Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Save a Life, Donate Blood - Significant Drop in Blood Supplies in Croatia

January 3, 2023 - The Croatian Blood Donors Association has announced that the blood supply has dropped significantly, with blood group A+ being the most lacking, urging everyone to donate blood.

"Due to the sudden drop in blood supplies, we appeal to A+ donors and donors of all blood groups with a negative RH factor to contact the Croatian Institute for Transfusion Medicine, Petrova 3, as soon as possible.

The photo shows the current state of blood supplies according to blood groups. As can be seen, the stocks of all negatives and A+ are in decline.

Please respond to the appeal and donate blood for your fellow citizens in need.

Thank you for sharing this information so that it reaches as many people as possible," reads the announcement, as reported by Index.

Due to the upcoming holiday when blood is not collected and the current reduction in the blood supply of A positive blood group, the Croatian Institute of Transfusion Medicine (HZTM) also invited citizens to donate blood as a preventive measure.

"As soon as there is a non-working day, we immediately appeal and call citizens to donate blood to those supplies that are currently lower," said HZTM director Irena Jukić Hina.

She added that the institution is not currently in a situation where there is a blood shortage, but supplies have been reduced and a holiday is approaching when blood is not collected. Currently, stocks of A-positive blood groups and blood groups with a negative Rh factor are lower.

The lack of supplies of blood groups depends on the current demand, and, as Jukić said, there is never 100 percent certainty or reliability in transfusion that everything will be available. "Patients are the ones who dictate the state of supplies - currently, there is an increased demand trend for A positive blood group, and this is prevention," Jukić said.

Citizens can donate blood every working day and on Saturdays from morning to evening in Petrova 3 in Zagreb. To donate blood, it is necessary that a person feels well, is young enough (from 18 to 65 years old), and weighs more than 55 kilograms.

Before donating blood, a short medical examination and a hemoglobin test are performed. Jukić also emphasizes that donators should eat and drink something before donating blood.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Croatia Gears Up for 2023 World Handball Championship in Poland and Sweden

January 3, 2023 - The 2023 World Handball Championship will be held in Poland and Sweden from January 11 to 29.

The 2023 World Handball Championship will be played in Poland and Sweden from January 11 to 29. This means the Croatia men's handball team is finally back in action!

Croatia gathered on New Year's Eve and began final preparations for the World Championship. As part of their final preparations in Poreč, the Croatian Handball Federation traditionally organizes the Croatia Cup. Croatia will thus face North Macedonia in Poreč on January 6 and Israel on January 8. Tickets for all Croatia Cup matches can be purchased at www.ulaznice.hr. The price of a single ticket is 8 euros (60.28 kn). 

At the 2023 World Handball Championships, Croatia will play in Group G, hosted at Husqvarna Garden in Jönköping, Sweden. Croatia will play against Egypt, the United States of America, and Morocco.

The format of the competition is the same as in the last World Championship, so a total of 32 national teams will be divided into eight groups of four teams. 

The three best national teams from each group advance to the second round, which brings crossover groups (A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H). From these newly formed second-round groups, the two best teams will advance to the quarterfinals, where the knockout phase of the tournament begins. 

Group G meets Group H, which includes current world champions Denmark, Belgium, Bahrain, and Tunisia. That second round will be played in Malmö, in the Malmö Arena.

Group G (Jönköping)

1st round, January 13
18:00 Morocco - United States of America
20:30 Egypt - CROATIA

2nd round, January 15
18:00 Egypt - Morocco
20:30 CROATIA - United States of America

3rd round, January 17
18:00 United States of America - Egypt
20:30 CROATIA - Morocco

Group IV (Malmö)

1st round, January 19
G1 - H3
H1 - G2
G3 - H2

2nd round, January 21
G2 - H3
H2 - G1
G3 - H1

3rd round, January 23
G1 - H1
G2 - H2
G3 - H3

Quarterfinals
January 25
? - ? (Gdansk)
? - ? (Stockholm)
? - ? (Gdansk)
? - ? (Stockholm)

Semi-final (Stockholm)
January 27
18:00? - ?
23:00? - ?

Match for third place (Stockholm)
January 29
18:00? - ?

Final (Stockholm)
January 29
? - ?

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Croatian Returnee Stories: Paula Pintaric, From Amsterdam to Koprivnica

January 3, 2023 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Paula Pintaric, who moved back from Amsterdam to sunny Koprivnica.

Hi! My name is Paula. I am a 30-year-old product designer born in Croatia who decided to move abroad in search for a better life just to find out that life in Croatia is pretty damn amazing. :)

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

Being pretty disappointed with Croatia, I moved to Amsterdam right after finishing my faculty. I lived there for around 4,5 years - I spent a lot of time exploring the country, traveling, dancing, going to parties, and hanging out with friends. I quite enjoyed it - it was a valuable experience for me. When Covid hit, Croatia opened up quite quickly in comparison to the Netherlands, so I used the opportunity to spend some time with my family and friends back in Croatia while working remotely. I was quickly reminded of the warmth of Croatian people, endless coffees, and a much easier tempo of living. After a few months, I flew back to Amsterdam, but I didn’t feel anymore that I want to live there. I kept thinking of great memories created back in Croatia, so pretty quickly after that, I found a job back in Croatia and moved. It all happened in a few weeks - I applied for a job, got it, went back to pack my stuff, and said bye to Amsterdam!

