Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Croatian Returnee Stories: Jakelina Listes, from Vancouver to Split

November 1, 2022 - 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 Jakelina Listes, who moved from Vancouver CA to Split.

Jakelina Listes originally born and raised in Split, Croatia (back in the day, 1971, part of former Yugoslavia). I immigrated to Canada in 2000, came back to Croatia for about a year and a half, and then back to Canada in 2003. I am currently still living in the British Columbia province of Canada, on Vancouver Island’s main city of Victoria, and I am in the process of getting ready for my return to Croatia. I have a degree in social work, and I am currently employed working for the federal government and have a small business making upcycled fashion and jewellery that I do on the side (also on Instagam). I lived in several provinces in Canada and have been involved in the local non-profit sector focusing on immigrants and other inter-cultural issues. 


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.

I suppose the idea of me returning back to Croatia was present in my mind forever, as I was homesick for a long time and did not quite find my place in Canada. Despite being here for 20 years, and having a decent life ( in economic terms) and valuable experiences, there was a big part of my life that was missing. It would take a novel to list here all the nuances that make someone's life great and that, when not fulfilled, leaves a gnawing feeling of missing out, longing, and emptiness. 

 My husband, who is Canadian, and I have been talking for a few years now about the possibility of buying some property in Croatia so that we can have a place to retire, thinking it will take years to accomplish this as we are in our early fifties. As time went by, my desire to return back was growing, and so did the search for real estate in Split. 

In my case, the important part of this decision is the fact that Canadian society has changed a lot since I came here, especially during the pandemic years. It has gradually become a society that emphasizes many worldviews that are not compatible with my own values. I think I am simply too tired of trying to find my place here, and I told myself, hey you spent years here and gave it a good shot, but it is time to move on. 

The final decision was made this September after my return from a 4-month-long visit to Split.

During that time, I bought a property in Kastela and settled in instantly, feeling this is it, it feels like home home. Coming back to Canada was hard, especially after being there for months, and something shifted in my mind, and I asked myself, why wait for retirement, why don’t we do what we want sooner while we are still relatively young.

So, here we are, selling our house in Canada and preparing to leave in a few months


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

 Many people here in Canada are a bit surprised by our decision but ultimately see it as something most of them would like to do. Meaning, retire early, still have some good years to enjoy life, and fulfill some of the things we all put aside and never get to it, as life is not that long. My family and friends in Croatia are generally understanding why we want to do this, and are welcoming our return. There are some cautious remarks here and there in the sense that people in Croatia find it strange that my Canadian husband wants to move there just like that.  

3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

As I am from Croatia and have been coming for a visit almost every year for the last 20 years, and I extensively follow what is happening in Croatia via media, social media, and talking to people, I am well aware of the Croatian reality. Unlike some people who were born and raised outside of Croatia and have not lived there, I don’t have illusions about the state of affairs there, and I know what to expect. In other words, the Croatian mentality is very familiar to me.


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

We are very excited actually. I anticipate we will have some headaches dealing with Croatian bureaucracy, but being employed by the biggest ministry in the Canadian government, I can testify that bureaucracy is terrible wherever you go. I have family and friends to help if thighs get stuck, so I don't really have a lot of concerns.  

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

Living abroad for many years gives you a unique perspective on your own homeland. I don’t look at the Croatian reality only from the lenses of someone from there, but also from someone who is coming from quite a different socio-economic and political milieu. This can be very interesting at times and leads to a lot of comparisons where Croatia gets the advantage in certain key elements like, in my case, having family and friends, feeling of belonging, familiarity with the place and culture, mentality, habits, food, etc. On the other side, there are some areas that would benefit from some of the attitudes that are more prevalent in Canada. 

At this stage in life, the Croatian lifestyle suits me better.


6. 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. 

Croatia for people like me is very different than it would be for my husband or for those Croats born and raised outside of Croatia. I have a strong connection to my hometown and think it is a great place to live (even though, realistically there are a lot of things that are not great). For me, it is truly coming back home. I like that when I walk around Split, I have memories of places and people, I know its locations and history, and it means something.  As I mentioned before, I know what to expect and how to go about it, which is what some other returnees who never lived in Croatia before often struggle with. 

