Friday, 12 March 2021

Amazing Croatian Diaspora Returnee Tales: Meet TCN's New Intern from Peru

March 12, 2021 - One of the most heartwarming Croatian diaspora returnee stories I have heard for some time, hear about Jose Alfonso's incredible journey from Lima in Peru to the new Total Croatia News intern.

 The Total Project started on the island of Hvar almost ten years ago, when I started a mission to provide information about Hvar to match its quality as a destination. In order to be 'Total', I did an article on every village, including one which was largely uninhabited and totally unpronounceable. I hadn't expected many people to read Introducing the 'Z' Village, Zastražišće, and I was stunned the next morning when the article had 150 Facebook likes, a huge number for me at the time. 

I spent much of the morning trying to find the source of my newfound popularity, and eventually, I came across a Croatian diaspora group in Chile, who were commenting wildly and with emotion about my article.

"Look, it is the church in our village. The village of my great-grandfather before he emigrated to Chile."

"Wow, this is so special. I have never seen photos of the village before."

It made me realize that the reach of Total Hvar, and subsequently TCN probably goes a lot further than I realize, and it is a service we are very happy to provide. Over the years, apart from the torrent of abuse I receive from my fans in Australia, I have had constant contact with Croatian emigres in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, and several other countries. That communication has helped me understand one more layer of the complexity of Croatia. 

And then, once every couple of years, I get a communication like this, which led to me learning about one of the most heartwarming Croatian diaspora returnee stories I have heard in a while, and to TCN welcoming Jose Alfonso to the TCN team. 

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The initial email 

Dobro jutro, my name is Jose Alfonso Cussianovich, and I’m a Peruvian-Croatian currently living in Zagreb and studying the B1 level of Croatian Language. I was wondering if the intern positions at Total Croatia News were still open. If so, I am highly interested.

Lijepi pozdrav,

Jose Alfonso

We asked him to send a writing sample about how he came to Croatia. And Jose Alfonso sent us THIS.

About my family 

I’m 25 years old, and I was born in Lima, Peru. It was probably at the end of the 19th century that my ancestor, Pero Kusijanović, traveled all the way from Mokošica, Dubrovnik, to settle in Peru. He had two children there: Pedro and Mateo, and my bloodline comes from the latter. My family has always been aware of their Croatian roots, but little they knew about Croatia. I guess it was harder back then, for both Peruvians and Croatians, to know more about each other. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, and Peru went through several political changes such as far-right dictatorships, socialist authoritarianism, hyperinflation, domestic terrorism, etc. It could be said that both countries were facing their most difficult times in parallel at the end of the 1980s and early years of the 1990s.

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However, during the World Cup in 1998, it was the first time that people in Peru, including Croats there, paid more attention to this small country. Things were relatively better for both countries, and my father told me how he and my grandfather were pleasantly surprised by this unknown country that turned out to hold the roots to our origins. Two years later, my grandfather passed away, but his son had promised to learn more about our Croatian ancestors. And so he did, tracing down Pero’s birthplace and birth certificates. 

That’s how he, my two siblings and I, got Croatian citizenship. At that time, around 2002, when we were still very young and attending primary school, living in Croatia, or even visiting it wasn’t an idea in my parent’s head. Another reason to consider back then was the fact that there wasn’t a Croatian embassy in Peru, but only a consulate that worked also as a diaspora center for Croats in Peru. That’s why we couldn’t get a Croatian passport. The only one in our family that had it, was my father. The only way to apply for it was by setting an appointment in the embassy in Chile. Among the many reasons why we didn’t consider it at the time was because of the travel distance to Santiago, the travel expenses, our school responsibilities, the appointments were given for one year after the request and, of course, we never thought we were going to really need it in the future.

The scholarship

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Nevertheless, we’ve always been very close to the Croatian community in Lima. We were always part of the events that commemorated and celebrated Croatian history and culture. Even my parents got married in the Croatian church in our city. In January 2018, we received an email from the Croatian embassy in Chile, notifying everyone from the community that they were sending a representative to help those with Croatian passports for their renewal, and to help those who wanted to apply for a new one. 

