Friday, 5 August 2022

A Closer Look at the UNESCO Lace Traditions on Pag

August 7, 2022 - Having recently visited the island of Pag, as one of my summer stops, I discovered an old tradition that can be seen throughout all the nooks and crannies of Pag town – a quiet and historic destination worth visiting! All things lace can be found around the small town, whether it be on the town’s streets, tourist shops, or inside Pag’s Lace Gallery.

Lacemaking, a cherished tradition in Croatia known as ‘teg’, has been recorded throughout the Mediterranean in the mid-fifteenth century – when small rural communities left a cultural heritage to be passed down generations. The renowned folk-art form has seen patience and skill from women unlike anything else, as their hard-working hands are well acquainted with the delicate lace we now see on the streets of Pag.

 

IMG_5371.jpg

Photo: Ailin Khassen

 

Such beauty requiring an ordinary mending needle and thread, as well as a backing – which is usually a hard stuffed pillow – is created by intangible designs; known to have been handed down from generation to generation. However, it is very likely to find each lace maker adds her own personal touch to her special lacework.

The lace, having been seen as a design on clerical vestments and national costumes (specifically the blouses and headgear, called ‘pokravica’), has now become known as a stand-alone item. Most commonly, it is utilised as a decorative item, such as an adornment on furniture; an embellishment framed and mounted on walls; a detail sewn onto articles of apparel, and hems of curtains and tablecloths.

 

5D3B0916.jpg

Photo: Romulic & Stojcic

 

This painstaking work became renowned and diversified due to the admiration it got many years ago. In 1937, Pag’s lacework has received the gold plaque for high-quality handcraft at the World Exhibition in Paris – aiding in the demand it has seen over the years. Moreover, it is known that Empress Maria Theresa kept a lacemaker from Pag at the court in Vienna. To add, in 2009, these tiny works of art have been registered in the list of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO – along with the lace in the island of Hvar and the town of Lepoglava!

Therefore, this precious lacemaking tradition is widespread and cherished by many in Croatia. To protect this handiwork, the Town of Pag, with the State Intellectual Property Office, has decided to implement the act of signing a license agreement when wanting to commercialise or use the lace of Pag for souvenirs, and clothing and other items. “With this act, we pay tribute to Pag lace and choose who will use it and in what way,” the director of the Pag Tourist Board, Vesna Karavanić, told HRT.

 

IMG_5376.jpg

Photo: Ailin Khassen

 

With the word of beauty and preciseness of the lace of Pag being carried far, it is no surprise that tourists end up purchasing a piece of handiwork in one of the gift shops in the town of Pag. Additionally, it is a true pleasure to visit the Benedictine nuns of the Monastery of Santa Margherita – who keep the lace craft tradition in Pag as strong as it is. A collection of over a hundred exhibits, which have been collected and preserved for over 150 years, can be found in the Monastery as well. So, do not miss the opportunity to stop in the town of Pag to encounter the renowned lace that is as delicate as a snowflake, but durable enough to withstand laundering! 

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Croatia Logs 1,226 New COVID-19 Cases, 14 Related Deaths

ZAGREB, 5 August, 2022 - Croatia has registered 1,226 new COVID cases and 14 related deaths in the past 24 hours, the national COVID response team reported on Friday.

There are now 9,215 active cases in the country, including 601 hospitalised patients, 21 of whom are on ventilators, while 5,219 people are self-isolating.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 1,192,305 people have become infected with coronavirus in Croatia and 16,379 of them have died as a consequence while 1,166,711 have recovered.

To date, 59.58% of the total population, or 70.85% of adults, have been vaccinated.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Italian Navy Ship Full of Cadets Visits Split

August 5, 2022 - The Italian navy ship San Giusto arrived this Thursday in Split, more precisely to the Lora Naval Base, where it plans to remain until August the 8th. 

The visit is part of the second stage of the Educational campaign for the cadets of the Petty Officer Academy Taranto. The ship was visited yesterday by the mayor of Split Ivica Puljak, adviser to the prefect of Split-Dalmatia Ana Buličić Krespi, consul general of the Republic of Italy in Rijeka Davide Bradanini, honorary consul of Italy in Split Maja Medić, honorary consul of Italy in Dubrovnik Frano Bongi and military attaché of Italy in Vienna with the delegate for Croatia, Colonel Gerardo Contristano. The guests were welcomed by the ship's commander, Antonio Giuseppe Palombella.