What I don’t like is what is wrong with many other parts of the world, incompetent and corrupt ruling class, exploitative economy, environmental degradation, and the overall decline in basic human decency. I also do not enjoy the chaotic tourism industry that Split succumbs to and the total lack of vision and planning for the city so that it can thrive for 12 months a year, not just in summer. 


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

To leave the expectations that things in Croatia are or are supposed to be the same or similar to wherever you are returning from. To remind yourself why you decided to move there in the first place, and set what your priorities are. To adapt to local culture and embrace it as that is the only way to adjust to a new reality and meet people and ultimately feel like it is a place you can call home.  

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

There is for sure a need for people to get more easily accessible information on what needs to be done for getting medical care, residency, driving licence, etc. Also, an agency or center that would serve immigrants to Croatia, regardless of where they come from, would be a logical move, as there are more foreigners coming to live and work in Croatia. I think tools such as Paul’s new book that speaks about just that- survival for foreigners in Croatia are also great assets. Another thing that any immigrant, even a returnee from the diaspora, can use is to observe people and their surroundings and be curious and ask, engage, show interest. That is a fantastic way to learn your way around a new culture. And let’s be honest, coming to Croatia from the diaspora is basically coming to a new culture. 


Thanks, Jakelina, and good luck with stonethreadsjewellery.com


You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series 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.


Monday, 31 October 2022

Unseasonably Warm Weather in Dalmatia (and Elsewhere)

October 31, 2022 - After their visit to the cemeteries for the All Saints' Day, the people in Dalmatia can go straight to the beach and the sea this year, enjoying the warm weather.

This is a very rare occurrence in Dalmatia, with temperatures this high, both air and sea temperature. There are always those extremely brave and persistent individuals who swim year-round, but this year it's something else, Slobodna Dalmacija writes.

And it seems that the current warm weather is to continue well into November. These days, the sea temperature is 19° to 21° C along the coast, which is warm enough for a pleasant swim. Slavko Radilović, PhD, a forecaster of the State Hydrometeorological Institute in Split, says that the air temperatures of 24° to 25° degrees are here to stay for the upcoming days. 

People from the islands tell Slobodna reporters how they're picking their olives and going for a swim in the sea afterwords, which is something they've never experienced before. The forecaster Radilović confirms that the extreme situation is probably the result of global warming, which prolongs the period of relatively high temperatures all the way to September and October, so these weather conditions of the last few days are not strange either. The sea temperature goes up to 22 degrees because there is no wind, and as air temperatures get to 26 degrees, the sea can't even cool down. The high-pressure field has been creating frequent fogs in the last ten days, both in continental Croatia and in some regions by the sea, such as around Zadar.

The upcoming two days will not see any wind, and when there is no wind, there is nothing to bring cold air. When the northern wind, so-called bura appears, it will bring some cold air from the continent, only then will the sea cool down. However, the forecast is that before that happens, the southern wind will bring rain to the region. Looking more broadly, he says that this October fits perfectly into the ten-year period of global warming.

Monday, 31 October 2022

Rimac Nevera Gets Tested on Top Gear!

October 30, 2022 - Confirming its popularity in the world of hypercars, Rimac Nevera finds itself in the first episode of the current season of Top Gear!

The previously extremely popular car show started its 33rd series on BBC last night, and one of the segments of the show was presenter Chris Harris' test of the Croatian super-product, the Rimac Nevera electric car.

You can see the segment yourself, and judge how well the Nevera did while being tested by one of the strictest evaluators in the business.

Mate Rimac, the owner of the Rimac brand and company, couldn't resist boasting about his car and the segment on his Facebook profile:

If you watched the segment carefully, something might've caught your eye, a detail that Rimac himself later shared on his Facebook as well: the licence plate of the car which was parked in the Top Gear studio for filming read Zg-MAGLA-1, which translates to English as "fog". It's clearly a reference to numerous people in Croatia who continue not to believe in Rimac's success story and insist on calling him "a fog merchant" (which is a common Croatian phrase, meaning "fiction monger").

Suppose you've been following Rimac's story and rise to fame. In that case, you might remember that his cars have already had their brush with fame (or, some might say, infamy) when a former Top Gear presenter, Richard Hammond, tested Rimac's Concept One in Switzerland, with explosive results.


Monday, 31 October 2022

Reflections of The Cure in Zagreb from a 53-Year-Old Fan

November 1, 2022 - My live music dreams have finally all been fulfilled after last week's visit of The Cure to Zagreb. Reflections of a 53-year-old fan.

