manjkalo, da je ni odnesel ta plaz, kajti bil je tako silen, da je kočo nagnil za približno 15°. Še danes se na koči opazi, da stene ne stoje navpično. Zlasti se to opazi tudi pri vhodnih vratih, ki so iz pravega kota.

Oba mrtva Rusa smo vzeli seboj in jih pokopali na Hudi Ravni. Ko pa so pri tej priložnosti, ob pogrebu teh Rusov, ostali ujetniki prišli do spoznanja, da bi bila reševalna akcija na Vršiču le potrebna, so se potem odločili, da bodo z odkopavanjem pričeli. Vsi niso šli, vendar pa jih je prihodnji dan šlo precej na Vršič in so pričeli z odkopavanjem, ker je tudi snežiti prenehalo. Sneg je bil trd in je bilo delo jako težko. Odkopali so kakih 15 ujetnikov in enega stražnika. Vsi so bili strahovito izmaličeni. Tramovje je nekaterim potrgalo glave, roke in noge. Da bi bila pod snegom še živa bitja, ni bilo niti govora. Kmalu po delu, še isti dan, je zopet prihrumel plaz na istem mestu. Zato je bilo vsako delo z odkopavanjem nemogoče in tudi ujetniki niso imeli več poguma.

Plazovi so zasuli tudi obe postaji žičnice na vrhu in v grapi pod našo naselbino. Katastrofa je bila torej popolna. Ves promet čez Vršič je bil ustavljen. Ničesar nismo vedeli, kaj se godi na drugi strani Vršiča. Tako smo čakali kakih 14 dni na povelja. Snežilo ni več in nastopili so lepi sončni dnevi. Ker pa je bilo treba nekaj ukreniti, me je komandant vprašal, ako bi se upal iti čez Vršič v Kranjsko goro na komando, kamor bi nesel poročilo o katastrofi in dobil tam nadaljnja navodila glede usode gradbenega osebja in ujetnikov na naši strani. Ker nikogar drugega niso mogli pripraviti na pot, sem se torej odpravil jaz.

Šel sem torej v Kranjsko goro in še isti dan prinesel nazaj povelje, da je treba vse ruske ujetnike spraviti v dolino do Sv. Marije in naj se tam nastanijo v barakah. Kar pa je tehničnega moštva, naj gre do Soče v Trenti in tam počaka nadaljnjih povelj. Tudi inž. Gregor in jaz sva dobila nalog, da odideva do Soče, kamor sva prišla še isti dan. Jaz sem bil nastanjen v gostilni Flajs, kjer sem bil še iz prejšnjih časov dobro znan s tedanjim gostilničarjem.

Čakali smo v Soči nekaj dni, nakar pa smo dobili povelje, da naju z inž. Gregerjem še isti večer, ko se napravi tema, odpelje kamion v Srednji Log pod Mangrtom, kjer se bova odpeljala z elek. rudniško železnico v Rabelj. Bovec je bil takrat deloma v italijanskih, deloma pa v avstrijskih rokah. Cesta čez Kal in Koritnico mimo Bovca, pri križišču, je bila prehodna, vendar podnevi nemogoča, ker je imela italijanska artilerija cesto vedno pod ognjem. Tudi ponoči so Italijani večkrat napravili na cesti preplah. Čez Predil pa je bilo takrat nemogoče priti s kamionom. Zato je dobro služila rudniška železnica, ker je bil promet čez Vršič pretrgan.

Res so naju naložili na kamion in odpeljali smo se proti Kalu in Koritnici. Čim pa smo prišli do tja, je pričela avstrijska artiljerija dražiti Italijane. Naš kamion je tako prav po nesreči zašel v artilerijski ogenj. Šofer je v tej zmedi zavozil v jarek, kjer smo obtičali. Hitro smo poskakali z našo prtljago iz kamiona. K sreči je za nami privozil drug kamion, ki nas je naložil in odpeljal dalje v Srednji log.

Tam je že čakala električna železnica in odpeljali smo se naprej v Rabelj. Šaht je tam globok okrog 230 metrov. Dvigalo nas je potegnilo na vrh in bili smo okrog enih ponoči v Rablju, ki je bil ves v temi zaradi italijanskega obstreljevanja.