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

My parents were in disbelief for a few months, but I felt quite supported by my friends and family in Croatia, even though most of them were surprised by my decision. I still quite often get asked WHY would I move back to Croatia after living in Amsterdam. I usually say my time there was amazing, but I wouldn’t repeat it. 

3. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

I lived in Croatia until I was 24, so I was aware of most of the realities and the things people in Croatia usually complain about. By living abroad, my perspective changed quite a bit, and I saw my country in a completely different light when I was moving back. I feel there is this culture of collective dissatisfaction that is quite strong in Croatia - western countries are often idolized, and we often take for granted the beautiful way of living we have. We’re forgetting that we’re quite connected to each other; we easily open up, spend a lot of time hanging out, and at the end of the day, this is priceless to me :)

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and how was the reality of what you found?

I didn’t really have any fears about coming back. I was actually pleasantly surprised because I got a feeling a lot of things progressed over the 4 years I was away. I was a bit worried about the bureaucracy and paperwork I need to do, but people working in the tax office actually helped me a lot, so everything went smoothly. 

5. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like. 

I love the way of living - endless coffees, hanging outs, pretty much everything about the community, better work/life balance, and a slower pace of living. Next to that, we really have beautiful nature, a great climate, food, and a lot of sunshine. I even love a bit of the Balkan craziness that comes with living here. I think this is a country with a lot of potential, and I would love if we could see it that way and start putting more effort as individuals in order to make it better economically. I don’t like that we see the current economical state here as the sole responsibility of a few people/government. I think we all have a say in it, but we need to stop complaining and do something about it.

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6. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

I think the key to a painless move is patience and gathering as much information as possible. Everything can be solved, and people are quite willing to help out, even when it comes to complicated bureaucracy stuff. After you cross that hurdle, there is a lovely country full of possibilities on the other side. :) 

7. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

I didn’t need much assistance, so it’s difficult for me to say how it could have been done better. I’m not sure what it would look like if I grew up in another country or made a permanent move to the Netherlands for a longer period of time. Coming back after up to 5 years of living abroad is quite painless.

paula-pintaric_1.jpg

**** 

Thanks, Paula, and enjoy your time in Croatia.

You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series here.

If you would like  to contribute your returnee story, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Returnees

You can subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert YouTube channel here.

****

What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Croatian Company Protostar Labs Launches Innovative Product

January the 3rd, 2023 - The Croatian company Protostar Labs, a young company from Belisce, recently presented and delivered its high-tech product called the Protostar Vision Box to its client.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, the aforementioned is a solution that they have been developing for a year now, and which enables visual inspection of products on production lines. Its application, as explained by Filip Novoselnik, the co-founder and director of the Croatian company Protostar Labs, is extremely broad, but they're still primarily focused on industrial production in larger series.

The delivery of the Vision Box is just the beginning of the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision technology that they've been busy developing, which contributes to the automation of industrial production. It contributes because it enables the quick and early detection of any product defect. In addition, it gives the company that uses it an in depth insight into all sorts of data and statistics via the Protostar cloud platform, which enables the better organisation of the overall production process.

All of these advantages will soon be made available to more companies as the Croatian company Protostar Labs is working on the development of two more versions of the Vision Box. The smaller one, which consists only of a small computer with a camera, will be intended for wider application because it has all the characteristics of a surveillance camera, only this one will be smart. According to Novoselnik, the bigger one will be a more sophisticated version of the existing Vision Box.

Both new versions should be ready and on the market in three to six months, and with their launch, the founder of the Croatian company Protostar Labs expects to increase the company's general level of competitiveness and ensure access to demanding foreign markets.

What is particularly interesting about this young but promising company from Belisce, whose development office is located in Osijek, is that, in addition to solutions intended for the automation of the "terrestrial" industry, they also develop solutions for the one in space, something that hardly any company in Croatia can boast of.

Ultimately, the universe and its puzzles were the reason why the Croatian company Protostar Labs was founded. The idea, as recalled by Novoselnik, was born in the Anonymus Astronomical Society in Valpovo. "Back in 2019, the informal founding assembly of Protostar Labs was held there, and the name of the company was inspired by space and means 'a star in the making'. Our initial idea was to profile ourselves in the long term as a company that develops solutions for the space industry, but at the time it seemed an unlikely feat, so we decided to start with what was more attainable for us, which is the domestic industry, which really lacks high-tech solutions that facilitate, speed up, and ultimately optimise the production process. We started with the development of a system based on a combination of cameras and sensors and AI algorithms, the goal of which is visual inspection of products,'' stated Novoselnik.

