Skip to content

Kaluža Sava

Sava Kaluža (17 June 1929 – 4 October 2014)

 


Sava Kaluža was born on 17 June 1929 in Ilirska Bistrica in the family of four children. The oldest was Boris, who was born in Trieste, while her younger sisters Tatjana and Vida were given birth already in Postojna, where the Kaluža family moved in the early 1930s. Father Dr. Rudolf Kaluža was a lawyer from Narin near Pivka, while mother Stanislava (Stana) Trobec was originally from Trieste. She was a teacher and descendant from the well-known Triste family of teachers from S. Ivan. Father Rudolf studied law in Sienna and after graduating ran a law firm both in Trieste and Postojna. 

 


Sava grew fond of the sea already as a child, as the family often spent a few summer days swimming at Grado and Lovran. Mountains were not foreign to her either, since the family spent part of each year at Gorjuše in the Bohinj region, while the children became well acquainted with farm life in their father's village of Narin. Sava was able to admire the sea also in Trieste, where she attended school in 1943/44 during the war. At home she was called Špička, Savček or Savka, while in school she was known as Špic. Given that the Primorska part of the Slovenian ethnic territory was under Italy during Sava's chilhood, she attended an Italian primary school and secondary school in Postojna, where she spent five years. After the war, she completed in Postojna another two years at the Slovenian Secondary School and then enrolled in 1946 as the only female at the Slovenian Merchant Marine School, which had just recently been founded at Žusterna (Semedela) near Koper. The first to opt for this school was in fact her brother Boris, who also enspired Sava to take this step. Both moved to Žusterna and Boris was actually her guardian and ally, which made it much easier for her also during her schooling. Her father showed much understanding for her choise, while her mother wished her daughter a »better« life.

 


In the first generation of students, with its lessons starting on 3 March 1947, Sava was the only girl. After leaving the Secondary School in Postojna and embarking on maritime studies, she found herself in an entirely different world, different environment, different company. Her wish was to get to know other cultures and ethnicities, to learn foreign languages, travel and see the world; the seafarer's profession was in her life plans just a means for making this desire come true. To her, the sea was a window into the world, which was at that time an adventure to her. She was an attractive blond of medium build and fairly peaceful character, diligent and consciencious in her studies. At the Merchant Marine School in Žusterna she was also a librarian, but was not taking care only of the school library but also took part in the preparation of the first issue of the school newsletter Slovenski mornar (Slovenian Sailor). She studied well, making good progress. In July 1948 she attended, together with Jolanda Gruden, brother Boris, some classmates and Trieste youth the so-called Sokol All-age Gymnastics Meeting In Prague. In August and September of the same year she went, together with her schoolmates, on the first school cruise with the ship Viševice in the Adriatic Sea, and repeated the same journey in summer 1949 with the ship Jadran. In 1949 she  passed the matriculation exam and thus completed her schooling.

 


For the first time she boarded a merchant ship in January 1950; this was the Titograd, the very first newly built post-war ship in Yugoslavia, with modernmost cabins and most up-to-date technical equipment of that time! It is not surprising, therefore, that the first Yugoslav trained female seafarer also boarded this ship! Sava Kaluža thus became the first Yugoslav woman employed on a ship. As a cadet she became member of the first ship's crew during the first voyage by the first newly built post-war ship in Yugoslavia. For two years she sailed as cadet aboard the ships Titograd and Hrvatska. On 29 September 1951 she passed the lieutenant's exam and was then transferred to Jugolinija's Commercial Department in Rijeka.
Sava had a good experience with her colleagues, even though she was the only woman among the ship's crew during most of her voyages. The work seemed fairly demanding to her, but not too hard. Still, she admitted that men behaved as gentlemen towards her, especially  during the schooling period, and often spared her when hardest work was to be carried out, although she herself wished to remain on an equal footing with them. As Sava is a frequent male name in other Yugoslav nations, it was not always immediately clear that they were to deal with a woman, a female seafarer. It was only when a girl appeared as Sava Kaluža, that many realized that they would be confronted with a true woman on the ship. But as she had a graduation certificate from a naval school in her hands and was capable of carrying out even the toughest jobs, her colleagues fairly quickly accepted her in their midst. She particularly remembered her fisrt voyage on board the ship Titograd, which she considered to be by far the most comfortable among them all. She was well received by her workmates, who wrote WELCOME on a napkin, and never did they attempt to instill an inferiority complex in her.

 


   Sava once described how she owing to the decree prohibiting women from sailing   »appealed to the Yugoslav Executive Council and even wrote to Jovanka Broz, whereupon I was asked why I hadn't contacted the Executive Council earlier. It seemed very unfair to me for not being allowed to sail as an officer. Above all, those were very different times.« Her friend Jolanda, too, asked her in one of her letters whether she had contacted Belgrade to inquire about this matter. Be that as it may, deeply disappointed she accepted a job in Jugolinija's Commercial Department in Rijeka. For a short period she also lived in Vienna, working for the firm Osterreichische Seefrachtkontor. In Rijeka, she had met numerous new colleagues and friends, and some called her either with affection or very reservedly and even rejectedly simply »Kranjica« (Slovenian woman).

