From Homeless to Hopeful: Pursuit of Happiness in Croatia

By 21 November 2017

At such a depressing moment in time, when thousands of Croats are leaving the country in search of a better future abroad, it’s always nice to hear uplifting stories of people who have built a good life for themselves in Croatia.

We have recently started to present you with personal stories of foreign entrepreneurs who decided to give Croatia a chance – and are now living happy, fulfilled lives here. However, every once in a while we come across a heartwarming local story as well: meet Romano Faganel, a Croatian citizen who overcame outstanding difficulties in life and finally found happiness on Cres island.

To say life hasn’t been kind to Romano would be a serious understatement: he grew up in children’s homes, ending up on the street at the age of fourteen. From that point on, he took on whichever job he could find to get on, including home renovation work, waiting tables and working in camps. He persisted even in the direst of circumstances, finally ending up in ‘Roses of St Francis’, a homeless shelter in Rijeka. On one lucky occasion, Romano and his friend Marijan Diklić met Marijo Šlosar, one of the founders of the Sheep Breeding Museum in Lubenice on Cres, who offered them a place to stay provided they agree to work at the museum. Of course, they were happy to take the opportunity, settling down on one of the most enchanting Croatian islands.

“When I first started to get acquainted with this place, something ‘clicked’ and I fell in love with Lubenice. I used to know absolutely nothing about Lubenice, apart from it being a place on Cres island. But as soon as I arrived and got to know the town and its people, I decided to stay”, Romano said.


Muzej ovčarstva

He started off by supervising the museum spaces, and has since learned enough about Lubenice and the museum itself to be able to work as a tour guide. He introduces visitors to the history of the area, both in Croatian and English. As one of the museum’s main activities is preserving the local tradition of sheep breeding and wool harvesting, both he and Marijan participate in sheep shearing and treating wool that later gets used for felting. “I love felting, I find it relaxing. I don’t think about anything else [while I’m working], and I’m creating something useful. Just like every other person on the island, I was taught how to felt by Vesna Jakić from the Ruta Association”, Romano said, remarking that he always encourages visitors to try their hand at this creative endeavour that’s both entertaining and results in unique handmade souvenirs.

A heartwarming story about a man who was down on his luck for a really long time, but managed to rise above adversity and create a life of purpose. Can this get even better? Of course it can: Tourist Board Cres and the Rural Island Group – Sheep Breeding Museum concluded Romano was deserving of some special recognition, so they nominated him for the ‘Man – the Key to Success’ award granted by the Croatian National Tourist Board. He wasn’t aware of his candidature until he was invited to the award ceremony at the latest Days of Croatian Tourism that took place in Mali Lošinj. When his name was called out and he got on stage at Hotel Bellevue, this employee of the year in a cultural heritage object was beaming with pride.

“It was a feeling I cannot fathom, a feeling I have never experienced and cannot describe it. I heard my name called out, but I didn’t hear anything that was said about me, how they introduced me. I was excited and proud. I’m happy that someone recognised my work, that I’m doing a good job in Lubenice”, said Romano about the award ceremony, adding he plans to carry on with his fulfilling life on Cres. A well-deserved happy ending!

You can read more about the Sheep Breeding Museum on Cres here, and make sure to take a look at their website as well.

Source: Novi list