Me and my siblings got down to work almost immediately by getting all the papers and documents we needed to apply officially, and one of those documents was a letter of recommendation written by a representative of the Croatian community in Peru. In this case, it was the parish priest of the Croatian church in Lima and a close friend to our family, father Drago Balvanović, who helped us. During the meeting we held with him, he told us about this scholarship, promoted by the Central State Office for Croats Outside the Republic of Croatia, aimed at young people of Croatian descent who were looking to study the language in Croatia, in order to reconnect with their origins. The reason it sounded like such an attractive idea to us was that we weren't having a pleasant time in our country. Our financial situation wasn’t the best, the situation regarding higher education and job opportunities in Peru was decreasing, and finally, the growing insecurity in the streets threatened young people every day.

The first to join the initiative and apply was my sister, who at that time had just finished college. She applied for the scholarship to study the Croatian language and culture in Zagreb, and in August 2018 she moved there. My parents visited her a few months later and saw with great joy her daughter, a 25-year-old girl, totally rejuvenated and excited about the future. The weeks my parents traveled through Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb helped them think of a big move in the short term.

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In May 2019 it was my turn to apply since just two months later I was supposed to finish college. My brother, who was still not sure about the career path he wanted to pursue, also applied. Initially, and taking into account my sister's experience, we applied to Zagreb. I thought that studying in the capital would help me to adapt better and faster, and I also understood that the classes were more demanding there. 

However, we were told that there were no more places in Zagreb and asked if we would be interested in Rijeka instead. Honestly, I never felt a bit of disappointment when I received this news, and I confirmed my presence in Rijeka without hesitation. In the end, I could say it was one of the best decisions I made.

Moving to Croatia

In October of that year, I traveled to Rijeka and started my classes almost immediately. It was my first time in Europe, and although the first weeks were difficult being away from my family and friends, I must admit that it was thanks to my roommate and the city itself that helped me to adapt more easily thanks to their warm reception. To this day, I haven’t returned to my country. My intention, since I first found out about the scholarships offered by the Central State Office for Croats Outside the Republic of Croatia, was to start a new life here. Regardless of what I would leave behind.

Since then, I have had numerous experiences in Croatia and of all kinds. Clearly, the most anecdotal remains the same: the pandemic. Exactly a year ago, my parents completed the family move to Croatia. They managed to leave the country before the immigration situation worsened. In November of the previous year, my father invested in a couple of apartments in the Diocletian Palace for rental business. While they were searching for a place to live in Split, they decided to stay in one of those apartments. Little did we know...

I was waiting for my second semester of the scholarship to start, and just traveled to some places near Rijeka, as well as attending the opening of Rijeka 2020 and its famous carnival. Classes in the first week of March were postponed for a few days due to the uncertainty of the virus, and it was then that I decided to take advantage of that time to surprise my parents in Split and help them settle down. I would never have imagined that inter-regional travel would be banned shortly after that and I would spend the next three months with them and studying virtually. It was a great opportunity to get to know Split, but definitely not in the best way.

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(Plitvice Lakes)

I returned to Rijeka in mid-June to take my exams, and after enjoying a few weeks with my roommate, his girlfriend, and other friends during the first weeks of summer, I decided to go back to Split with my parents. I knew they still needed help, and I considered that what I had learned about the language might be of some use. They were very tense months due to the virus situation, the fact that our investment plan was not taking off due to the restrictions imposed on tourists, and personally due to the fact that I could not get a job to help my parents and become independent. During August and September, I helped them manage the booking site of our apartments and hosted the few guests that arrived.

We moved to the town of Podstrana in July of last year, and that is where I have lived until a couple of weeks ago. In January of this year, I decided to apply for the scholarship again, but this time trying to get a place in Zagreb. My idea, as of today, is to be able to meet people who will help me continue to grow in this country, learn more about the language until I can speak it fluently and fully understand it, and hopefully find a job.

