Interview with Professor Anton Ogorelec

PAC World:   Professor, tell us some basic facts about yourself.
AO:  I was born on 23 May 1924, when the independent State of Rijeka (today a city near the Adriatic sea in Croatia), has been annexed by Italy. Our family later moved to Ilirska Bistrica (at that time under Italian control), where we lived in an old two story building in the vicinity of Prva Kranjska Tovarna Testenin (the First Carniolan Pasta Factory -Pekatete), which was established in 1898 by my grandfather Anton Žniderši. He was also a well known beekeeper, who developed his own hive later named after him: an AŽ hive. The beginning of our lives in Italy was not so bad; we had our own radio and got our first car.
However, the circumstances changed dramatically when Mussolini and fascism took over in Italy. In school we were obliged to speak only Italian and the factory was only allowed to sell pasta to Slovenian people in Italy. For this reason my grandfather and my father moved all the machinery to Ljubljana, where the rest of the family moved in 1930.My grandfather managed the factory and was very successful until his death in 1947, when he died in a “traffic accident” on pedestrian crossing after being hit by a Justice Ministry car.
My father’s father was co-founder of Kalmus Ogorelec Clay Stoves Factory in Ljubljana. Later on he was also one of the co-founders of United Brickworks in Ljubljana and a sponsor, and active member in the Mountain Society. My father had studied civil engineering in Vienna and later on in Prague. During World War I he was mobilized into  the Austro-Hungarian army and received a Captain's degree. At the end of the war he joined general Maister in Maribor during the fight for the northern border of the newly established Slovenia. Later he went to visit a friend who was a  priest in Ilirska Bistrica, where he met my mother Danica Žniderši. He also worked in the wood industry and timber trade.
All three children of our family continued our studies at Classical Gymnasia (college) in Ljubljana thanks to the recommendations of our uncle Ferdo Kozak, who was a professor of Slovenian language. Years later he had became Minister of Education in the first Slovenian government after World War II. I passed my final exam at Classic Gymnasia in 1943 as part of a very special class, which later produced ten university professors as well as eight writers and poets.

PAC World:  You started your studies during World War II. This period was for sure a very special one for a young student?
AO:  Out of all of my colleagues from Clasic Gymnasia only Herman Haus and I decided to study electrical engineering at the University of Ljubljana. He later received the 1995 National Medal of Science Award  from President Bill Clinton. The same year they closed the University, I started to work in our Pekatete factory which closed down in 1946 due to a flour shortage. Shortly after that I received a recommendation from Prof. Dr. Milan Vidmar (member of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts) for a position in the Ljubljana City Power Plant (MEL). After the probation period I was employed by Mr. Evgen Ver, where we worked on electrical installations in Tivoli park underground shelters and after the liberation, on the Ljubljana airport. I joined Carniolan Province Power Plants again as a probationer in July 1945 and remained there until October, when I finally continued my studies at the University. During this period I was extremely active in a student organization, which organized a number of lectures and debates related to modern views on energy. I also started my mountain climbing activities and work in the Mountain Society. This also provided some electricity installation work in various Slovenian mountain cottages, etc. We also organized a number of student excursions in the former Yugoslavia. Then I temporized my studies in Ljubljana after I heard that I had been suggested as a good candidate for work in the Electronic Industry in the city of Niš (now in Serbia). I finished University as quickly as possible and received my Ph. D. from Prof. France Avin with merit after the corresponding employment regulation has been canceled in 1950.

