Asylum: Voices from Croatia, the Diaspora and Beyonda

Why You Should Leave Croatia, Now

By 20 June 2018

June 20, 2018 — A treatise defending the folks seeking a better life away from home.
I was one of you, after all.

It’s hard to look out at the expanse of untapped potential lying all around Croatia and not think, “What a shame.” The nation’s geographic bookends alone offer a staggering example.

At one end lies the pristine Dalmatian coastline worthy of a hundred thousand poems, once-vibrating with delectable sea food. At the other end, a chunk of fertile countryside in Slavonia which might feed, if handled properly, feed a whole region of the European continent.

In between, an educated and largely-ambitious populace seeking some semblance of what all people want: material comfort, peace and just enough freedom to let life’s simple decisions slide by without worry.

Who you can marry; finding work; prompt and effective medical care; a functioning justice system; a rigorous education system. These foundational elements of a society, it seems to many, are lost.

These arguments often go beyond statistics: government expenditures; graft; economic misfortune can all be measured. For many in the end, perception is reality.

Just the last few days alone saw: a convicted money-laundering football tycoon hightail out of town before his sentencing only to mock a justice system which may never catch him; a nine-year-old boy taken from his mother’s arms in a bizarre custody battle that ended in the ugliest manner possible; a post-war era tycoon’s crumbling agrobiz and retail empire seemingly saved by foreign investors who may profit handsomely from the deal; and a middle-of-the-road striker sent home from the World Cup because of an alleged backache (or lack of playing time).

It’s hard not to look at this blip in Croatia’s history and think, “What a shame.” Because the picture, in the macro, seems ugly.

If you look at all of this, along with the myriad other governmental and economic problems zig-zagging Croatia, and feel a deep, ugly disgust so strong you want no part in it — leave.

I wrote a piece two days ago questioning the motives of the many people leaving this country for seemingly-better opportunities elsewhere. To the degree which it rung a bit hollow to those contemplating happier times elsewhere, I’m sorry. I forgot I was one of you once.

New York City, at the time I left, was in the throes of a clown-car mayoral race in which ultimately revealed one candidate's ongoing penchant for sexting, including an underage girl.

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s dream of creating a luxury city was coming to fruition; the cost of living had become so prohibitive one could hardly make ends meet on a baseline salary.

The state-level government was continuing its well-documented knack for ineptitude, graft and sexual misconduct, with members of the legislature under investigation.

Many local sports clubs, including my beloved New York Giants, were stuck in a vortex of horrible play and terrible decision-making, with impulsive owners ruining any hope for a championship anytime soon.

The neighborhood changed as well.

Once, a bearded fellow sporting horn-rimmed glasses and flannel shirt’s response to discovering I was actually born in Queens was, “Oh, so you’re a *native*!”

I knew something had gotten away from me.

Queens, my beloved home for so many years, became unrecognizable. Gone was the unique mix of cultures, faiths and languages which were a hallmark of a childhood, replaced by an invasion of blanched pseudo-wealthy migrants from the central United States, who could pay the skyrocketing rents.

I’ll bypass any negative talk of work. If anything, I had too much of it; a perverse sort of complaint to lob at the folks leaving to find a employment. It’s a matter of extremes. My life had become a solitary effort to make it through the day, with just enough energy to come back to work the next morning. Not a healthy way to live.

I began to feel the New York I had known and loved left me long before I left it.

And perhaps the people exiting this country feel the same way. Croatia abandoned them long before they abandoned it.

To them, I say, safe travels. May your worries diminish and your bank accounts flourish.

But if you look at this country and feel a fervent need to intervene, don’t look to the masses seeking the exits. Stay.