Even though it seemed almost impossible just three years ago, the Croatian company Protostar Labs, which is still a small company that started its journey with only two employees, and today already has fifteen of them, is proof that with knowledge, persistence and creativity, anything is possible, even entering the space industry. They managed to do that last year when they passed the competition of the European Space Agency (ESA).

For ESU, as Novoselnik pointed out, they developed a software package that enables the faster and simpler development of solutions, i.e. models of AI and computer vision with the aim of their easier implementation on hardware devices with limited resources.

"Their application, on the one hand, is intended for satellite systems because satellites, which have limited capacity, process huge amounts of data that isn't very easy to send back home to Earth. Our solution should enable data processing to be transferred to a satellite and only data of interest should be sent back to Earth," he explained, adding that a prototype has been developed, but the solution is still in the early stages of development and still needs to be tested. They have already tested it out on drones, and the plan is to do the same on a stratospheric balloon at an altitude of 20 kilometres. ESA will decide whether or not to test it on a satellite, and if that doesn't happen, the system they developed will be used here on Earth.

"Our idea is to develop systems that have a dual application and that high technologies that are designed and made for space can also be applied in industry," Novoselnik pointed out. In addition to all of the above, the Croatian company Protostar Labs is in the running for another project for ESA, in cooperation with the Zagreb-based FER, with which they are developing a module for the characterisation of light pollution on Earth. "We applied for the competition and we're waiting for the results,'' Novoselnik said briefly.

This small but doggedly determinted company from Belisce therefore develops numerous projects, and last year it all began to bring in financial benefits, as their income grew by as much as 730 percent compared to 2020, to an impressive 2.71 million kuna. This is encouraging indeed for such a young company that is still, to a large extent, focused on investing in the technology they're developing, not to mention the fact that they mostly financed this development with their own funds and those from the EU.

Small companies developing here in Croatia unfortunately, according to Novoselnik, are forced to spend too much time trying to deal with formalities and bureaucracy, and this comes to the fore especially with EU projects.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Valpovo Company SpectreXR Impresses with Innovative OctoXR Tool

January the 3rd, 2023 - The Valpovo company SpectreXR is showing that Eastern Croatia, more specifically Slavonia, can be known for far more than agriculture and demographic issues. Augmented reality is their game, and they've been making waves.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, augmented reality (XR), which includes VR, AR and MR technologies, is most often associated with video games, but its application, as revealed by Ivan Rajkovic, the founder and director of the Valpovo company SpectreXR, is far wider. This company which was founded six years ago aims at the industrial application of virtual and augmented reality with its OctoXR tool.

It is a tool that they have been working on developing for a couple of years now and in which they have invested an enormous 350 thousand euros. In 2023, they also hope to monetise this highly sophisticated product, with the help of which the user's hands become a management tool in the digital world, as well as in the real world.

The fact that their hopes have a realistic basis has also been well and truly shown by the fact that the quality of their OctoXR, after its presentation at Expo AWE in Lisbon, was recognised by two large and important technology companies - the Swedish Crunchfish and the American Ultraleap. In short, The Valpovo company SpectreXR, which consists of a team of six people, decided to facilitate and improve hand control in XR, and the functionalities they develop through OctoXR make that entirely possible.

"Our product gives physical properties to hands in the digital world. The hardware is in charge of recognising the hands, through sensors or cameras, and the software we develop enables us to use our hands in the digital world as well as we would in the real world," explained Rajkovic, who added that developing such a tool is a very complex job indeed.

"In addition to a higher level of programming knowledge, you must understand physics, maths, linear algebra and work in digital 3D spaces. Every point of contact between the digital hand and the digital object needs to be properly simulated, the rotations made by the bones relative to the position of the real hand need to be exact, and much more. I'm extremely proud of the team that managed to do it, and with a lot of effort," he added. Moreover, the technology they're developing is heading in the direction the whole industry is going, which believes that realistic control with hands instead of controllers will become key in both virtual and augmented reality.

Rajkovic thinks that joysticks, or controllers, will remain important in the video game industry, but the Valpovo company SpectreXR isn't targeting that sector. Instead, they've got their eyes on industries such as healthcare, automotive, aerospace, space, and manufacturing. In them, XR technologies already play a very important role, and they'll come to play an even bigger role in the future.

As one example, Rajkovic singled out DHL, which uses virtual reality in its employee training. This very well known company uses it, as he explained, to teach employees how to store packages on planes and on other means of transportation, thereby reducing overall costs and increasing productivity. The advantages of virtual training are used not only by logistics companies, but also by the automotive, aerospace, military, healthcare, trade, and manufacturing industries. In addition, it's a form of technology that can be used for the creation of prototypes, the visualisation of objects that go into production, immersive communication, and the list goes on and on. While large companies are reaping the benefits, small ones are more or less yet to really start applying it.