It is a strange feeling finally going to see one of your favourite bands for over 30 years at the tender age of 53, with your two teenage kids in tow, one of them impressively dressed as a Goth and knowing more of their songs these days than I do. 

Zagreb has been very good to me musically. Back in the Eighties, I was fortunate to see many of my musical heroes in their prime: the original Sisters of Mercy on their farewell tour of 1985; a quite unforgettable 15-minute set at 1am by The Jesus and Mary Chain at the legendary Manchester Hacienda in 1984; and sneaking out of boarding school to catch Siouxsie and the Banshees in Preston the following year. 

But there were four bands and artists I still really wanted to see live decades later.  And Zagreb has delivered all four over the years. Never has the saying 'Better late than never' been more true. 


I missed out on the Smiths in Manchester in 1986, but was compensated by Morrissey in Zagreb.  Leonard Cohen, at the age of 75, lit up the Zagreb Arena for over three hours. And when I was invited to a private audience with one other journalist to interview the man himself, Johnny Rotten, my life was almost complete. There was just one more band that I had to see to make my musical journey complete. 

If The Smiths assuaged my teenage suicidal feelings back in the mid-1980s, it was The Cure which helped me through a broken relationship 25 years ago. Disintegration, Close to You, and Pictures of You would drown out the misery I was feeling. Although he will never know who I am, Robert Smith has been a part of my life since I came across him first as the Banshees guitarist in about 1984. My Cure fest a quarter of a century ago was enhanced by my Cure-loving neighbour Darren, whose appreciation of the band pre-dated mine, and he was even a penpal of Smith in those early years, showing me some of the letters over yet one more bottle of wine. 

So long ago, and how would it be to see The Cure today, and what kind of performer was Smith today, now a sprightly 63? As I took the kids into the arena, I looked around and was struck by just how young the crowd was. A whole new generation of fans inspired by this musical genius. 

Was I perhaps too old for this concert? And when did seemingly every fan in the audience film every song rather than actually enjoy the experience? It would be great for embedding YouTube videos for this article for sure. 

I got my answer in the second song on an impressively long set (27 songs and 2 hours 35 on stage). 

Pictures of You. 

Eyes closed. Back to the pain of 1999, my darkened living room, Darren's letters. Cathartic. It had been worth the cost of the ticket in one song. Smith may have aged but he is still a great performer, and so many memories flooded back, of a former life with which I have long ago been at peace. 

One Croatian portal described the concert as something for everyone, and there was certainly a lot of variety, with the first half of the concert a lot heavier and focusing on some new songs from the long-awaited new album.

But there were plenty of older classics, augmented by superb lighting and sound effects. Spiderman is having me for dinner tonight. Lullaby was the first of the second encore, and very welcome for this old fart. Many of the songs before that were unknown to me, and I was hoping for my reminiscing with Disintegration, Just Like Heaven, Close to Me, and a host of Cure hits from when I was young. 

I need not have worried. The second encore was heaven indeed. Among the highlights. 

There was no doubt which was the most popular song of the night - The Cure anthem, Friday I'm in Love, a song known and loved by fans of all generations.

Followed by one on my bucket list - Close to Me

In Between Days - I was rolling back the years to 1985. 

And then another of my must haves, and only one of two songs I will dance to - Just Like Heaven.

And a fitting end to my career attending live concerts, to a song from a band who have helped me shed so many tears over the years - Boys Don't Cry. 

I got what I came for, and more, and looking around the arena at different generations of joy, I could see I was not alone. Magical band, well worth the 30-year wait. 

Full playlist:

1. Alone 2. Pictures of You 3. Closedown 4. A Night LIke This 5. Lovesong 6. And Nothing Is Forever 7. Cold 8. Burn 9. The Hungry Ghost 10. Push 11. Play for Today 12. A Forest 13 The Last Day of Summer 14. Shake Dog Shake 15. From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea 16. Endsong

First encore: 17. I Can Never Say Goodbye 18. Want 19. Prayers for Rain 20. One Hundred Years

Second encore : 21. Lullaby 22. The Walk 23. Friday I'm in Love 24. Close to Me 25. In Between Days 26. Just Like Heaven 27. Boys Don't Cry.


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.