Najprej smo šli v pekarno, kjer smo dobili svež kruh. Na cesti ni bilo nikogar. Vse je bilo zaprto. Naposled pa smo le zagledali pri neki hiši žarek svetlobe. Prišedši tja smo videli, da je pred hišo vojaška straža, ki nam je salutirala, ko smo vstopili, misleč, da spadamo tja. Prišli smo v precej veliko sobo, lepo razsvetljeno, po sredi pa dolgo mizo, ki je bila polna raznovrstnih jedil in pijač. Bilo pa ni nikjer žive duše. Prav pošteno smo se poslužili vseh dobrot in nazadnje smo se tudi napili. Potem pa smo polegli in zaspali. Nikdar nismo nikomur dali račun za to postrežbo.

Kamion nas je potem odpeljal na postajo v Trbiž, od tam pa smo se odpeljali z vlakom v Kranjsko goro, kjer smo se javili komandi. V Kranjski gori smo zvedeli, da je tudi na tej strani plaz napravil silno razdejanje, vendar natančnih podatkov še ni, ker ni bil po katastrofi še nikdo na Vršiču. Ugotovilo pa se je medtem, da je vseh mrtvih ujetnikov 110, poleg tega pa še 6 ali 7 stražarjev. To so bile takrat oficialne številke, ki pa so bile zaupno javljene na višje komande, civilistom se je to prikrivalo.

Komanda v Kranjski gori je izpraznila prav vse objekte do Vršiča in ni bilo nikjer nikogar več v poslopjih in barakah. Rusi so bili tako preplašeni, da je komanda že skoro uvidevala, da si z njimi ne bo mogla dosti pomagati. Nič manj pa niso bili preplašeni vojaki z oficirji vred. Vsakdo si je želel proč, celo v fronto, samo da bo stran od teh prokletih plazov.

Čakali smo torej vsi v Kranjski gori nadaljnih odredb. Dne 3. aprila pa sem dobil od podpolkovnika Rimla (takrat je že avanziral) nalog, naj grem s 25 ujetniki v Vossovo kočo in naj pričnemo odkopavati cesto, da bo čimprej zopet vzpostavljen promet na njej. Šel sem torej z ujetniki do Močila, kjer sem jih hotel nastaniti v tamošnjih barakah, ki so še ostale cele. Zdajci ni bilo nobenega ujetnika več, vsi so zginili kot kafra. Gledam okrog sebe, kam da so zginili, in zagledam luknjo v snegu. Grem po njej in zagledam samo podplate ujetnikov. Ujetniki so tičali v vsajalnih luknjah vojaške peči, ki je ostala še cela in popolnoma zasuta s snegom. V peči pa je bilo polno pečenega kruha, ki so ga ujetniki zavohali. Pustil sem jih, da so si ga nabrali po mili volji in so bili jako zadovoljni. »Hljeb harašo« so govorili, čeprav je bil že več kot tri tedne star.

Za menoj so prišli nato v naslednjih dneh še nadaljnji ujetniki in oficirji in inženirji in pričeli smo odkopavati cesto. Mene je komanda določila za vremenskega preroka zaradi plazov. Dodelila pa mi je še nekega poročnikaturista, ki je bil doma iz Tirolske in kot tak, kot je rekel, pozna dobro planinske in snežne razmere. Hodila sva skupno in ogledovala tamošnja plazovna polja in vrhove. Poročniku so se zdele najbolj nevarne snežne opasti na Mojstrovki, ki so bile ogromne. Tako se je moja domneva, da se je sprožil plaz proti Tičarjevemu domu, pokazala kot napačna, ker so opasti na Mojstrovki še vedno visele, kar sem povedal tudi poročniku. Rekel je, da bo temu kmalu odpomogel, da bomo lahko varni. Res smo čez dva dni že dobili dva topa 75 mm in poročnik je pričel streljati na snežne previse na Mojstrovki, najprej z granatami, ker pa ni nič zadel, je pričel streljati s šrapneli, pa tudi s temi ni bilo uspeha. Več kot 50 strelov je poslal proti Mojstrovki, pa ni bilo nobenega uspeha. Takrat sem pričel sam dvomiti, da more pok ali krik sprožiti v planinah snežni plaz. Ko je videl, da je njegov trud brezuspešen, je ustavil streljanje. Delo pa je šlo medtem naprej z odmetavanjem snega. Poročnika sem opozoril, da glavna lavina (temeljna — Grundlavine), ki je običajno vsako leto prišla s Slemena, do takrat še ni prišla. Odgovoril mi je, da ta ni nevarna in da smo lahko brez skrbi, o čemer pa sem jaz izrekel svoj dvom. Bili smo nastanjeni vsi v Vossovi koči. Med drugimi oficirji je bil tudi nek nadporočnik, češki Nemec, ki je ponoči dobesedno norel zaradi bojazni pred plazovi in je motil spanje nam vsem, ki smo bili v koči.

