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  • Craig Land

Slovenia at Eurovision 2024: Who was Veronika?

In 2024, the former Yugoslav nation of Slovenia will be represented by long-time national final heavyweight Raiven and her song 'Veronika' - a dark electro number heavy on atmosphere and melodrama.

Many fans are aware that the titular Veronika was a real person who was falsely accused of being a witch. But what was the full story behind Veronika, and how has Raiven drawn on this story to construct her entry for Eurovision 2024?

Read on below to find out!

Who was Veronika?

'Veronika' draws on real Slovene history and folklore to depict a strong theme of feminine empowerment. The title refers to Veronika Deseniška, a tragic figure who has recurred across generations of Slovene national poetry, literature and plays.

Veronika is a figure for whom it is difficult to separate historical fact from the national myths that have arisen around her, drawn particularly from works by Slovene writers Oton Župančič, Danilo Švara and Dušan Čater.

What we know for sure is this: during the period where modern-day Slovenia formed part of the Hapsburg Monarchy, Veronika was the daughter of a member of the lesser gentry who fell in love with the son of the Count of Celje, Frederick. Frederick's father, Hermann, was bitterly opposed to the relationship, on the grounds that Veronika was not from a sufficiently noble family.

The lovestruck couple fled Hermann's wrath but were later recaptured and imprisoned in separate castles. Seeking to remove Veronika from the picture, Hermann accused her of being a witch who had enchanted his lovelorn son and forced her to face a tribunal on these trumped-up charges

Perhaps surprisingly, for those familiar with witch trials of the Middle Ages, the tribunal acquitted Veronika with the following verdict:

"Count, there is no blame to be laid on this girl, much less crime. The only thing is that she is very much in

love with your son Fridrik. However, your eminence, love has never been a sin, much less a crime. Love is one of the most beautiful human virtues! This, your eminence, completes our work."

Unsatisfied with this outcome, Hermann had Veronika brutally drowned in a tub of water. The image of Veronika and Frederick has subsequently become an archetypal image of tragic, separated lovers in Slovene and Croatian literature (think an Eastern European Romeo and Juliet).

Telling Veronika's story at Eurovision 2024

Raiven draws deeply on the iconic images of Veronika in her entry at Eurovision 2024, presenting Veronika both as an ethereal witch-like figure but also as a tragically wronged woman, with repeated visual and lyrical references to her eventual death by drowning.

Of the creative process around the song, Raiven had the following to say:

"The song was not written with the idea of going to Eurovision. When creating it, I focused primarily on the dramatic quality, which is key to telling Veronika's story effectively. I wanted her story to not only be expressed but also resonate with the year 2024. The idea that she needed music, which was just right – cinematic and contemporary – was present throughout the creative process."

Again, she is drawing less on the real Veronika than on the archetype which has built up around her - there are repeated references to Veronika as a "mirror" in which one can see their fears reflected back at them, while at the end she declares that "I am, we are all Veronika". In this way, Veronika is presented as a figure both specific to Slovenia and the Balkan region more generally, but also as an everywoman who we are invited to empathise and see ourselves in.

Ultimately, the image she conjures up is of a woman who suffered at the hands of men who perceived her as an object of fear and loathing rather than as a full person.

Raiven: The Artist Behind Veronika

A classically trained singer, songwriter and harpist, Raiven has serious artistic pedigree, having worked as an opera singer around Europe, as well as performing in several Slovene music festivals.

Long-term Eurovision fans will be familiar with Raiven from her three previous attempts to make it to the Contest via Slovenia's national final format, EMA, where she was a regular fan favourite. Most recently, she attempted to participate in 2019 with 'KAOS', when she was beaten by indie duo zalagasper and their hypnotic track 'Sebi'.

While the broadcaster initially announced that EMA would go ahead as usual this year, they later announced that Raiven had been selected and would represent Slovenia without having to progress through the national final. An expression of confidence? We will have to wait and see.

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