 


Sava was few times in England: in 1955, 1956, 1959, 1960 and 1961. Initially she went there to study languages, then she was sent to England by the recently established shipping company Splošna plovba Piran (where she was already employed) to improve her English. During her first stay she worked in a hospital. Between 1959 and 1961 she completed several language courses. Previously, in 1955, she had enrolled at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana to study English and Italian, but eventually abandoned her studies. In 1957, after returning to Yugoslavia, she worked for Splošna plovba Piran – Coastal Navigation Branch. She sailed as officer and captain on board the ships Pinko Tomažič and Lubnik, which sailed along the coast, which was at that time already in Slovenian hands. Sava never acquired a captain's licence, although this was her great wish. People, however, always talked about her as of the first Slovenian lady captain, for she was the skipper of the ships Pinko Tomažič and Lubnik. After her second return from England in 1961, she boarded (on 30 August in Rijeka) the Splošna plovba Piran's cargo-passenger ship Bled, which sailed on the Adriatic - North America line. On board this ship she did not work as lieutenant, but as a purser, ship's commissioner, the main job of which was to care for passengers and white staff. In short, Lieutenant Sava Kaluža was unable to carry out precisely the work she had been trained for. When the line was was abandoned in agreement with Jugolinija Rijeka and the ship Bled was redirected to the Adriatic - South Atlantic (Africa) line, Sava accepted a job in the Commercial Department of Splošna plovba Piran.

 


In February 1963, Sava became a mother. After the birth of her daughter Tamara, who became the central point of her life, she dedicated herself entirely to her and resigned from any wish for further sailing. She brought her up by herself, supported her, directed her during her schooling, proving to herself and others how strong and persistent she was. On 22 May 1963, after completing her three months maternity leave, she was recalled for the job at Splošna plovba Piran. She thus remained associated with maritime affairs all her working life. In Splošna plovba’s Commercial Department she worked as passenger service clerk until her retirement, for which she asked after 40 years of service. The firm offered her a flat in a block at Lucija near Portorož, where she then lived with her daugther Tamara. This was the first block of flats built in Lucija, a brand new settlement. All the time, however, she remained closely connected with her family in Postojna, which she often visited together with her daughter and where relatives were socializing regularly.
Although she was often the only woman on ship, she fared well with her colleagues. Her sailing career was quite short and did not meet her expectations. It seemed unfair to her that she was not able to sail as a naval (ocean-going) officer, but those were different times. Her inquisitive nature, however, drove her to actively participate for several years with the University of the Third Age Faros Piran, to keep gaining new knowledge, to fulfil her wish to travel, to get to know the world, and to carry Tomažič and Lubnik. After her second return from England in 1961, she boarded (on 30 August in Rijeka) the Splošna plovba Piran's cargo-passenger ship Bled, which sailed on the Adriatic - North America line. On board this ship she did not work as lieutenant, but as a purser, ship's commissioner, the main job of which was to care for passengers and white staff. In short, Lieutenant Sava Kaluža was unable to carry out precisely the work she had been trained for. When the line was was abandoned in agreement with Jugolinija Rijeka and the ship Bled was redirected to the Adriatic - South Atlantic (Africa) line, Sava accepted a job in the Commercial Department of Splošna plovba Piran.

 


In February 1963, Sava became a mother. After the birth of her daughter Tamara, who became the central point of her life, she dedicated herself entirely to her and resigned from any wish for further sailing. She brought her up by herself, supported her, directed her during her schooling, proving to herself and others how strong and persistent she was. On 22 May 1963, after completing her three months maternity leave, she was recalled for the job at Splošna plovba Piran. She thus remained associated with maritime affairs all her working life. In Splošna plovba’s Commercial Department she worked as passenger service clerk until her retirement, for which she asked after 40 years of service. The firm offered her a flat in a block at Lucija near Portorož, where she then lived with her daugther Tamara. This was the first block of flats built in Lucija, a brand new settlement. All the time, however, she remained closely connected with her family in Postojna, which she often visited together with her daughter and where relatives were socializing regularly.

 


Although she was often the only woman on ship, she fared well with her colleagues. Her sailing career was quite short and did not meet her expectations. It seemed unfair to her that she was not able to sail as a naval (ocean-going) officer, but those were different times. Her inquisitive nature, however, drove her to actively participate for several years with the University of the Third Age Faros Piran, to keep gaining new knowledge, to fulfil her wish to travel, to get to know the world, and to carry on with her rich social life. 
Among her colleagues, friends, the locals and generally in the Slovenian maritime public, Sava Kaluža was considered a legend of Slovenian women seafarers.  Both domestic as well as foreign newspapers wrote many articles about her. As she was very well known among the Splošna plovba's employees, she was not named in some articles with her full name and surname like all others, but only as SAVA. Everybody of course knew which person was at stake. Her schoolmates and sailing colleagues also spoke of her with great respect and affection, for she was highly popular and respected among them, while in our memory she will remained as always well looked after, fashionably dressed, slightly reserved but a pleasant lady.

 

Nadja Terčon