The moment is therefore right for positioning such a tool on the market, and the Valpovo company SpectreXR has all the prerequisites for that – their very own OctoXR tool. The fact that they are very much on the right track was confirmed by their participation in the aforementioned AWE conference in Lisbon, which specialises in XR solutions. There, they agreed to cooperate with Crunchfish and Ultraleap and successfully integrated their software with their solutions. The aforementioned collaborations are important to this company for several reasons. In addition to finances, the team from Valpovo should see the doors of large clients opened, and it will also further ensure their recognition.

"We also see it as a path towards numerous manufacturers of XR equipment, considering the contacts of our associates. We have a developed business model and are well on our way to capitalising on these opportunities. We're absolutely counting on that from January onwards," Rajkovic said.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Monday, 2 January 2023

Croatian Fuel Prices to Rise Tomorrow, Here Are the New Costs

January the 2nd, 2023 - With all of the celebrations surrounding Schengen and Eurozone accession, something less pleasant for drivers who are likely sick of the ups and downs - Croatian fuel prices are set to rise once again tomorrow.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian Government held a telephone session today during which it passed the Decree on determining the highest retail prices of petroleum derivatives, according to which the highest retail prices are calculated according to the formula according to the base price of fossil fuel in the previous fourteen-day period.

This regards a limited margin of 0.0995 euros (0 .75 kuna)/l for diesel and petrol fuel, and 0.0531 euros (0.40 kuna)/l for blue diesel, 0.8229 euros (6.20 kuna)/kg propane-butane mixture for bottles, or 0 ,03716 euros (2.80 kuna)/kg for large containers. Compared to the previous Croatian fuel prices and their accompanying regime, the margin on diesel and petrol fuel, for energy entities, has been returned to the levels we saw back in June 2022.

This regime and as such the new Croatian fuel prices will be valid for the next fourteen day period.

The new prices will be as follows:

– EUR 1.33 (HRK 10.02)/l for petrol fuel (an increase of EUR 0.05)

– 1.47 EUR (11.08 HRK)/l for diesel fuel (an increase of 0.03 EUR)

– 0.97 EUR (7.31 HRK)/l for blue diesel (an increase 0.01 EUR)

– EUR 1.22 (HRK 9.19)/kg LPG for tanks (a reduction of EUR 0.01)

– 1.78 EUR (13.41 HRK)/kg LPG for bottles (a reduction of 0.01 EUR).

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated news section.

Monday, 2 January 2023

Schengen Croatia: What Can I Bring With Me into the Country?

January the 2nd, 2023 - Schengen Croatia is now finally a reality, with the country having joined a Europe without borders yesterday, as well as the Eurozone. While things are far more free, there are still items you can't take across the border. Here's an extensive list.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatia became the 20th member of the Eurozone yesterday, and it also became the newest member of the Schengen zone, the largest area of free movement of goods and people in the entire world. From January the 1st, 2023, the period of dual circulation begins, which will last fourteen days, that is, until January the 14th, 2023 at midnight. During this period, when it comes to cash transactions, in addition to the euro, it will be possible to continue to use kuna banknotes and coins as a legal tender.

The amounts of money that must be paid or calculated are recalculated using a fixed conversion rate that is set at the level of 1 euro = 7.53450 kuna, which means that even if you pay in kuna, the change you'll get back will always be in euros.

If you're planning to travel abroad soon, you're more than likely wondering what you are (not) allowed to carry across the Croatian border and what the fines are if you break the rules, how many packs of cigarettes can be with you in the car, whether you'll be fined if you've got rolls of cheese and more bacon than anyone could ever eat in your boot. What about alcoholic beverages?

There are some illogicalities here, from some countries, you can bring in unlimited amounts of fish, from others you can't even have a single gram of meat, you won't have problems with sweets anywhere, but you will with baby food. Precisely because of all these rules, of which there are so many that sometimes it isn't easy to remember them even for the customs officers themselves, Vecernji list published a list of all the things that you may and may not bring into the newly crowned Schengen Croatia.

First and foremost, it should be noted that this list refers to the import of goods from countries which are outside the EU, with the exception of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, San Marino, Andorra and Liechtenstein. So, for these last listed countries, the same rules apply as if you were transporting goods within the EU, meaning that there are no restrictions on them. Some other special rules apply to the Faroe Islands and Greenland, but in order not to further complicate this already long list, we will omit those two countries here. In short, if you import goods from third countries (e.g. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, etc.), the limit for importing goods must not exceed 3,200 kuna per person in sea and air transport and 2,200 kuna in all other types of transport, and 1,100 kuna for passengers under the age of 15, regardless of the means of transport they're travelling with.