PAC World:   After this you probably started your work with protective relays?
AO:   Yes, but not only relays. Prof. Milan Vidmar invited me to join the Electric Power Institute in Ljubljana, but I took another opportunity offered by Prof. Vratislav Bedjani to join TELA, a newly established relay factory in Ljubljana. Prof. Bedjani was the founder and first director and I was to replace a German engineer named Kudike. At the time he was a prisoner of war who was allowed to leave for home two months after my arrival. Before the war he worked with protective relays at AEG in Germany and left a number of projects to me when he departed. Most involved renovations of different hydro power plants (HPP) in former Yugoslavia, including at that time the largest one: a Tito HPP on Cetina river. During this period we refurbished a number of HPPs with protective relays of our own design and developed some new relays like auxiliary relay PR2 and stabilized the current differential relay DR2. 
During my first year in TELA I almost lost my life three times - twice while climbing in the mountains and the lucky miss of a flight in which all passengers died when the plane crashed. The therapy from my second accident took nearly one year. During this time I worked from home and studied the English language at the same time. I learned French at College and German while the university was closed. All of this helped me later during my work in different international organizations.
Before my accident, the biggest new HPP Jablanica (6 machines, 30MVA each) in Bosnia and Herzegovina was under construction and we had been invited to take over responsibility for its protection and control. I suggested an approach to control functionality by providing partial automation so that it would be possible to start all machines from the control room and not just locally. This was something new. We tested and discussed my idea with many leading specialists during our visits to France, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden, and improved our proposed design on the basis of the discussions. In 1988 when we were invited to the 40th  Anniversary of the Jablanica HPP, I found out that for all of these years, all equipment had operated reliably with the unchanged design.

PAC World:    So TELA was in fact your springboard to the relay protection world?
AO:   Yes, and I have never been sorry. We continued development of protective relays; we even developed an electromechanical distance relay. The prototype is still in the relay protection laboratory of the Electric Power Engineering Facility in Ljubljana. Later on we expanded our area also to development and production of equipment for traffic and industry automation and welding machines. All of these are still the core businesses for different Iskra factories in Slovenia today.
In 1959 Zavod za Avtomatizacijo (Automation Institution) in Ljubljana was formed by the merge of different Slovenian companies from the electrotechnical field of operation. I became a director of Sector No. 4, which was responsible for relay protection and also for telecommunications; car electricity; rectifying equipment; electric tools, etc. Later on we established two more departments: for railway automation and for industrial automation. We also made together a productivity agreement, so that our engineers were paid according to the results of their work.

PAC World:   Today it is practically impossible to meet  a relay engineer in Slovenia, who would not say that he was also your student. How did you come to the educational work?
AO:   I received my Doctoral Degree in November 1957 for Electrical Power and Machine Engineering. I was the first ever to receive a Ljubljana University Doctoral  Degree for Electric Power Engineering after WW II. My mentor was Prof. Bedjani and co-mentor Prof.Koželj. 
Prof. Bedjani suggested in 1959 that I start lecturing on Relay Protection at Ljubljana University. As far as I know, this was the very beginning, even in Europe. After Ljubljana other universities in former Yugoslavia began lecturing Relay Protection and produced a number of well known relay experts. I also suggested the introduction of a Switching Technique subject, which has been accepted. I was elected a part time docent for both subjects in 1961 and 1965. At the end of June 1971, I was elected regular professor for a number of subjects related to relay protection, substation automation and switching technology.
Development of 'Zavod za Avtomatizacijo' and further integrations of the Slovenian Automation Industry to ISKRA meant a good possibility for further career growth, but also presented the  danger of getting lost in political responsibilities, which I did not like. For that reason, I decided to move to  the Faculty for Power Engineering of Ljubljana University, which happened at the beginning of July, 1971. I also teach relay protection in the University of Maribor, and for post graduate students  in Sarajevo and Wroclaw.
I retired in1992 according to a law which required retirement for all 65 year old regular professors, which is not been the case for docents and part-time professors.

PAC World:   You have also been active in CIGRE, IEC…?
AO:   I was the Yugoslavian representative in CIGRE SC 34 for relay protection (today B5). I participated in a number of working groups, meetings and symposiums in Paris and other places worldwide. In 1983, we organized a SC 34 meeting and Symposium in Ljubljana, which was the first of its kind in the former Yugoslavia.
In 1956 I was named a Yugoslavian representative in IEC and its Relay Committee where I participated in the preparation of a number of international standards.
We also organized a number of conferences in Yugoslavia as well as on the International level, usually with relay protection and substation automation as the main subject. In 1977 we organized the Yugoslav Symposium on Relay Protection in Power Systems with 18 papers, eight of them from abroad. As far as I know this was apart from the IEEE symposiums organized in London, the first such symposium with international participation in the world. In most cases I was their initiator as well as with a number of studies from the same field. The most important of them was a four year study of electromagnetic transients in power systems and their influence on static (electronic) secondary equipment. We developed and produced in our relay laboratory a number of instruments, which are even today used for electromagnetic transient tests of relay protection and automation equipment.
I should also note that I see international activities like work in CIGRE and IEC as an extremely important part of our business, due to the fact that engineers (not sales people and in many cases managers) get an opportunity to exchange their experiences, views and ideas and contribute to further development and problem solving.