Monday, 31 October 2022

Zlatko Dalić Announces Wider 2022 World Cup Croatia Player List

October 31, 2022 - Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalić announced a wider list of players for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

On Wednesday, November 9, Dalić will announce the final list of candidates for the World Cup, which includes between 23 and 26 players. The Croatian Football Federation must submit the definitive list of players to FIFA on November 14. After that, it is possible to change players up to 24 hours before the first match in case of injury, reports HNS.

There are 34 names on Dalić's wider list of candidates, one less than expected after Lovre Kalinić was injured in the match between Lokomotiva and Hajduk on Sunday. Today's MRI showed that Kalinić would not go to Qatar. 

"We are extremely sorry about Lovre, and we wish him a speedy and high-quality recovery. However, this unfortunate event confirms that, at this moment, the most important thing is the players' health. Therefore, we can only wish we have no more news related to injuries until we get together," said coach Dalić.

"There are 34 players on this extended list, so we have enough options in case of unforeseen situations. I am happy that most players are in good shape and that most have good playing time. I believe that everyone will make the most of the next two weeks to be in optimal condition for the gathering that we are all extremely looking forward to," said Dalić.

The Croatia national team will gather on November 13 and 14 in Zagreb before traveling to Riyadh on November 14 for a friendly match against Saudi Arabia scheduled for November 16. Two days later, the national team travels to its base camp in Qatar, where the FIFA World Cup begins on November 20. The 2018 World Cup finalists start their journey on November 23 against Morocco, followed by Canada (November 27) and Belgium (December 1).

Player list

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković, Ivica Ivušić, Ivo Grbić, Dominik Kotarski, Nediljko Labrović

Defenders: Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Borna Barišić, Duje Ćaleta-Car, Josip Juranović, Joško Gvardiol, Borna Sosa, Josip Stanišić, Marin Pongračić, Martin Erlić, Josip Šutalo

Midfielders: Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić, Marcelo Brozović, Mario Pašalić, Nikola Vlašić, Luka Ivanušec, Lovro Majer, Kristijan Jakić, Luka Sučić, Josip Mišić

Strikers: Ivan Perišić, Andrej Kramarić, Josip Brekalo, Bruno Petković, Mislav Oršić, Ante Budimir, Marko Livaja, Antonio Mirko Čolak

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

Monday, 31 October 2022

The Croatian Language Explored - The Čakavian Dialect

October the 31st, 2022 - We've delved into the histories and words of old Dalmatian, the Dubrovnik subdialect, the Zagreb dialect, and we've also explored swearing in the Croatian language. Now let's take a look at another of the main dialects, Čakavian.

Čakavian is one of the three main dialects from which standard Croatian language as we now know it is made up, along with Štokavian and Kajkavian, which we've looked into in two of the aforementioned articles. The Čakavian dialect isn't as obscure as many of the dialects spoken across this country, and it stands out from the crowd because it is deemed to have been the basis of the stylisation of the first publicly used standard Croatian language.

Opinions on just how this particular dialect of the Croatian language which is fairly widely spoken vary, so we'll have a quick dive into both the majority and the minority opinions. According to the dominant opinion held by some linguists, during Ottoman encroachment and invasion, there was a push of spoken dialects out towards the west, and those who spoke the Štokavian dialect fled to areas in which Čakavian was primarily spoken. This consisted of bits of the Dalmatian coast and most of the Dalmatian hinterland, as well as parts of Gorski Kotar and Lika, and on most of the islands north of the Peljesac Peninsula. It also included most of Istria and then inland, all the way to Karlovac.

According to the minority opinion, Čakavian developed from the Old Slavic language spoken by certain coastal Croats as a result of linguistic mixing of that language with the remnants of Romanised people who also influenced the language then spoken by the Croats, which caused the emergence of this dialect of the standard Croatian language. Supporters of this opinion also support the fact that there aren't really any collective Čakavian speakers located in the interior of the country except in very specific areas.

Dutch accentologist and linguist Willem Vermeer divided the Čakavian dialect, or in this case language, into three groups: Northwest, Central and Southeast Čakavian.

Glancing outside of the borders of modern Croatia, most Čakavian dialects are spoken in nearby Austria, followed by Slovakia and Hungary where the number of people who speak with this dialect is less. There is a lot more one could say about this history of this dialect of the Croatian language, with different experts having their own classifications and divisions. Vermeer was just one of them, with Iva Lukezic, another expert, having her own division of this way of speaking which is quite different to that of Vermeer as recently as 2012.