The San Giusto ship is the first and only ship of the San Giusto class, a modernized version of the San Giorgio class, and combines amphibious capabilities with the peculiarities of a training ship. Its usual duty station is the Brindisi Naval Base and it is under the direct purview of the 3rd Naval Division. According to NATO standard names, it is defined as an LPD (Landing Platform Dock). That means it's an amphibious transport unit equipped with a floating dock, designed for the landing of amphibious landing troops in projection operations from the sea.

This ship's high transport capacities make the unit very versatile for humanitarian aid, civil protection, and interventions in the event of natural disasters, in which it has participated several times. The large spaces and accommodation capacities also allow it to be used as a training ship for students of the Naval Academy or Cadet Schools of the Italian Navy. That's why it has been designated for the 2022 Education Campaign for the benefit of the Petty Officer Academy Taranto.

There are 151 students currently sailing on it, 35 female and 116 male, who are sailing the Mediterranean and learning about the naval units and skills helpful in performing various tasks. The campaign started on July 25th from the Taranto Naval Base and will last for about 2 months, with an expected return to Taranto on September 24th. After Split, the ship will set sail for future destinations in the central and eastern Mediterranean.

Unfortunately,  Captain Alberto Bertorelli was not seen in Split this time.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Numerous MPs, Mayors, Politicians Attend Knin Commemoration

ZAGREB, 5 Aug (Hina) - A large number of mayors, members of parliament and politicians arrived in Knin on Friday morning for the central celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day and the 27th anniversary of Operation Storm.

Knin Mayor Marijo Ćaćić told reporters that he could still feel the same excitement as in 1995 when Knin was liberated and the war ended.

"I feel festive today. Twenty-seven years ago my family and I were in Zadar, having been expelled from Knin. It was a great thing for us to return home... It was the beginning of a new life," Ćaćić said.

Šibenik-Knin County Prefect Marko Jelić said the atmosphere at the Knin celebration had become rather formal, comparing it to the atmosphere of seven years ago, when around 100,000 people gathered in Knin. He added that in that context one should be aware of the fact that war veterans were now older and that it was not as simple for them to travel.

"On the other hand, this is also due to disagreements among ourselves. We should be showing unity because we would not have Croatia today if we had not been united," Jelić said.

Bridge MP Miro Bulj, a member of Croatian forces during the Homeland War, too, called for unity, describing separate wreath-laying ceremonies by state officials in Knin as "a disgrace."

Asked to comment on the fact that war veterans were not allowed into the central square in Knin, where today's commemoration was taking place, he said that that, too, was a disgrace and that he did not know why senior state officials were afraid to let those deserving most gratitude attend the event.

Bridge president and MP Božo Petrov said hot weather was probably the reason why there were fewer people at today's ceremony in Knin than in previous years, but that he would like everyone in Croatia to understand that today was not just a non-working day.

"Today we celebrate our freedom and the victory won in the Homeland War, the moment when Croatia was united. We should pass that on to the next generations in a dignified way," he said.

Split Mayor Ivica Puljak, who was in the company of Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević, said he was in Knin to remember with pride what Croatian defenders had done for the country's freedom, as well as remember those who had given their lives for peace and freedom.

Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava attended the celebration in Knin too.

Homeland Movement MP and war veteran Stipo Mlinarić said the Croatian army had defeated the Serb army and the criminal SDS party in the war, and that it had not fought against the Serb people.

He said that 80% of Croatian defenders, former prison camp inmates and disabled veterans, were humiliated because in the past two years they could not enter the venue of the central ceremony in Knin without accreditation.

"(The ceremony in) Knin has been neutralised as a symbol of freedom and has turned into a social event attended by politicians," Mlinarić said.

Friday, 5 August 2022

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 20. Frane, Moj Punac (Father-in-Law)

August 6, 2022 - Twenty years a foreigner in Croatia. Part 20 of 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years. The man to whom I will dedicate my book, my father-in-law, Frane.

Twenty years and 19 ways in which Croatia has changed me. I must confess that I have really enjoyed writing this series about my last two decades in Croatia, and the chance to celebrate all that Croatia has given - and continues to give - me. If you are new to the series, you can start at the beginning with doing business in Dalmatia.  

The series has been a little self-indulgent, perhaps, but I have been egged on by the rather large interest that the series has generated. I can't remember the last time my inbox had so little abuse (trolls, please come back, I miss you) and so many heartfelt comments from total strangers. 

