Ciril Kotnik was born in Ljubljana (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), from a Slovenian family originally from Carinthia. He studied at the classic lyceum, deciding to stay in the city after his father moved to Trieste. In those years, he approached the patriotic ideas of young Slovenian intellectuals who were fighting for the emancipation of the Slavic peoples. He participated in the First World War as a volunteer in the Serbian army and, after the end of the conflict, was admitted to the diplomatic service of the new Yugoslav state. He was sent to Rome where for over two decades he worked in the Yugoslav embassy. Following the occupation and dismemberment of Yugoslavia by the Axis Powers, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Italy is closed and the staff dismissed; Kotnik is sentenced to house arrest in his home in Rome.
At the end of 1941, however, he was appointed ambassador to the Holy See by the Yugoslavian Royal Government in exile. It is in this capacity that Kotnik helps anti-fascists and Jews to escape the Nazi-fascist repression, even hosting them in his home in Rome.
In 1944 he was arrested and held in via Tasso. He was tortured to name his "accomplices", which will never happen. The Germans also do not hesitate to take his wife, Maria Tomasetti, to an adjoining cell where she listened to her husband's suffering. She won't reveal what she knows either. Fortunately, the two daughters, Ivanka - mother of Walter Veltroni - and Darinka, had taken refuge in a convent of nuns. Kotnik was then sentenced to death.
Freed through the intercession of a Vatican prelate, he and his family moved to L'Aquila, where he died of the torture suffered by the Nazi-fascists in 1948. Ciril Kotnik and his wife Maria are buried in the cemetery of the Abruzzo city.
Gardens that honour Ciril Kotnik
Ciril Kotnik is honoured in the Garden of Marina di Pisa.