Instead of doing a deep dive into that, let's take a look at some Čakavian words with their standard Croatian and English translations. If you happen to have read any of the above-linked articles or know some old Dalmatian, Štokavian or Kajkavian, you'll more than likely recognise several:

Angurija - lubenica/water melon

Banjati se - to bathe or swim/kupati se

Ceno - jeftino/cheap

Delat - raditi/work

Farmacija - ljekarna/pharmacy

Gad - neotrovnica (zmija)/non-venomous snake

Harta - papir/paper

Infishan - zaljubljen/in love

Jadrit - jedriti/sail

Kalmat se - smiriti se/to calm down

Lesica - lisica/fox

Merlin - mrkva/carrot

Navada - navika ili obicaj/a habit or a custom

Oganj - vatra/fire

Pamidor - rajcica/tomato

Razjadit se - naljutiti se/to get angry

Sakamo - svugdje/everywhere

Tancat - plesati/to dance

Ulika - maslina/olive

Vakit - vikati/to shout

Vlasi - kosa/hair

Zrcalo - ogledalo/mirror


For more on the Croatian language, from swearing and extinct words to the histories and examples of different dialects, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 31 October 2022

SuperSport HNL Round 15: Osijek Gives Dinamo First Defeat, Hajduk Misses Out on 3 Points

October 31, 2022 - The SuperSport HNL 15th round was played from October 28 to October 31, 2022. This round featured the derby between Osijek and Dinamo at City Garden Stadium, with Dinamo recording its first defeat of the season, while Hajduk missed out on taking 3 points against Lokomotiva with a last-minute 2:2 draw. Here's our SuperSport HNL round 15 recap. 

Sibenik v. Varazdin (1:2)

Sibenik and Varazdin opened the 15th round on Friday, October 28, in Sibenik. 

The first half went without goals, but the second half certainly made up for it. Dolcek scored for 1:0 Sibenik in the 60th minute, just five minutes before Varazdin's Teklic was sent off with a red card. Varazdin played with a man down for the rest of the match, but Brodic brought hope with the equalizer in the 71st minute (penalty). A red card was shown to Sibenik, too, in the 3rd minute of stoppage time when Delic was booked for his second yellow. Pilj scored the winning goal a minute later for the final 1:2 Varazdin. 


Sibenik is currently in 8th place with 13 points, while Varazdin is in 5th place with 22 points. 

Rijeka v. Istra 1961 (0:1)

Rijeka and Istra met on Saturday, October 29, at Rujevica Stadium in front of 3,755 fans. 

Another scoreless first half was shaken up in the 63rd minute when Erceg put Istra ahead for 0:1. Neither team could score for the remainder of the match. Rijeka held 48% of the ball possession throughout the game compared to Istra's 52%. Istra had three shots on target and five blocked shots by the Rijeka keeper. 


Rijeka is currently in 9th place with 12 points, while Istra is in 6th with 17 and a game in hand. 

Osijek v. Dinamo (1:0)

Osijek and Dinamo met on Saturday, October 29, at City Garden Stadium in front of 7,609 fans. This is one of the last games that will be played at this stadium as we await the new Pampas stadium due to open soon.

It was another scoreless first half in the 15th round and a second half that was incredibly difficult to play due to the thick fog. Mierez found the back of the net in the 85th minute for the Osijek win and Dinamo's first loss this season. 


Osijek is currently in 3rd place with 27 points, while Dinamo is in first with 35 and a game in hand. 

Lokomotiva v. Hajduk (2:2)

Lokomotiva and Hajduk met on Sunday, Octoberr 30 in Zagreb. 

Another 0:0 game at halftime was certainly compensated for in the second half. Sahiti found the back of the net in the 61st minute, and Mlakar just six minutes after that for a comfortable 0:2 Hajduk lead. Unfortunately, a tough-to-watch injury for Hajduk keeper Lovre Kalinic saw the end to his game in the 85th minute and time off the pitch for the unforeseeable future. Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić announced today that he would be missing the World Cup. 

Lokomotiva then came out to play. A goal by Ibrahim made it 1:2 in the 88th minute and a Tuci equalizer in the 5th minute of stoppage time saw the game end in a draw. Hajduk thus missed out on coming 2 points behind Dinamo. Hajduk was without its ace Marko Livaja in this match due to cards.