Air passengers can bring slightly more tobacco products into Croatia than those who enter the country by other forms of transport. Those travelling by air can bring in 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars and 250 grams of smoking tobacco. People travelling by road or rail can bring in 40 cigarettes, 20 cigarillos, 10 cigars and 50 grams of smoking tobacco. All passengers can bring the same amount of 50 grams of heated tobacco product, 10 milliliters of e-liquid and 50 grams of the so-called of ''new tobacco products'' from Article 94 paragraph 2 of the Excise Act. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, the same rules apply to travel by road, air and sea transport - everyone is allowed to bring in 16 litres of beer, 4 litres of wine and 2 litres of other alcoholic beverages which have less than 22% alcohol, so one litre of stronger alcoholic beverages.

Meat, fish, cheese, milk, eggs and other products of animal and plant origin

Customs officials carry out official controls on all products of animal origin that are part of the passenger's personal luggage, meaning bringing in meat and milk and meat and milk products isn't permitted whatsoever. Passengers are allowed to bring in 20 kilograms of fresh, dried, cooked, salted or smoked fish, prawns, crabs and mussels per person, however. When it comes to other products of animal origin, such as honey, eggs, egg products, snail meat or frog legs, passengers can enter Croatia carrying up to 2 kg per person of such items. When it comes to plant origin products, you may also bring up to 5 kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables into the new Schengen Croatia, with the exception of potatoes.

Other products (such as baby food and food for pets, cakes, sweets, nutritional supplements, fuel...)

Passengers from third countries into Schengen Croatia can bring up to 2 kilograms of baby milk powder, baby food and special food used for medical reasons, as well as pet food used for health reasons, provided that it doesn't require refrigeration before opening. Without limit or in quantity for personal use, all travellers can bring bread, cakes, biscuits, waffles and wafers, double-baked bread, toasted bread and similar toasted products with less than 20% processed dairy products and egg products that are stable when left at room temperature.

Many other products such as chocolates and confectionery (including sweets) with less than 50 percent processed dairy products and egg products, food supplements packaged for the final consumer containing smaller amounts (in total less than 20%) of processed animal products can be imported without restrictions, as can processed animal products, olives stuffed with fish, pasta and noodles, soup concentrates and flavour enhancers.

When it comes to fuel, you can transport up to 10 litres of fuel identical to the one in your vehicle in canisters, so you cannot bring in diesel if you're driving a car which runs on petrol.

It is possible to bring ready-made medicines for the personal needs of passengers in quantities necessary for their treatment for up to one month (provided that they're approved by the competent authorities of the country of manufacture) and with the possession of all of the appropriate medical documentation (a transcript of their medical history, a doctor's certificate). Passengers can bring in drugs for the personal needs of the passengers, in the amount needed for treatment up to a maximum of five days, and also with the possession of the appropriate accompanying medical documentation, from which the necessity of taking the respective drug arises. If you decide to take a gamble, know that you can be hit with a massive 100,000 kuna fine if you're caught. The more you tried to bring in, the higher the fine will be.

For more on the brand new Schengen Croatia rules, make sure to check out our news section.

Monday, 2 January 2023

Hajduk Announces Coach Ivan Leko, Starts 2023 with Over 8,000 Club Members

January 3, 2023 - 2023 is off to a running start for Hajduk. Former Hajduk captain and player Ivan Leko has been announced as the new coach, and fans have secured over 8,000 club memberships since January 1! 

Ivan Leko is the new coach of Hajduk! On the last day of 2022, the 44-year-old expert from Split agreed to cooperate with the club until the summer of 2025. He will take over the Hajduk bench at the beginning of January 2023. The first official match of the former legendary and trophy-winning Hajduk captain is expected against Šibenik on January 22 at Poljud. Leko returned to his home club after more than 17 years and won the championship title as a Hajduk player in the 2004/2005 season.

He made his debut for Hajduk at 17 against Osijek under coach Ivan Katalinić. He made 187 official appearances in the white jersey, with 39 goals scored. He won the Cup with Hajduk in 2000, and as captain, he led the team to the championship title in 2000/2001.

In the summer of 2001, he signed for the Spanish club Malaga and returned to Hajduk again in the winter of 2005. In the same season, he won the league title. After that, he spent a large part of his career in Belgium playing for Club Brugge, Beerschot, and Lokeren, where he ended his playing career at 37. He made 13 official appearances for the Croatia national team.

"This moment is very special, emotional. I started playing football at Hajduk and knew the day would come when I would become Hajduk's coach. I am thrilled and looking forward to it, and I hope many beautiful things await us. So many things can be done. The fact is that Hajduk has made huge progress in everything in the last two years. From day one, we will emphasize energy, emotion, and passion, and everything we do will be with that emphasis. I hope our fans will enjoy watching our games," said Leko. 

Leko was an assistant to Igor Tudor at PAOK, and as an independent coach, he managed the Belgian clubs Leuven, Sint-Truden, Royal Antwerp, and Club Brugge, with which he won the championship title, Cup, and Supercup and played in the Champions League group stage in 2018. He also sat on the bench of Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, and his last coaching engagement was with the Chinese Premier League club Shanghai Port, which he led for the previous two years.