The series started taking on a life of its own. At some point, the idea of turning it into a book was born. When a Croatian lady in Holland said she would buy 40 copies of the book for her foreign colleagues in the Zagreb office so that they could begin to understand the mysteries of living in this wonderful land, one thing led to another, and Living in Croatia, a Foreigner Survival Kit was born. 

It will be published by the end of October in time for Christmas, a collection of these articles, as well as more commentary and some practical sections for those looking to make the move to Croatia. It will also be dedicated to the subject of this, the last of the 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years. 

My initial subject for the final chapter was going to be the Croatian lifestyle, but in some ways, the lifestyle has already been covered. And I wanted to find room to pay tribute to an extraordinary man who has had a big impact on my time here, and who sadly passed away suddenly earlier this year - my 'punac' (father-in-law) Franko, aka Frane. A truly exceptional man who lives on in the hearts of many on Hvar and beyond, and who will live on a little with this book, which I am dedicating to him and his lovely wife Zorica. 

There is a lot I could write about Frane, but I will leave it with my words on Facebook soon after his funeral. 

****

Who are the people you respect the most in life?

One of the best things that has ever happened to me was getting new parents at the ripe old age of 33, an amazing couple who treated me as their own when I started dating their daughter almost 20 years ago. I want talk a little about my father-in-law/father, Franko.

The first time we met, you were in a suit. I never saw you in a suit again. You had invited me to lunch so you could meet the strange foreigner who was dating your eldest daughter. Even though we had no language in common, you and your family made me very welcome and we laughed a lot. When you left the table after lunch, you shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said: My first impression of you is positive, young man. I hope it will always be that way. I am not sure if it stayed positive, but my impression of you certainly did.

275057087_10160424515814073_1014854018904324648_n.jpg

The second time I met you, you took me to look at property for sale, and then for a tour of your beloved 'polje' (field). You showed me your olive trees, your vines, your vegetables, and your plans for the future. And then you picked a couple of oranges, eating one in four bites without peeling it. I thought this was some kind of manly challenge (I failed). You gave me a bag of salad and vegetables to take home. It was the first example of your 19 years of giving. The last was 20kg of oranges that you delivered to us in Zagreb just a couple of weeks ago.

275139701_10160424514949073_1345411969717177908_n.jpg

When we moved into the apartment above yours, you took me to the garage and showed me three stainless steel tanks, each filled with 200 litres of your excellent red wine. On one of the tanks was the word POL - this one is for you, Pol.

I never got to tell you how much respect and appreciation I have for you and your amazing wife Zorica. How together you achieved so much more in life than I ever will, and how privileged I felt to be included in your wonderful family.

275062596_10160424515624073_2050162762039863127_n.jpg

You were one of ten kids living in relative poverty. One pair of shoes handed down, 6 km walk to and from school each day, never any luxuries. And you worked, like no man I have ever met, for a better and brighter future for your children. Together with Zorica, you raised four of the nicest people I know. Together you built a magnificent house and tourism business, and you put each and every one of your kids through university. You may not have had the opportunity, but you made sure that they would have opportunities in life not afforded to you.

And you did all this without ever borrowing a single kuna. If you could not afford it, you would not buy it. The only time you were ever short of money was trying to put your fourth child through university. We bought the apartment above from you which paid for that, and you were then happy that you could fulfil your wish to put them all through university. You got new neighbours above to whom you and Zorica showed nothing but kindness, and our kids really had the best and most loving start to life, thanks to you two.

275166688_10160424514969073_8976464160346890210_n.jpg

When war came to Croatia in 1991, you bought a piece of land to grow your own food to feed the family. That field became a huge part of your life, and the combination of your food and Zorica's cooking was a masterclass in delicious self-sufficiency. And for a boy whose vegetables grew in Manchester supermarkets, I am really grateful that you connected my kids to the soil from an early age.

I used to hate the olive harvest, but now I long for it, being part of your picking team, and enjoying your fantastic grills in your hacienda. Priceless moments and priceless memories.

Although you never asked for anything from anyone, you demanded a lot from your family. I sometimes wonder if I would feel the same about you if you had been my father from birth. Weekends working in the field were a childhood norm, while their friends would be playing with each other.

Tough love perhaps, made easier with the love and warmth of Zorica, who nurtured the kids, while supporting all you did while living in a house which was a construction site for years. Together, you installed values of decency, diligence and kindness, which they all show in exemplary fashion in their daily lives today.