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(Dad with distant relative Dužko)

About Total Croatia News

Going back to the time when I was still in Lima, I knew that the decision I had made was a very complex one. I felt that I needed to stay informed and aware of what was happening day to day in the country I was moving to. And not only through breaking news and daily events, but also reports and columns that could analyze in greater depth the current situation within Croatian society. I still did not know how to read or understand the language well, so I was lucky enough to find some media that presented their content in English.

But if it was one that I felt really hooked on, it was definitely Total Croatia News. I'm not a big fan of bad news, since it's basically the only thing you read when you live in Peru in these recent years; but I felt that life in Croatia goes beyond the rankings made by tourist magazines and photo galleries of the islands in the summer. And well, that's basically what I found in the rest of the media. We probably agree on this, but I think there should be a balance between the information that one shares with the population.

It's clear how important it is to motivate ex-pats to reconnect with their homeland, but it's just as important to be transparent and critical when news demands it. That is why I like to read Total Croatia News, and also because of the way in which they confront with great conviction those people who seek to discredit their content for the simple fact of denying information just because they do not agree or do not like it. Just as I saw the opportunity to start a new life in Croatia, when I saw the internship opportunities at Total Croatia News, I felt I had to step forward.

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(With Dad in front of Diocletian's Palace in Split)

About myself

Before I entered college in 2013, my father told me that no matter the career I was pursuing, there’s always a way for us for improving someone else’s quality of life. To this day, I still keep that in mind. By that time, I felt the most effective job I could get to help people from a country that holds so many problems, was being a lawyer. However, halfway through my first year, I realized that even if someone’s good for something, you need to be passionate about it. And I didn’t feel passionate about being a lawyer. Shortly after, I knew that what really made me feel passionate and excited was to express myself, and I thought that it was through visual arts I could achieve this goal. I transferred to study Audiovisual Communications, in order to become a filmmaker. The best thing out of it is that I took subjects related to marketing, advertisement, graphic design, journalism, photography and, of course, filmmaking. So far, I haven’t given up on directing films; but I’ve found great interest in documentary filmmaking, journalism, and photojournalism. It might not be as challenging as being a lawyer, but I believe that it is possible to change the way someone thinks or feels for good. I think it is truly possible to have a great impact on a great number of people to change the world.

****

Welcome to TCN, Jose Alfonso. We look forward to working with you to strengthen and develop ties with the Latin American diaspora communities, so that others may follow you in your journey to the Homeland. 

For more news from the Croatia diaspora, follow the dedicated TCN section

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Robert Jerin, Tracing Croatian Heritage and Genealogy for 30 Years

February 11, 2021 - Looking for your Croatian roots? Meet Robert Jerin, who has helped countless people connect with their ancestral homeland over the last 30 years.

The wider Croatian family is one of the most diverse on the planet, located in almost every corner of the world. Many people of Croatian origin have only a tenuous connection to their roots of the country their ancestors emigrated from generations and centuries ago. 

And many are curious about their roots. Meet Robert Jerin, one of the nicest guys I have met in that wider Croatian family, and a man who has done perhaps more than anyone to connect people with their Croatian heritage and roots, through a combination of heritage tours, a Croatian genealogy guide, as well as an excellent Facebook group, Croatian Heritage and Genealogy. 

I met Robert Jerin a couple of years ago for a cold one in Zagreb during one of his heritage tours. We have kept in touch, and I am grateful for his time in taking part in this email interview. 

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1. You have been running the popular Croatian Heritage and Genealogy Facebook group for several years now. Tell us firstly about your Croatian connection, and why did you decide to start the group?

My connection to Croatia is through my maternal grandparents, who came from the Karlovac/Ozalj area of Croatia. During my growing up years, I spent a great deal of time with them on their farm in Pennsylvania. My mother enrolled me at 6 months old in the Croatian Fraternal Union. For many years I paid little attention to the CFU Croatian newspaper but sometime around 1985 I began to read historical articles. Just before the Homeland War, I sought my Grandparents' birth records, visiting the old Yugoslav Consulate in Cleveland. During that visit, the men standing around kept a watchful eye on me, little did I know that Cleveland was a hotbed for Croatian nationalists.