The new year also means the beginning of the new Hajduk fan memberships. After the extraordinary 2022, which will be remembered for a record 90,480 members, this year expects even more. 

Namely, in the 112th year of the club, Hajduk wants to reach 112,000 memberships!

"I think that is also impossible, but we have shown so many times that we are moving those boundaries; we can put that figure of 112,000 members to motivate us all together," said Hajduk president Lukša Jakobušić. 

Membership fees this year are 20 euros. If you are under 18 or older than 65, memberships are 10 euros. Family memberships also have a discount of 2 euros for each additional family member.

The new year also means transfer news, and Hajduk has already made some announcements that have surprised some fans. 

Stipe Biuk has left Hajduk after 67 official appearances. The 20-year-old winger left Poljud to join American Los Angeles FC, realizing one of the most significant transfers in the club's history.

As a captain and one of the most talented players of his generation, he led the Hajduk juniors in 2021 to their first junior title after nine years. He made his debut for the first team in March 2021 in a Cup match against Zagreb.

LASK Linz used the option to buy forward Marin Ljubičić, who went on loan to the Austrian club at the end of June this year. Immediately after arriving in Austria, Ljubičić became a standard first-team player and is currently the club's leading scorer. He made 17 official appearances for LASK in the first part of the season. Marin played 44 official matches for Hajduk, scoring nine times and adding four assists.

HNK Hajduk will play four matches as part of final preparations for the spring season, which will be held in Novigrad, Istria.

The first team continued preparations on Monday at Poljud and will travel to Novigrad on Thursday, where they will stay until January 15.

Match schedule: 

NK Kalcer Radomlje - Hajduk (January 7)

MOL Fehervar - Hajduk (January 11)

Celje - Hajduk (January 14)

1. FC Slovácko - Hajduk (January 15)

Source: Hajduk.com

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 2 January 2023

My home in Croatia: A Portrait of Frano Donjerković, an Artist from Korčula

January 2, 2023 - The TCN inbox is full of surprises. Not all, but many of them are good. To start the new year off right, let us share a recent one that came in all the way from Australia. A Portrait of Frano Donjerković, an Artist from Blato, Korčula. 

The nostalgic, warm, ultimately feel-good read was sent to us by the author of the text originally published in Melbourne in Hrvatski Vjesnik (Croatian Herald), the largest circulating Croatian language (with English insert) weekly newspaper in the global Croatian diaspora. It runs about 7,000 copies and has a digital presence, too, including Facebook. The story features Frano Donjerković, a Croatian Australian living in Melbourne. Read on to feel like you want to return to your home in Croatia, even if it was never there.

The oasis of islands on the Croatian coast has been called “extreme magic,” an awake dream by Truman Capote.

Frano Donjerković left his village of Blato, on Korčula at the doughty and courageous age of 27, in search of a better life in freedom and economic prosperity, reaching the shores of Australia in 1986.  Leaving his home, family and community was a painful and sorrowful experience, and the memories of his youth, family and place have followed him all his life in Australia. Croatia has always been his home as he built a new life in Australia. He lives and works in Melbourne, married to Marien with a daughter Daniela and son Anthony.

Korčula is a magnificent island of artificers, stone masons, wood masters, smiths, shipwrights, sculptors and farmers, wine and olive oil masters and fishermen. Above all else, they are sailors; everyone can sail a boat, but on Blato most can turn to and make one. Korčula also has one of the best water polo teams in the world and many Olympic players. Korčula played a significant role in shipbuilding and maritime affairs in the history of Croatia because of its strategic geographical location and industry of its population.  The great sea powers of Europe wanted to control the narrow channel between Korčula and the Pelješac peninsula, especially on the route between Dubrovnik and Venice.

Blato was once the largest village in the country, boasting more than 12,000 residents in the mid-1920s after an economic boom. Frano Donjerković also recalls vivid stories of hardship and departure from his childhood. He remembers an event that affected Blato significantly, that in one afternoon in the early post-war period 1,200 residents left in search of a better life. Blato’s population today is significantly lower and there are an estimated three-time more people from Blato throughout the world, many in Australia.  

There are many things in Frano's life that are typical of the immigrant experience, from the pursuit of freedom and economic property, to raising a family in a place where everything seems foreign and unintelligible in a completely new language and idioms of speech and cultural habits. That has not stopped Frano Donjerković from being a valued, engaged, and leading member of the Croatian community and his broader Australian community. He is President of the Croatian Social Club Zlinje/Blato, a local Melbourne community organisation that nurtures the culture and identity of people from Zlinje and Blato, which marked its thirtieth anniversary in 2021. His passion for fishing and recreational boating brought him into the Hobson Bay Sport and Game Fishing Club, where today he serves as vice president.