275065045_10160424515609073_6469845572071345625_n.jpg

You and I were so different, with little in common, and yet I felt very close to you. You had no use of the Internet or wasting time drinking beer on the riva, I knew nothing of agriculture or electricity or most of the world you inhabited. While I had travelled a lot, you saw no reason to ever leave your beloved island. And why would you? With your amazing family and beloved field, as well as so many friends (just how many we found out on Monday), why would you need to go anywhere else? And then there was that little language barrier.

But we overcame all that, and I felt very close to you. And here is something I want you to know. Whenever I got introduced to someone on Hvar as the foreigner who lived in Jelsa, there would be mild interest. When it was pointed out that I was a Brusjki Zet (son-in-law of a man from Brusje), doors would open. Franko's zet! You must be a quality person. Because that was you - loved by many, respected by all.

And just how many we learned this week, as so many strangers came to the house to pay their respects. With so many stories of how you touched their lives. And then there were the hundreds and HUNDREDS who came to visit you on Monday. I don't think there has been a bigger funeral in Jelsa in the last 10 years.

My favourite time with you was about 10 years ago at Easter, do you remember? All the family was in Belgrade at a wedding, just you and I at home. You had your ekipa, but you insisted that Easter was a family day, and we would spend it together. We had coffee on your terrace, then gin and tonic on mine, then we heated up the wonderful sarma Zorica had prepared for us. All day in our dressing gowns, and we talked for 7 hours about Churchill, Thatcher, Aston Villa, Montgomery and the North Africa campaign in World War II, and geopolitics today. And blitva. It was one of my best memories of my 13 years in Jelsa.

You were so touched when little Taliah decided she wanted to spend half term with you and Zorica 2 weeks ago, and I am so happy you had that last week with her and Miranda. You seemed incredibly happy. And that photo of the three of you at the ferry - it will be framed and in our home next week.

I went to see you yesterday, after everyone else had left, just to spend a bit of time with you alone to tell you the things I should have said before. And there you were, with the best location, gently sleeping in the March sun, first row to the roaring bura. I took a video which I will play often to be with you when not in Jelsa.

Zbogom, Frane, you were one of a kind, and you will live on through all those who you touched with your kindness and your decency. We will tend your precious olives, take good care of Zorica, and Teta Josipa will have an annual dinner in your honour. I promise I will eat blitva. Your loving Dalmatinski Zet, Pol.

****

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 will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book

 

 

Friday, 5 August 2022

Record Low Unemployment Rate in Osijek-Baranja County

August 5, 2022 - Croatia has for a long time had a dynamic relationship with employment, even more so the east of the country. Encouraging news of record low unemployment came in from Osijek.

As SiB writes, according to the latest data from the Osijek Regional Office of the Croatian Employment Service, at the end of June this year, 13,951 unemployed people were registered in the Osijek-Baranja County. That is 1.7% less than the previous month and 7.0% less than in June 2021. Since registered unemployment has been monitored on a statistical level, it has never happened that the number of unemployed fell below 14,000.

Record low unemployment is the result of continuous increased economic activity, the positive effects of which we are witnessing at all levels. According to the recently published data of FINA, the 2021 business year was particularly successful for entrepreneurs from Osijek-Baranja County, with total revenue of HRK 33.511 billion, which is an increase of 17.18% compared to 2020. The profit for the period amounted to HRK 1.833 billion, which is HRK 530 million or 40.68% more than in 2020, and as an export-oriented economy, the export of HRK 6.672 billion was achieved, which is an increase of 18.3% compared to 2020.

Considering the profit of entrepreneurs, Osijek-Baranja County is positioned fifth in terms of success, following the City of Zagreb, Zagreb County, Split-Dalmatia, and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, respectively.

“In addition to the growth in the number of entrepreneurs of 4.5% compared to last year, we also note a constant increase in the number of trades. At the end of June, 5,346 trades were operating in the County, which is 337 more than in June 2021. Our measures to encourage economic activity have certainly contributed to the record low numbers, by building entrepreneurial infrastructure, primarily the Economic Centre and the Regional Distribution Centre for fruits and vegetables, but also implementing specific projects to encourage employment”, said Prefect Ivan Anušić.

Osijek-Baranja is the only county in Croatia which in cooperation with the Croatian Employment Service, Osijek Regional Office, creates and finances training and retraining programs intended for long-term unemployed persons to find employment more quickly.

Over the past five years, almost 350 unemployed people have gone through various educational programs that were fully financed by the County, as well as the cost of transportation for unemployed people.