Prav na sedlu Vršiča je bil takrat hlev, v katerem je bilo 7 žlahtnih konj, ki so bili last oficirjev iz Tičarjevega doma in Vosshiitte. Dobili smo nalog, da te konje spravimo na Močilo in od tu dalje v Kranjsko goro. Poskušali smo na vse mogoče načine, pa nikakor ni šlo, ker se je konjem udiral sneg in je obstajala nevarnost, da si polomijo noge. Nikomur ni moglo ničesar pametnega pasti v glavo. Pri konjih je bil namreč še vedno konjski hlapec, ki jih je oskrboval. Tam tudi ni prišel plaz.

Zvedel pa je za naše težave v Kranjski gori nek korporal, ki je imel v življenju opravka s konji, pa se je ponudil, da bo te konje rešil. Prlšel je v Vossovo kočo in vzel seboj nekaj ujetnikov in šotorska krila. Na vrhu je vsakega konja podrl na tla, zvezal vse štiri noge in ga zavil v šotorsko krilo. Potem pa ga je kot toboggan po snegu porinil proti Močilu, kjer smo konja ujeli, mu razvezali noge in tako rešili vseh 7 konj.

Vse je kazalo, da se bo cesta res dala odkidati in da bo spet stavljena v promet. Pa je spet plaz postavil vse na glavo. Neke noči, ko smo šli že vsi spat, ob pol dvanajstih, se zasliši nad Vossovo kočo strahovito hrumenje in bobnenje. Oficirji so v svojih sobah pričeli kričati in so pribežali napol oblečeni v jedilnico in spraševali, kaj je, ker se je zemlja tresla in tudi koča a se je prav pošteno majala. Prihajal je temeljni plaz s Slemena. Bučalo in grmelo je še nekaj časa, nakar je vse utihnilo. Koči se ni zgodilo ničesar.

Drugo jutro pa smo videli učinek tega plazu. Ogromne mase snega so se nakopičile skoro do vrha griča, kjer je stala Vosshutte. Od protilavinskih streh pa ni bilo nobenega sledu več. Vse je odnesel plaz v grapo pod Vossovo kočo in potem dalje v Suho Pišenco. Tisti močni leseni stebri, ki so bili povezani med seboj z železjem, so bili zlomljeni kot vžigalice, potrgani iz zemlje. Sploh je bilo videti, kot da bi bilo vse napravljeno iz papirja.

Javili smo stvar komandi v Kranjsko goro. Vse tehnično moštvo, z Rusi vred je bilo popolnoma demoralizirano, zato je komanda uvidela, da je najbolje, da se premesti. Ostali smo še nekaj časa v Kranjski gori. Potem pa so nas odpeljali na Južno Tirolsko na tamošnjo fronto.

To je zgodovina ceste čez Vršič, ki bi se morala imenovati pravzaprav “Ruska cesta”, ker so jo zgradili samo Rusi. Zahtevala je od ruskih ujetnikov mnogo trpljenja in mnogo človeških žrtev. Številke nikdar niso bile znane, ker jih je komanda držala v strogi tajnosti, računam pa po svojem preudarku, da je na cesti cez Vršič dalo svoje življenje najmanj 10 000 Rusov.

History journal about how the Russian road was built during the war.

As the 40th anniversary of this suffering has passed, it is right that its memory should be properly revived.

Because they used a lot of wood for the road and cut it wherever they could, the avalanches were even more rampant the following year. The avalanche took “Schuttbarake” and its villa, and also the Zakotnik settlement.

The following year, the army commando fought the avalanches by making a road across Vršič on the left side of the current road, but that didn’t work either.

As half of the road was given to Italy and half to Yugoslavia after the First World War, the road lost a lot of its importance because it was not passable. Nevertheless, the Italians have repaired and reinforced their part of the road perfectly, while the Yugoslav part has been completely neglected.

The current Yugoslavia has started to take care of this part of the road, which is to be welcomed.

After the First World War, I walked across Vršič for the first time in 1920, to the source of the Shoca River. An Italian man left me across the saddle for a handful of cigarettes. Then I came to Trento several more times, where people knew me well. I usually came via Predil, to Bovec and then to Trento. Now I go to Trento via Vršič every year, even twice, because it is the most beautiful part of Slovenia for me. I still love chatting with Trentarians.

Source: https://vrsic.livejournal.com/2537.html