Lokomotiva is currently in 7th place with 14 points, while Hajduk is in 2nd with 31. 

Gorica v. Slaven Belupo (1:1)

Gorica and Belupo closed out the 15th round on Monday, October 31, in Velika Gorica. 

Zirdum scored an early goal for Belupo in the 9th minute for 0:1. Kocijan received his second yellow in the 21st minute, forcing Belupo to play with a man down for the remainder of the match. Vujnovic equalized in the 3rd minute of stoppage time for 1:1 at the half, but Gorica could not capitalize on having a man up and failed to find the back of the net. The match ended 1:1. 


Gorica is currently in the last place with 7 points, while Belupo is in 4th with 24. 

You can see the HNL table HERE.

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

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Award-Winning Croatian Film and TV Director Lukas Nola Dies

October 29, 2022 - The news of the passing of the renowned Croatian TV and movie director Lukas Nola shook Croatia today.

Lukas Nola, 59, passed away today in Zagreb, after a long battle with cancer, Croatian media reports.

His debut was in 1993, when he made a made-for-TV movie "When Nobody is Watching". His subsequent movies, "Every Time We Part" (1994) and "Russian Meat" (1995) were hits, winning awards at the Pula Festival and getting turned into popular TV series. He combined the genres of thriller, melodrama and detective story, was preoccupied with his original characters and was heavily influenced by David Lynch. 

Then he turned towards art-movies, using a more modernist approach in his movies "Celestial Body" and "Alone" from the early 2000s, which also managed to win awards at the Pula festival. Those latter movies are influenced by Tarkovsky, and prove his exquisite visual style. His TV titles include "Operation Kajman" and "Guardian of the Castle" (which was a hit on the international scene and was even shown in the USA). He was also a play-writer, did some theatre directing and made numerous experimental films. He wrote the screenplays for all of his movies himself.

His wife is the renowned Croatian actress Barbara Nola, and their two children have also found themselves in various art undertakings.

Numerous Croatian actors, directors and other celebrities mourning the loss took to social media to say their last goodbyes to their friend and colleague today, including Goran Grgić, Dalibor Matanić, and many others.

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Roadmap to Cholesterol: Croatia Among First to Implement New Global Project

October 29, 2022 - Croatia is very successful in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases but urgently needs to improve prevention - we are among the first to start implementing the new global Roadmap for Cholesterol, which was just presented in Zagreb, as well as other projects to improve the nation's cardiovascular health.

Although Croatians have the highest obesity rate amongst the citizens of the EU and insufficiently recognize and treat other key cardiovascular risk factors, Croatia went from the group of so-called very high-risk countries to the group of countries with a high risk of cardiovascular diseases. This is confirmation of the good practice of domestic experts in cardiovascular health, but the key next step is the National Plan for the Suppression of Cardiovascular Diseases with the aim of transforming into a group of countries with low cardiovascular risk – the most developed countries in Europe and the world.



The symposium named Use your brain chose your heart, organized by the World Heart Federation and the Croatian Cardiac Society in Zagreb and under the chairmanship of academician Davor Miličić, brought together the leading domestic experts in cardiovascular health. Just after the world premiere, got acquainted with the new Roadmap for Cholesterol 2022. It is a comprehensive document aimed at improving health outcomes and survival in patients with increased cardiovascular risk, with an emphasis on the importance of comprehensive prevention, early and high-quality diagnostics, and screening of risk groups from an early age. It was presented by the president of the European Society for Atherosclerosis and one of the world's leading authorities on cardiovascular diseases, prof. Kausik Ray. As the host of the symposium, academician Davor Miličić asserted that with more than 22,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases per year, Croatia is among the countries with higher mortality rates than the EU average and is classified as one of the countries with a high cardiovascular risk in Europe. In Croatia, there is already a consensus on the need for the urgent adoption of the National Plan for the Suppression of Cardiovascular Diseases, which has the support of the Ministry of Health. Academician Miličić also pointed out that cardiology is a very successful field of Croatian medicine, within which a number of new diagnostic and therapeutic achievements have been introduced into routine practice, such as the primary network of interventional treatment in acute coronary syndrome and other most complex interventional procedures in diseases of the heart, aorta and peripheral vessels. Great progress was also made in arithmology and electrostimulation, and of course, in heart transplantation and the use of mechanical circulation pumps, which is why Croatian cardiology is internationally recognized and acknowledged. Therefore, our cardiology patients, even the most difficult ones, can receive high-quality and comprehensive cardiology care in Croatia.