Korčula is famous for many things, and today it thrives as a haven for tourists. It is known as the Marco Polo Isle, the birthplace of that intrepid traveller and prolific storyteller. Frano’s journey took him further south on the other side of the world to Australia, where he tells the stories of his home, family, and community through artistic renditions of miniature boats, ships, and buildings, all from memory.

Korčula is one of the largest islands on the Adriatic surrounded by a crystal limpid water in the glittering arc of Canaletto-blue sea. It is a beautiful and verdant island, and life can be traced back tens of thousands of years. Its statute or governing constitution was enacted in 1214 and defines limits to power through a popular assembly, and spells out the roles of dukes, the grand council, small council, curia, and ensures the provision of utility services and sanitation. The statute is a “unique normative crossword puzzle” of medieval institutions, special freedoms, and layered jurisdictions, representing a genuine constitution. It predates the Statute of Dubrovnik (1272) and the Statute of the Principality of Poljica (1440), two republican poleis serving as pinpricks of freedom in the Adriatic.

Strabo, that intrepid travel writer born in 64 B.C., was the first to distinguish Korčula from Corfu: both were named Korkyra in ancient Greece. Strabo added “Melania” (“dark black”) and coined Korkyra Melaina to denote Korčula because it was so densely wooded. Korčula has been described as glorious and enchanting, one of the isles on which many would welcome shipwreck, but that would not last long because of its proximity to the mainland and its strategic location along the bridges of islands that croisette southern Croatia’s coast. The name Blato is literally “Mud,” a name taken after the fertile plains that link the village to the Vela Luka (the Grand Port). The literal translation is not accurate, however, and “blato” in early Croatian refers to a large body of water. The village received its name from a lake that existed in the valley between the village and port Vele Luka. This lake was drained in the early twentieth century by a four-kilometre tunnel to drain the water into the sea. The village shimmers in the iridescent light of its fortified stone structures and narrow lanes. The linden tree alley “Zlinje” was planted and stretches from one side of the village to the other. It partitions Blato into two and is all but impenetrable, with the additional marquis of arbutus, sage, lavender and rosemary, whose combined heady scents dazzle. All these, plus pine, cypress, and holm oak, which has been used by local shipwrights for a millennium, make Korčula one of the most aromatic and thickly vegetated villages in the Adriatic.

Frano Donjerković and his recreations

Frano’s creations are a freeze-frame of a time and experience lodged in his memory. His home in Blato was the third house built in the village, and its one,-metre-thick walls have not changed much since the first stone was laid. Frano has been creating his boats, houses, and other artifacts about 30 years ago in his studio that also poses as a garage. He works exclusively from memory, and doesn't use plans, sketches, or photographs. All the images are in his mind, etched into his experience and memory of childhood growing up in the enchanting, industrious, and idyllic village of Blato.

Frano has exhibited twice at the Joel Gallery. In 2022 his exhibition was called “My Home in Croatia,” and in 2018, “Creations.” He has also displayed his creations at Croatian community centres in the past and plans to do more in the future. Photo courtesy of Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre

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Frano’s family home held by generations since it was founded. As the third house built in Blato since the village was founded, with one-meter-thick walls, it has withstood the vastitudes of time and calamities of centuries.

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Frano Donjerković remembers the soothing and inviting sound of church bells in Blato. The bell tower was built in the eighteenth century, and its loopholes in the walls suggest that it was also used for defensive purposes. The parish church is situated with a spacious loggia or square. The Our Lady of the Field church has Roman floors that place its beginnings in the fourth century. The remnants of a Roman agricultural estate (Junianum) and other artifacts dating back prehistoric and Illyrian times. 

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Fishing schooners, boats and ships of cargo are etched in Frano’s memory. The boats are named after family members. The biggest boat took him a year to craft.

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Frano’s family are also masters of winemaking. The first piece of creativity inspired by memories of his home in Croatia is the wine press that his grandfather acquired. This was Frano’s first creation from memory.

Kumpanija: the sword dance of heroes and romantics

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Frano Donjerković performing the “Kumpanija,” a traditional sword dance celebrated in Blato and Vele Luka. As a young man, Frano joined the Knights’ Society Kumpanija (Companions), established as an ensemble in 1927, and is the pride of Blato. The ensemble keeps traditional dances and customs representing a chivalrous confrontation between two armies, with highlights of a sword dance that is accompanied with a menacing drum and harrowing bagpipe. The dance “Kumpanija” or “sword dance” celebrates the success of local armed formations to protect the village and port from pirates and would-be conquerors, which did not have traditional defensive fortifications or walls like many other coastal cities in Croatia’s coastal waters. The dance is wrought with intensity with high-impact sword duels. The “Kumpanija” dancers must have considerable agility, talent, and stamina.

