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Guarding the “Balkan Route” on the postsocialist frontier: revisiting Maja Weiss’ Varuh meje (2002)

Baker, Catherine; Szczygielska, Marianna; Drnovšek Zorko, Špela


Marianna Szczygielska

Špela Drnovšek Zorko


Varuh meje, Maja Weiss’ debut film, dates back to 2002 – when Slovenia was soon to join the European Union (EU), when the state was first taking up its role as EU “border guard,” and when Slovenian society was reacting to the first wave of undocumented Asian migrants transiting the country. With elements of postsocialist realism and folk horror, Varuh meje was notable on its release for being the first Slovenian feature film for adults directed by a woman, and for what was then the rare presence of lesbian and bisexual themes on screen in a post-Yugoslav film. Its plot follows the protagonist Alja (Tanja Potočnik), the sexually liberated Žana (Pia Zemljič), and the sexually repressed Simona (Iva Krajnc), three students on holiday from university in Ljubljana who are going rafting near Alja’s small riverside hometown. Alja has a boyfriend in Ljubljana, but her family live beside the Kolpa/Kupa River that marks Slovenia’s border with Croatia, symbolically the boundary between Europe and the Balkans in Slovenian national identity discourses. The young women are warned not to cross over to the other wild and dangerous side of the border, but still end up there after losing control of their oars. They find instead that danger awaits them at the heart of their own symbolic community, in the shape of a mysterious fisherman and demagogic local politician who preaches a return to traditional values, and of the local men who sympathize with him. This man, the closing credits tell us, is the Guardian of the Frontier.


Baker, C., Szczygielska, M., & Drnovšek Zorko, Š. (2021). Guarding the “Balkan Route” on the postsocialist frontier: revisiting Maja Weiss’ Varuh meje (2002). International Feminist Journal of Politics, 23(5), 811-828.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 15, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 23, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Sep 17, 2021
Publicly Available Date Dec 23, 2021
Journal International Feminist Journal of Politics
Print ISSN 1461-6742
Electronic ISSN 1468-4470
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 5
Pages 811-828
Keywords Borders; European Union; Gender; Race; Postsocialism
Public URL


Published article (2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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