Then when the Homeland War broke out I emersed myself in all things Croatian: enrolling my children in a Croatian Tamburica group, helping out at our Croatian Heritage Museum in Cleveland, packing humanitarian containers going to Croatia and becoming active in a local Croatian Newspaper, the Croatian Voice. Our family sponsored war orphans in Croatia and we sponsored Croatian War Refugees coming to America. Our first visit was in 1997, which is hard to describe, as I walked between my ancestral villages. Since that time we have been back to Croatia nearly every year since 2005 taking over 700 people on Heritage Tours, where our goal is to connect them with their ancestral culture and in many cases help them find family.

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(Bonding with the locals in Gornje Bukovlje)

2. You also have various services for people trying to trace their Croatian heritage. Tell us about those.

The past 30 years have been a learning and sharing experience. As I delved into Croatian genealogy, I found I was able to help others, first on the old Croatian Ancestry forums and later on Facebook. Nowadays I offer 1 or 2 Heritage Tours to Croatia, Croatian Genealogy Seminars in various cities in the US, a Croatian Genealogy Handbook which I sell online in PDF format, and can offer genealogy services to many people gathering info to help them build a family tree.

Interestingly each of these came about from answering questions. First, someone suggested I do a seminar for the group, then someone suggested I take them to Croatia.

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(Rakija stop at Plitvice Lakes with the Rubcic family)

3. Heritage tours must be incredibly uplifting experiences, as you bring people to the Croatian villages and homes of their ancestors. What does a typical tour look like?

Ah yes, the tours are very special. I still recall our first Heritage Tour in 2005. I had no idea how the tour would roll out, but as we went along people began to bring paperwork for their ancestors in America. We connected several people on that tour with their ancestral villages. And we were interviewed by Dobro Jutro Hrvatska during our visit to the State Archive. Since then we have been interviewed in print media, TV and radio.

Our typical tour includes famous places that people have heard about and think they need to see, such as Dubrovnik, Split, the common tourist places. But we try to introduce people places off the beaten path such as Smiljan the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, Lekenik, the Croatian Parliament, the famous but defunct resort of Kupari, the Lippizaner Stud farm at Djakovo, the Church of the Croatian Martyrs in Udbina, the Homeland War Cemetery in Vukovar, several castles including ones at Ozalj, Knin, Varazdin, Velike Tabor and Trakoscan, ethno selos at Trg/Ozalj, Kumrovec, Pakovo selo near Drnis, the pilgrimage villages of Marija Bistrica and Medjugorje, and one of three places in Croatia where Fiddler on the Roof was filmed, backroads in Dalmatinska Zagorje and a place we visit yearly the non-touristic village of Gornje Bukovlje where the local Ladies Club treats us to a day of music, dancing, eating and drinking.

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I emphasize to people that this place is as close as they will come to the Croatia of their ancestor’s day. We will even make surprise visits to ancestral villages of someone in our tour group if we are close. We set aside free time and encourage people to visit their ancestral villages, which we can help plan. And for those who want to do research, we have time planned on each tours at the State Archive in Zagreb. And I always seek out a place where we can enjoy traditional music, customs and food, such as Sarma. The tours bring out emotional responses from people.

The last several years we have added a week-long cruise on the Adriatic, employing small family-owned ships. These small ships are a great way to see the Croatian scenery, as you have a 180-degree view. We sail every morning stopping for lunch and a swim and then dock in the late afternoon in a historic port where we spend the night. Carrying about 38 passengers, breakfast and lunch service, a bar, a hot tube we reserve the entire boat for our group.

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(Cavtat) 

4. I am sure you have witnessed some amazing connections of people with their past on these tours. Any particular favourite stories and memories?