The knights are divided into classes; (barjaktar, captain, kapural, srzetin, buzdonahar) and different parts of the dance (spuz, mostra, tanac, etc). Apart from the sparks flying from the swords, a particularly attractive role is demonstrated by the “alfir” (flag-bearer) and his large Croatian standard, which ends with a dance with the local ladies, called the “tanac.” The sword dance “Kumpanija” takes place in the square (plokata) in front of the Church of All Saints. The main performance takes place on 28 April every year to mark the Day of Blato, which is also the Feast of Saint Vincenca, and on 15 August, feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The “Kumpanija” also frequently performs across Croatia and Europe and can be seen during the height of the tourist season as a regular attraction.

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Stand Here, Captain! 

By Mirjana Mrkela (story) and Niko Barun (illustrations)

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The Blato Public Library and Knights’ Society Kumpanija, Blato in 2019 published a book on the sword dance by Mirjana Mrkela (story) and Niko Barun (illustrations). The book was published in both Croatian and English, with considerable detail on the story of each stage of the dance, including 36 beautifully illustrated pages under the title “Stand Here Captain! Information about acquiring the illustrated book can be obtained by writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Croatian Diaspora section.

Monday, 2 January 2023

Croatian Exporters Rejoice at Eurozone, Schengen Accession

January the 2nd, 2022 - Croatian exporters haven't been shy about their joy at the country finally joining the Eurozone and Schengen, stating just how much easier this will make doing business, and how there is now much more room for wage growth.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the introduction of the euro was mostly called for by Croatian exporters, and they've been calling for it since the country joined the EU back in July 2013. For years now, Croatian exporters have endlessly appealed to the Croatian National Bank (CNB) for a change in the exchange rate policy and a weakening of the kuna in order to enable them to be more competitive on international markets, and they also called for the introduction of the euro, which has now finally occurred, and which would simplify their jobs and all of their financial planning, not to mention lead to the overall improvement of borrowing conditions from banks.

One of the most passionate of all was Darinko Bago, the long-time president of the board of Koncar and until recently the president of the Croatian exporters association, who is now very satisfied that Croatian Eurozone accession has finally happened.

Timely government reactions

Bago, while having hoped Eurozone accession would have happened earlier, believes that even though we're ''late to the party'' as it were, it's better now than never.

"Over the last 20 years, the EU has lost more than 36 percent of its market position, the second problem is the drop in the birth rate, and thus its own demand, which is the generator of growth, and the third is the bloc lagging behind, because today, the European Union does not have, for example, a chip factory, and it's still energy dependent. Russian aggression against Ukraine only increased inflation, because the problems started when China unilaterally abolished subsidies and the transport of goods became more expensive, which created a problem with the import of products of lower value and larger quantities into the EU, and then the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine only increased the vulnerability of the EU. Of course, all of this also affects Croatia, because two-thirds of Croatian imports and exports take place with the EU,'' Bago pointed out.

"The European Commission (EC) is spreading clouds of money around some countries and this is happening in a non-transparent manner, how the money is used isn't really being monitored, nor are any of the effects it produces," concluded Bago. However, even under such conditions, Croatian entry into the Eurozone and Schengen opens up a far better perspective for Croatian exporters, and the decisive factor for the effects on exports and the overall economy will be that the Croatian Government reacts promptly to EU processes and reacts in the right way.

"For us, 2022 was the year of further European integration, and now comes the year of real struggle to maintain the economy," says Bago.

Hrvoje Stojic, chief economist of the Croatian Association of Employers, recalls that Croatian exporters and their products have already benefited from European integration. Since joining the EU in 2013, it has more than doubled to date. Entry into the Eurozone combined with Schengen accession, along with existing membership in NATO, will additionally structurally include Croatian exporters in global value chains, and as such open new opportunities for significant export growth.

"The disappearance of the currency risks, the strong drop in exchange fees, the improvement of financing conditions thanks to the improvement of the perception of risk, also give greater predictability when conducting business. Stronger institutional and market pressures have a positive effect on the competitiveness of private companies and their tendency to invest in order to maintain or strengthen competitiveness. Viewed at the level of a comparable credit rating, membership in the Eurozone enables Croatia to have a 1.5 to 2 percentage point lower cost of financing compared to those who aren't Eurozone member states," Stojic points out.

Greater room for wage growth

Stojic also expects that these positive influences will open up more space for wage growth based on productivity growth, and in the event of a new systematic financial crisis, Croatia will be able to count on the intervention mechanisms of the ECB through access to the European Stability Mechanism, which reduces the risk of potentially expensive banking and balance of payments crises and ultimately serious risks to the country and the domestic economy.

Joining the currency union and the loss of the independent monetary policy of the CNB means the opening of the possibility of enjoying an active monetary policy, which until now, due to exchange rate restrictions, was simply not possible. In addition to that, financial integration with the institutions and the financial market of the Eurozone will be further deepened, making it likely that the costs of not only credit, but also non-credit instruments of financing and export insurance will be somewhat lower.

For more, make sure to check out our news section.

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