"In order to bring Croatia closer to countries with the lower mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases,  it is necessary to simultaneously work on six key challenges – comprehensive primary prevention targeted active and systematic detection of high-risk patients who do not yet have an established diagnosis, such as those with familial hyperlipoproteinemia, reduction of obesity and cardiometabolic risk, public health campaigns, the introduction of new therapies in accordance with the guidelines of the European Society of Cardiology and, of course, the consistent and steady implementation of a comprehensive National Plan for the suppression of cardiovascular diseases"  concluded academician Miličić.

Academician Miličić also pointed out screening for familial hyperlipoproteinemia among preschool children as one of the future major public health projects, whereby Croatia would be one of the first countries with this type of screening that exposes children with an extremely high cardiovascular risk, but also their parents and siblings. This enables the start of effective treatment and prevents cardiovascular disease and mortality, which without treatment can be expected in adolescence or young adulthood. Academician Željko Reiner reminded it is a congenital disease where patients have a lifelong high value of LDL cholesterol, which needs to be effectively and permanently controlled.




"It is estimated that about 20,000 people in Croatia suffer from such a hereditary form of high cholesterol, of which only one percent has been recognized. Due to long-term imperceptible exposure to high values of bad LDL-cholesterol, these people have a 20 times higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases than the rest of the population. In this procedure, after identifying a child with familial hypercholesterolemia, the cooperation of a family medicine doctor, but also of the whole family, which would be covered by screening and the possibility of effective, timely treatment, is needed," added academician Reiner, president of the Croatian Society for Atherosclerosis.

The Ministry of Health strongly supports the proposals and conclusions of the Symposium, pointed out the representative of the Ministry, Dr. Ivana Portolan Pajić. "The upcoming healthcare reform is making a big turn towards primary prevention, early disease detection, and the implementation of screening for familial hypercholesterolemia in preschool children, which will begin in 2023," she concluded.




Academician Bojan Jelaković, president of the Croatian Society for Hypertension, reminded me of the importance of reduced salt intake. "In the last 12 years, we have recorded a significant decrease in salt intake, both among citizens and through cooperation with the food industry, as well as a decrease in blood pressure values. But we still have to work systematically to highlight the danger that excessive salt consumption poses to human health,"  added academician Jelaković. With this Symposium, Croatia hosted the World Heart Federation for the first time, which is the representative of the global cardiovascular community, and gathers more than 200 member organizations in more than hundreds of countries.

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Stories: Denis Vlahovac, from Vancouver CA to Daruvar

October 29, 2022 - 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 Denis Vlahovac, who moved from Vancouver CA to Daruvar.

My name is Denis Vlahovac, and I am a bar consultant and cocktail event manager. I own a company called Cocktail Empire that focuses on improving hospitality standards in Croatia through education and events. I promote the usage of locally grown products, connecting local producers with cafes and restaurants, and I am trying to implement new creative ways to use existing products in cocktails while lowering costs and making the business sustainable. I grew up in Daruvar, Croatia. After I finished University in Opatija in 2014, I moved to New York, and I lived abroad until the pandemic started in 2020. I visited 61 countries and lived in 5 countries.


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.

Ever since I moved out of the country 8 years ago, I thought about what it would be like to actually go back to Croatia and work there. Did something change? Money was not the main reason I left (even though it was an important factor), but actually, the situation itself was with my university diploma, I actually had to know people to get a good job. Your skills didn’t matter much. When I moved out, I actually saw that if I worked hard, I could go places. And I worked hard and learned along the way. The decision to come back home was pretty much straightforward. I was forced to return to Croatia because of the pandemic. My Canadian visa expired, and I was unable to renew it. I barely managed to leave the country because I was on vacation in Alaska when it was decided that the border between Canada and the US was about to close the following day, so I rushed to the airport to return to Canada before it happened. The restaurant I worked at closed permanently the same week, so there was no other option but to go back to Croatia for, what I thought at that moment would be, six months.