We have dozens of touching stories, having help connect people with long-forgotten family in Croatia.

A good example of the emotion of our tour group can be found in this Andrew Norris (a transplant from the UK), who lives much of the year in Gornje Bukovlje. This video is from our visit to Gornje Bukovlje in 2012.

One of my all-time favorites was a few years ago when we had a lady in our group, whom I had helped find her ancestral village of Jazevica. My Zagreb friend, Dejan Perhat, had located her family. On our way back from Osijek, we received a call from Dejan telling us her family invited the entire group to stop at their home in Jazevica. What an experience, they laid out their best sunka, kobasica, sir, kruh, kolache and of course a never-ending supply of various Croatian liqueurs in an outdoor pavilion. There was not a dry eye that day. Even those who had not planned a visit to their ancestral villages were inspired to do so.

I would be remiss to not mention others in Croatia who have helped: Sanja Frigan-Cihua, Lidija Sambunjak, my dear departed from Miro Caic, Zoran Stupar, Alen Miocevic (our guide since 2005) and our friends from Hrvatska Matica Mirjana Piskulic, Branka Bezic-Filipovic and Hrvoje Salopek.

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(Ancestral visit to Jazevica)

5. You have performed great work helping people trace their Croatian roots online as well. What are the most common enquiries and requests for help?

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Many people begin by simply asking about a surname, little do they realize the surname may be quite common in Croatia. After some prodding they come up with more details. In most cases we have a high degree of success, even though they may only know the Anglicized surname. Funny that many people say their ancestors came from Zagreb. But in fact Zagreb was a well-off city that offered employment, thus very, very few left that city for America in the early 20th Century. Most came from small villages seeking to make money in America in hopes to return home and buy land. Perhaps 25% or less actually fulfilled that goal as most found a new life in America. I always tell people they need to work backwards from themselves, parents, grandparents in order to establish a town or village of origin in Croatia.

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(Heritage research at Zagreb State Archives)

6. Tell us about moderating the Facebook group. Anything that focuses on the past in Croatian is almost always contentious, but you manage to keep things very civil.

This is sometimes a challenge but most of the people in our group are very kind and helpful. While I certainly can discuss politics I have banned political discussion from the group. Everyone now and then we have someone object, but the rules are clearly stated in the welcome to the group. It is not always easy, having been called a censor (yes, I am sometimes), a communist, a fascist among other unmentionable names. But when I part company with members who do not agree with the purpose of our group, I always try to leave them on a good note.

I am surprised how even some Croatian born people are not as well versed in their history as one would imagine…. But again our group is to share such knowledge.

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7. How closely do you follow daily events in Croatia, and how do you view Croatia today from your perspective in the States?

I get a Google News Feed every day of Croatian news, including Total Croatia News. And I Skype every week with my friend and guide in Rijeka, Alen Miocevic. So I follow the news and events somewhat closely.

I view Croatia as a place of great possibilities which may be a bit stymied by negative attitudes of some and a bureaucracy which has a long history in Croatia dating back to the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But I view Croatia as a place that is improving and trying to find its place among the larger countries of the world. As I am wont to say, korak po korak (step by step).

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8. And finally, favourite place in Croatia, and why?

Oh my this is an unfair question. We have many favorite places in Croatia, but always feel like we are coming home when we visit Gornje Bukovlje. While I enjoy the famous places, I love visiting places off the beaten path. we get to visit many ancestral and interesting places off the beaten path. Sosice in Zumerak, land of the Uskoks, Delnice frog museum, Lokve, Mrkopalj, Lič and Prigorje. These were surprise stops for people whose ancestors were born there. All these places have some significant place in Croatian history but are largely bypassed by tour groups.  Occasionally we will surprise the group with a roadside picnic where we enjoy sampling Croatian food and drink One of my favorite things is to get up before the tour group and take walks. I am amazed at some of the places I find and wonder why tour guides don’t take us to those places, but I guess they like taking groups to Lotroscak Tower at noon for the firing of the cannon.