“We continuously monitor the needs of the market and try to react with our measures. The retraining and additional training financed by the Osijek-Baranja County proved to be quality measures because 60% of people find employment afterward. Considering the excellent results of the implemented activities, in the budget for 2022 we planned a record amount of HRK 600,000.00 for the continuation of these programs”, said Prefect Anušić.

The Osijek-Baranja County continues to monitor trends in the economy and encourage the development of entrepreneurship and craftsmanship, which, judging by the results of operations last year, contributed to the improvement of the entrepreneurial climate, it was concluded.

Friday, 5 August 2022

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 19. The Mighty State of Uhljebistan

August 5, 2022 - Twenty years a foreigner in Croatia. Part 19 of 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years. An introduction to the State within the State, the Mighty State of Uhljebistan.

Can you imagine living in a country for around 12 years as an expat and have absolutely no clue what was really going on, or how the country actually functioned?

Actually, looking at the hundreds of thousands of Brits in Spain who have little to no interaction with local customs, culture or language, I guess you can imagine. But having travelled to 96 countries and having lived in 10, I pride myself on at least understanding a little of the basics of my temporary new home. 

And yet Croatia kept me fooled for SUCH a long time, showcasing its glossy exterior in my tourism bubble of Hvar, while hiding its darker realities of the daily grind. 

Life on Hvar was good, and although I found the bureaucracy slow and public officials generally quite slow, lazy, and disinterested, I just assumed it was part of the Mediterranean charm.

I miss those days. 

It was an era of innocent living in a beautiful country on a gorgeous island with an incredible lifestyle and very few stresses. And had I chosen to work in a field that did not touch Croatia too much, I could quite possibly have continued in that blissful ignorance. It sometimes amazes me how little expats of 20 years here know about the country or even the town they live in outside their bubble. But if their bubble gives them everything that they need, then perhaps it is understandable. 

Writing about how wonderful Hvar was made me very popular on the island. Finally, someone was writing about more than the beaches and the nightlife, and in English too. And all was well until I started writing some constructively critical articles about certain topics, or echoed online (in a language that tourists could read!) some of the complaints doing the rounds in the local cafes. 

And it was on one such topic that opened a Pandora's Box and led me to hear the 'U'-word for the first time, the entry point to the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, a State within a State that I had been blissfully unaware of for more than a decade in my adopted homeland.

As one would expect with the randomness of my life, the topic that introduced me to the word uhljeb - a word that would bring me one of my first two lawsuits in life 5 years later - was a simple attempt to get the bus timetables updated at the Jelsa Tourist Board. Somehow it became a national debate.

uhljeb.JPG 

And here was the then Jelsa Tourist Board director announcing in the national media that he was not an uhljeb.

What the hell was an uhljeb, I wondered.

ask-uhljeb.JPG

I shared the link on Facebook and asked for help

uhljeb-meaning.JPGI became intrigued and I delved in deeper. And as I delved deeper into TCN and Croatia, I came across the Mighty State of Uhljebistan at every turn. And slowly, very slowly, I started to realise how Croatia really works, And that the main reasons for the crushing emigration in the 30 years since independence had more to do with the corruption and nepotism that rules this country. 

But I am getting ahead of myself on this journey of discovery, for first we have to understand the meaning of this uhljeb word. I have been asked SO many times how one would translate uhljeb into English. Probably the best short explanation that I have found is the following:

Uhljebiti - to be fucked around by lazy and incompetent timeservers and dogsbodies appointed to positions in which they hold no qualifications or experience. Uhljebništvo - the act of appointment/employment of such a person to continue to behave in the manner and affect others with it - with an added point that there is no direct English translation because it is so scarcely seen in Western Europe.  

The origins of the word itself seem interesting - U (in) plus hljeb (hleb is the Serbian word for bread). In bread, so I guess someone who is earning something. Given that many of the jobs are reserved for the family, I came up with my own definition.

An inbred in bread. 

I think it sums it up rather well.

My viewpoint and appreciation of Croatia changed considerably after learning of the uhljeb world, so much so that I wrote an article called A Tale of Two Croatias: Before and After the Uhljeb Discovery back in 2016. This was followed by Welcome to Uhljebistan: A Foreign Appreciation of the Cult of Uhljeb.

My friendships with some Croatian friends changed. It was almost as though I had come over to the dark side, and they could now be freer in their interactions with me, now that I was beginning to understand what Croatia was really like, and what a struggle their daily lives were. It made me feel a little less in love with Croatia, the country, but much more so with the humans I was engaged with. I mourned the loss of my idyllic Croatian bubble, while trying to summon the agility and strength to navigate the murky waters ahead of me.  

