A Student from the University of Ljubljana Deciphers the Letter on a Hundred-year Postcard

A student from the Faculty of Computer Science and Informatics of the University of Ljubljana, Erik Janezič, with the help of his own special software, was able to decipher the message written on an old postcard. The one hundred year old postcard was found 5 years ago. The postcard contains a sequence of characters, numbers and punctuation marks, which together form a coded letter.

“To Right Worthy Mademoiselle Elizika Tihelj, Bled, House No. 7, Gorenjska,” with these words the postcard was signed, but its text reveals only the signature and the appeal “Dear!” The rest of the text is just a collection of illogically related letters, numbers and punctuation marks. The postcard remained encrypted until students from the Faculty of Computer Science and Informatics of the University of Ljubljana set the ball rolling.

“1!2č4 7?8=2. 794č4+. 7928?=,” is written in the first line on the one hundred-year postcard, which was found in the attic by a local resident, who wished to remain anonymous. The postcard was sent by her grandfather, and, since she was addressed to “Right Worthy Mademoiselle”, the woman suggested that this was a romantic message. However, since she could not understand anything else from the mysterious letter, she sent it to the Security and Information Service. Later it was sent to Prof. Dr. Aleksandr Jurišić, the head of the laboratory of cryptography and computer forensics, who works at the above faculty of the University of Ljubljana.

Jurišić became interested in the ciphered letter. Together with his assistant, he unsuccessfully tried to read the letter, but in the end, they came to the conclusion that it would take them too much time. Therefore, Aleksandr Jurišić showed it to his students, motivating them to solve the riddle with a promise of better marks. The students agreed and set to work. They tried to find a solution both with the help of calculation methods and by searching for hints in the place, to which the letter was sent. The text itself consists of letters, numbers and punctuation marks, which, at first glance, have no connection to each other. The students understood that even one deciphered word could be the key to solving the riddle. However, the assumption of being a romantic message was of no help. The majority of students lost their faith, until Erik Janezič chimed in. He developed a software for deciphering and, with the help of his colleagues, managed to interpret the text in slightest details.

The students established, at what time the postage stamp on the postcard was printed. Based on this, they determined that the letter was written roughly between 1908 and 1916. They also used the stamp to find out that the postcard was sent from Laibach (Ljubljana) during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Then, applying various techniques, Erik analysed the text.

It turned out that the letter was not a romantic message at all, but a request for help. It is still a secret why the author had to encrypt the letter, but the students are satisfied with the fact that they managed to get to the bottom of the mysterious postcard.

Source: beta.delo.si