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

My family always wanted me to come back and to be closer to them, even though they supported me in my travels. They were always here for me when I needed them. I haven’t seen my parents or my friends back in Croatia for 2 or 3 years sometimes. When it was time to come back, neither they nor I knew it was going to be for good. And we all thought the pandemic was going to end in a couple of months and everything would be back to normal. The day of the flight, I had 2 flight cancellations and barely managed to get out of Vancouver to Montreal and from there to Brussels, only to realize that there was a huge earthquake in Zagreb that same morning. We managed to get there the same day, and my parents left a car for me at the airport, and I drove back home to Daruvar to self-isolate for 2 weeks.


3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

I was reading Croatian media wherever I lived in the world. Most of the time, I was grateful I didn’t live there. But when you start reading the news about the country you live in, you realize that the news is the same everywhere. In Croatia, there’s a problem in the past with previous regimes but so is in Canada or New Zealand.


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

It was hard for me to think about Croatia when I made all the other places my home. I lived in New York for 3 years, and the hardest decision I made in my life was to leave New York. I had lots of friends and a great job. But I needed a change. I wanted to travel the world. At that time, I never imagined myself living back in Croatia. But things change, and people change. Now when I am in my thirties, I can see Croatia as a wonderful place to live in. And I try to hang out with people who think alike and really want to work on making this place even better.


5. 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 knew what Croatia was like in 2014, and I didn’t want to live there at that time. The people were great, but the situation was hard. I do not come from a wealthy family, nor do I live on the seaside where opportunities to get better-paying jobs are abundant. But after 6 years abroad, I started to think about Croatia more. I wondered if the situation has changed. After 6 months of being in Croatia in 2020. I realized that covid was not going to go away quickly, so I started looking for a job as a bartender. I thought salaries must be much higher now than they were in 2014. After a few job interviews, I was left speechless. The sheer disappointment I felt at that moment as I was walking away from a cocktail bar in Zagreb I just had an interview made me think about moving away again. But this time, it was impossible for me to leave. All my savings were melting away fast, and I had to think hard about what I wanted to do with my life. I saw the opportunity to start my own business and apply all the things I learned abroad to the Croatian hospitality scene in order to improve it. I decided to stay in Croatia for good this time.


6. 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. 

What I love about Croatia is that it is really beautiful, people are easy-going, and it’s easy to make new friends there is a big potential for business growth, especially if you have something unique to offer to the market. Every part of Croatia has something unique to offer in regard to food and sights. It’s awesome to go to places like Baranja and Istria, Zagorje, and Dalmatia and experience great food and meet friendly people. I like the way of life here and being close to my family and friends. I do feel it is getting more and more westernized with a fast lifestyle and the constant run for the money, but it still has some of that chill vibe. Especially in smaller towns. What I don’t like is that it is a relatively small market, so unless you have something original or are extremely good at what you do, you will have a hard time succeeding. Another thing I find interesting is that Croatians always think of themselves as really hard-working, but I don’t see that in Croatia that much. Of course, there are hard-working people here, but not in the amount we like to tell ourselves. Bureaucracy is a constant problem, but it is getting better. The thing I feel is the most annoying in Croatia is that you need to know people to get good jobs and that people think and talk about other people's lives too much. Related to my love of traveling, what I hate in Croatia is the lack of railroad infrastructure and the lack of long-haul flights from Croatian airports. Especially in the winter.


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

If you need a relaxed lifestyle and are thinking about moving to a slower-paced country that has great food, good people, and a high potential for business growth, Croatia is an excellent choice. Especially if you are a high earner, you will find that Croatia has everything you need. You can go hiking, play different sports, enjoy the sun and visit 1000 islands, drink the finest wine, eat quality local food and hang out with friendly people. It is extremely safe and well-connected with the rest of Europe.


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

I think the Croatian government missed the opportunity to keep Croatians that returned to Croatia during the pandemic in the country. Now it is hard for them to come back. I am one of the rare ones who decided to stay and build my life here. I think we should work on “stopping” the people from leaving Croatia permanently in the first place. It’s great for people to go abroad to study there or to get some work experience, and we should offer those people some benefits to come back to Croatia to use that knowledge to improve the local economy. Corruption is, unfortunately, still a big problem in Croatia, and we should all work together to get rid of it as much as possible. That is probably the main reason Croatians are leaving Croatia.



Thanks, Denis, and good luck with www.cocktailempire.hr






You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series 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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