PAC World: You have received a lot of acknowledgements for you work over the years.
AO: The most important of them are: Medal of Work with Gold Wreath presented to me in1972 by the former Yugoslav President Tito and an Honorary Order of Freedom from the Republic of Slovenia, which I received in 1999 from President Milan Kucan. In1998 I was named a Distinguished Member of CIGRE and in 2002 a Life Member of IEEE, and so on.

PAC World: You told us a lot about your work, results, university, etc. What about your private life? Have you ever got some time for it?
AO: My first wife Lidija and I have two daughters - Breda and Vida. Breda post-graduated geography and today works in the Environmental Ministry. Vida finished Architecture in Ljubljana and her postgraduate work in San Francisco, USA. Today she runs Umanoterra  Company in Ljubljana. My wife died when our daughters were still young. So I remained alone with two small daughters trying to also be their mother: cooking for them, washing, and so on. I tried to occupy myself as much as possible at the office and after a while my friends introduced me to their friend Vera, because they believed she could help be a mother to my daughters and a caring wife to me. And, we have been a very happy family since then.
We love to travel by car and have had many wonderful trips. Vera and I travelled through all of  Yugoslavia, and most of the known historical places in Greece. We once took our car for a trip to an IEC meeting in Israel. We traveled through Bulgaria, Anatolian highlands in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon to Jerusalem (at that time still in Jordan). On our way back we took a steam boat from Haifa to Athens. It was actually the last ship leaving Israel before the Israel – Palestinian war started. From Athens we made our way to Ohrid Lake in Macedonia and after that directly home. Throughout the trip we managed 5370 km (by road, not counting the ship) with my good Moris.

PAC World: You look very well and in very good shape for 85. Is there a special recipe for this?
AO: I have three grand children and they require a lot of  attention, so one needs to take care of himself. Vera and I are quite disciplined people. Every day we walk from our apartment (in the city center) to Ljubljana Castle, where we use to take our daily coffee. We also like to visit our small summer apartment in Kranjska Gora, where we are used to long walks in the beautiful  landscape. There is never time to stop, as there is always something going on: in University of Ljublana, in Slovenian National Committee of CIGRE, …

PAC World: Why did you decide to study electrical engineering?
AO: My father once told me that I needed to become an engineer. I talked with several people at the time and then I decided to become an electrical engineer.

PAC World: What is your favorite food?
AO: It is difficult to say. I like pretty much every food when it is good.

PAC World: What is your favorite form of entertainment?
AO: Nature is my favorite entertainment.  

PAC World: What do you think of the Internet?
AO: It is a revolution. It is amazing that you can get everything from your home. But I don't spend too much time on it.

PAC World: What is the advice that you would give to young people that are just starting their professional career in protection?
AO: Everything is changing very quickly and it is very difficult to follow.

PAC World: Do you have a motto?
AO: One should spend as much time as possible in nature.

PAC World: What do you consider the greatest challenge in your career?
AO: The Jablanitza project was the biggest challenge and achievement. I was a young engineer at the time. I also wanted to do some automation. It was a power station with six machines. Many people were against automation, but finally the decision was made to implement automation allowing control from a center.

PAC World:  What is you greatest professional achievement?
AO: It is my contribution to establishing automation in many different fields – not only electric power, but railway, traffic automation (the first traffic lights in Yugoslavia), as well as early forms of industrial automation.

PAC World: What do you believe is your greatest personal achievement?
AO: I have two girls – one is now director of Humanoterra – it is an environmental organization in Slovenia and the second is in the Ministry of the Environment.
I like to visit other countries. I have been to seventy five countries so far. India and Japan are very interesting, but many other countries are nice as well. 

Relion advanced protection & control.
BeijingSifang June 2016