Suddenly, things became a lot clearer, and a lot more depressing. The useless official who hardly did anything was not due to him being lazy or incapable, it was more to do with the knowledge that his was a job for life, in exchange for his vote to keep the status quo of power. Be in the right party, help them stay in power, and a comfortable job for life, with guaranteed payment from the State budget on time every month was the reward. 

The system was easy to spot once you knew what you were looking at, especially in smaller communities. Years ago, when I was starting Total Hvar, I went to the tourist boards on the island to support the project. I was told:

"We fully support this project, it is great, and we can give you any assistance you need, apart from one thing - money." The thing I needed most.

"You will not get any money for one reason only," a local friend told me cheerfully over a beer a decade ago. "Because you are not in a political party." Why on earth would I want to be in a Croatian political party, I asked myself. 

That was before  I had come across the Mighty State of Uhljebistan. From watching communities in Dalmatia, I have seen how it works. In theory, the tourist board director should be the best candidate to promote tourism. Given the high level of English proficiency in Croatia, it is astonishing how many local tourist board directors cannot speak English well, or even at all. 

And the local tourist board director is not chosen from within the tourist board framework, but by the President of the local tourist board, who also happens to be the Mayor. And the tourist board job is a very nice job indeed. A position the mayor can allocate with political patronage, or perhaps a job for his girlfriend. Apart from a nice comfortable life and existence, it also comes with a budget for events. And whose events get the funding? Perhaps those who deserve a thank you for their loyal votes. 

Or perhaps the useful position of deputy mayor could be offered to someone whose husband was a popular figure around town, and very persuasive. Persuasive enough to get people to vote for his choice, with his wife as deputy mayor to show how wise the choice is. And if there was a guaranteed job in return, in which he didn't really have to show up, apart from on pay day, well, where was the harm in that? 

But it goes far deeper than this, as I learned when the Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, announced in a public meeting (see above) that he was suing me (he never did). People turned away as I walked down the street, while messaging support and thanks privately for investigating the murky inner workings of a public tender. You have to understand, a local friend told me, that it is not personal, but that cafe owner over there supports you, but if he does so publicly, he might lose some extra outdoor tables next season. This is how Croatia works, so don't take it personally. 

I was shocked at how many people contacted me privately to thank me, then sent me more examples of alleged corruption, asking me to report on it. 

"Sure, we can do it together."

"No, no, please no. My name cannot be associated. I have children, you understand?"

And I don't?

paul-bradbury-andrej-plenkovic.jpg

Who could I give all these alleged corruption cases to if not the Prime Minister? He was due in town the following week, and so I wrote him an open letter. He was gracious enough to call me over for a chat and ended by promising that he would never sue me.

So far, he has been true to his word. Thanks, PM!

There are many creative ways that these relationships are maintained. If I wasn't currently being sued twice by the Croatian National Tourist Board (ironically one of them for a meme with that word uhljeb in it), I might have written the story someone had sent me regarding grants given by a certain ministry to businesses who were also donors to a certain political party. The person had collected the data over years, and the alignment of interests was astonishing. If I was a cynical chap, it would seem that the donors were putting cash in the party coffers, then receiving grants to their businesses to get their money back, with a bonus. Some of the businesses had little to do with the tender, but the party seemed to benefit quite nicely. Obviously I am not a cynic and so I am sure that was not what was going on. 

That level of fear is very much alive in Croatia today, and sadly people will go along with the party line in return for those favours. I don't judge them for it; it is a survival mechanism for many. But it will also slow down the pace of change.

Once one enters the world of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, one learns that there are rules for those who have and those who have not. Those who are in the system, and those who are not. Those who can commit the most enormous crimes or steal large sums (let's throw in the word allegedly there) with impunity, versus the cafe owner who will get a huge fine if the inspectors find so much as one extra kuna in the till compared to the paperwork. 

The inspectors terrorise and they always find something. They have to, for how else is the Mighty State of Uhljebistan going to pay its army of uhljeb soldiers playing Angry Birds and the like in offices all over the country, so that they can continue to vote for the status quo?

And there are LOTS of mouths to feed. The number of municipalities is quite extraordinary, and (as is my understanding), far from being a legacy of the socialist era, the number of municipalities has actually increased since independence. When I moved to Hvar, for example, there were 5 tourist boards, each with their own director, and 4 municipalities, each with their own mayor. For a population of 11,000. And the best bit was that the tourist boards did not speak to each other - one of the reasons I started Total Hvar back in 2011. Many years ago, a friend of mine went into the Jelsa Tourist Board and asked for information about Stari Grad. 

"This is the Jelsa Tourist Board, and we have information about Jelsa. These are the bus times for Stari Grad, where they have their own office. Ask them about what there is in Stari Grad."

The efficiency of having two directors over one, at double the cost. A small snapshot of a much wider problem all over Croatia.

merging-municipalities-2.jpg

A few years ago, the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association did some incredible big data research in an attempt to come up with suggestions to reduce administration costs through data-driven solutions. Their findings suggested the reduction and merging of some municipalities, which would save some 1.29 billion kuna a year. You can read the article here. In one municipality, a staggering 72% of annual expenditure went on salaries of the administration, leaving only 28% for things like education and garbage collection. 

But reducing the municipalities would mean reducing some of those patronage jobs, which would reduce those precious votes.

Not gonna happen.

And for those who do not like this system, or are excluded from it (and therefore many of the jobs and other opportunities), there has been one main option until now - emigration. People are voting with their feet on the streets of Dublin, Stockholm and Frankfurt. 

It is easy to criticise Croatians for being sheep and voting for the same parties time and again. It seems illogical on the surface, but it becomes a little more understandable once you begin to understand the workings of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan. It also explains why the smart and young people are leaving.  

I sometimes wonder how I would react if I had been born into the system, my family all from the same party, my parents' jobs dependent on the party.  It is easy to be a rebel in a cafe, less so when your livelihood is on the line. And so I don't judge. 

Happily, I think things are slowly changing. The outer walls of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan are starting to crumble. The twin viruses of technology and transparency are here, and EU membership has brought some extra scrutiny. 

But there is also a new breed of Croat - the entrepreneur - headed up the first Croatian unicorns of Infobip and Rimac - who are bypassing the system and doing their own thing. 

As I wrote previously, I have come to accept that things are far from perfect in this lovely country, and to accept Croatia with its faults. Choosing to live in Croatia is like being an alcoholic in Norway.  There, the beers are 10 euro, compared to 2 euro in Croatia, an alcohol tax the alcoholic is prepared to pay for the Norwegian lifestyle.  So too in Croatia. Pay the uhljeb tax in return for the lifestyle, then plug into the MANY positive bubbles that are growing by the week, and discover really why Croatia really is one of the best places on the planet to live. 

With the right mindset. 

****

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 will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book

Friday, 5 August 2022

Croatia Celebrating Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day

ZAGREB, 5 August, 2022 - Croatia is celebrating Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, War Veterans Day and the 27th anniversary of Operation Storm,  a joint military and police operation that ended a Serb armed rebellion in August 1995, and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country.

The offensive was launched at 5 am on August 4 along the line running from Bosansko Grahovo to the south to Jasenovac to the east, the front line being more than 630 kilometres long. Within the following 84 hours slightly less than 10,500 square kilometres of territory, almost a fifth of the country, was liberated.

The operation culminated on August 5, when the Croatian Army's 4th and 7th Guard Brigades liberated Knin, the heart of the Serb rebellion, displaying a 20-metre-long Croatian flag on the town's fortress at noon.

About 200,000 Croatian soldiers and police took part in the biggest operation of the Homeland War.

Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the eastern Danube River region, helped break the siege of the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihać, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.

This year's central commemoration will be held in Knin, and the event will be addressed by retired general Mladen Markač, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and President and Commander-in-Chief Zoran Milanović.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Milanović: We Should Speak against Oblivion, Downplaying of Homeland War

ZAGREB, 5 August, 2022 - President and Commander-in-Chief Zoran Milanović on Thursday called for speaking against oblivion and downplaying of the Homeland War, noting that Croatia's path to independence was a right one and that it does not have to apologise to anyone.

Milanović was speaking in Knin at a reception for Croatia's wartime commanders, held on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day and the 27th anniversary of Operation Storm, a combined military and police operation that ended a Serb armed insurgency in August 1995 and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country, paving the way for the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.

At the reception, President Milanović decorated and promoted a number of members of the Armed Forces.

"We should speak... against oblivion and against the downplaying of what we achieved in the Homeland War, relying on facts because Croatia was in a very difficult situation and from 1991 on, nobody has given it anything," Milanović said in his address at the event.

Croatia is not frustrated by that even though it is still recovering from the war, and nobody has ever thanked it, he said.

He recalled that during the war, people who fought to liberate the country lacked ammunition, which was why they had to be efficient.

"Croatia's every move was looked at with skepticism, and when I say this, I don't think I sound like a frustrated president of a small frustrated country, quite the contrary - I speak in a commonsensical way as a leader of a self-confident and finally historically defined country. Our path was a just and right one," Milanović said.

He recalled that Croatia had been suspected all along of trying to partition Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, he said, was not true.

"The siege of Bihać would have never ended without the Croatian army," Milanović said, adding that the role of the Croatian army and the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the war was great and that nobody had thanked them for it.

"Bosnian Serbs, who were the enemy in the war, would have never surrendered and been brought to the negotiating table in Dayton... if the Croatian army had not defeated them in the last operation in October 1995," he said.

In 1995 Croatia did not have a choice. "Croatia did not expel anyone; Croatia did not want it. I am fully confident that a vast majority of people did not want it, but it did not have any choice."

"Croatia was offered a peace agreement, a plan known as Z-4, which was unfavourable for it, much more unfavourable than the Minsk agreement was for Ukraine," Milanović said, adding that Croatia had been ready to sign it.

"The then leadership was willing to sign it, President (Franjo) Tuđman... was ready to sign it to prevent bloodshed... Our adversary did not want it. And that is what our children must know and what must be repeated," Milanović said, adding that he would continue to be open to different opinions and criticism, "but this is how things stand, as far as we are concerned."

He repeated several times during his address that there was no need for Croatia to apologise to anyone for anything because its struggle had been a just and right one.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Vučedol Culture Museum Invites You to Out of the Box Virtual Exhibition

August 5, 2022 – The Vučedol Culture Museum in Vukovar remains a truly special place. Its unique location, architecture, and the dedication of those who make things happen there day after day, all keep drawing you back and leave you longing for more. This time, the invitation is out for all who like anything digital, 3D, and in general thinking out of the box. A new interactive exhibition nicknamed Vučedolac izvan okvira (The Vučedol Man Outside His Box) is open until the end of August.

Tportal followed up with the author of the exhibition, Darko Bilandžić, who is also the head of marketing at the Vučedol Culture Museum. He points out that, thanks to their approach to marketing and the possibilities of the digital world, he decided to offer the museum’s visitors a digital insight into the life of the prehistoric people of Vučedol.

izvanokvira2vudceodl.jpg

Photo: Vučedol Culture Museum

“The people of Vučedol were advanced as a culture and in many ways ahead of many at that time. We could say that they thought outside the box. I believe that we have passed the time of static museums, which require visitors to walk through them and read the materials next to the exhibits. In addition to improving our website, we decided to go a step further and create an interactive exhibition using augmented reality technology”, says Bilandžić.

He explains that ten tablets are available to visitors, which they can use to scan ten posters to find the corresponding 3D, audio, text, or video content.

“With this type of presentation, we want to get even closer to the younger generation and keep up with the modern ways of presenting museum material, and thus further build our digital archive. I must admit that the feedback of our visitors pleasantly surprised me, as it clearly shows how important it is to continue working in the direction of new technologies”, says Darko Bilandžić.

He adds that even as a child he was interested in advanced technologies and that robots were his favourite toys.

“That passion for new and advanced technologies always stayed with me. Back in 2016, at the Vučedol Culture Museum, we had visitors take a virtual walk through the museum with the help of VR glasses”, he recalls.

He added that the “trigger” for greater involvement in the digital presentation of cultural material was the coronavirus pandemic when many museums were closed.

“It made apparent that a lot of museums were not ready for online work. We saw our chance there and I dove into learning and education, and this exhibition is the first result of that”, he says proudly, adding that without digital technologies in the future it will be difficult to imagine the operation of any museum.

izvanokviravucedolac1.jpg

Photo: Vučedol Culture Museum

This marketing expert believes that augmented reality offers museums unimagined opportunities for development and getting closer to citizens of all ages.

“We especially want to get closer to young people and get them interested in everything that the Vučedol Culture Museum offers, and it offers many things that define today's life and reality”, concludes Darko Bilandžić.

Darko is a marketing expert who has a passion for a reality that is virtual, augmented, or extended. If you would like to know more about that, make sure to check out TCN’s interview with Darko on Culex, a successful VR company that he co-owns.

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Page 14 of 3664

Search