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You can follow the excellent Croatian Heritage and Genealogy Facebook group here.

And if you are interested in joining one of the 2021 heritage tours to discover your Croatian roots, here are the links to the groups in July and in September

For more from the Croatian diaspora, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Connecting the Diaspora: Croatia Meeting G2 Returns for 6th Edition

October 27, 2020 - An important gathering for the strengthening of ties between Croatia and its diaspora takes place next month as the 6th edition of Croatia Meeting G2 takes place in Zagreb. 

One of the things I have been monitoring over the last few years has been the growing cooperation between Croatia's entrepreneurial sector and the business-minded members of the Croatian diaspora - it has been an exciting journey to observe as a foreign fly on the wall. 

On the surface, things should be fairly simple. The diaspora are successful, weatlh-creating and extremely patriotic. Croatia should be an obvious place for investment and economic cooperation. And while it is true that foreign remittances from the diaspora was more than direct foreign investment to Croatia last year, it is also true that many in the diaspora are extremely reluctant to throw money in Croatia, having suffered many bad experiences with money sent and invested during and in the aftermath of the Homeland War. 

One of the key things missing is trust. Finding the right partner in the homeland is not always easy, especially when the culture over the generations is to put trust and faith in a distant cousin in the homeland, often with disastrous results. 

Thankfully, things are changing, and there are now various initiatives bringing the diaspora closer to the private sector in Croatia. Croatia's young entrepreneurs are engaging more with their diaspora counterparts, relationships are being formed, and business is getting done. Trust is returning as private business engages with private business. 

One of the best of these initiatives is Croatia Meeting G2, which is organised by a mixture of Croatian and diaspora professionals, all of whom are committed to a strengthening of ties and a better Croatia. Held each year in Zagreb, Meeting G2 returns for its sixth edition next month, and it is one of the premier diaspora networking events in the Croatian business calendar. 

As one of the few foreigners with no Croatian heritage to attend these events, I find it fascinating to watch so many sections of Croatian society to come together - some without even a common language, but all bonded by a passion for Croatia itself. Some diaspora conferences are more about emotion than substance, but I have always found the G2 programme stimulating, with a wide selection of guests and topics - and I have never left it without making new friends and several new interesting stories for TCN. 

This year's event - Croatia Meeting G2.6 takes place once more at Forum Zagreb Congress Centre in Green Gold, with a wide variety of local, diaspora and international speakers on some fascinating Croatia-related topics. Having attended the event for some years now, I am delighted to be asked to speak at the conference for the first time. I will be participating in a panel on the second day called 'World' First Haven for Digital Nomads.' Moderated by Eugene Brcic Jones, the other panel speakers will be digital nomad visa champion Jan de Jong (from Split via Zoom), Tanja Polegubic, Andres Wil Gerdes (from Malta via Zoom) and Katarina Bulic Bestulic. 

You can check out the current schedule of sessions below.

Day 1 - Wednesday, November 16 

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Day 2 - Thursday, November 17

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For more information about the Meeting G2 sixth edition, and to register, visit the official website

For more news from the Croatian Diaspora, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

The Croatian American Story with 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Winners

May 14, 2020 - A look back at the Croatian American connections in the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Gold Medal triumph.

Many Americans over the age of fifty will remember vividly, the "Miracle on Ice" and what Sports Illustrated called the greatest sports upset of all times. It was roughly forty years ago that the 1980 Winter Olympics were held February 12-24.Twelve hockey teams traveled to Lake Placid in New York. The USA Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union, rated the best hockey team in the world and went on to win the Gold Medal!
 
It's a historical fact that the 1980 Winter Olympics were almost boycotted since the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The Winter Olympics almost did not happen. American Coach Herb Brooks was not even sure the Olympics would be held untillate in December, 1979.
 
How many Croatian Americans know that the American hockey line of a center and two wings that scored the most points for the 1980 American Olympic hockey team were all from Minnesota (my home state) and two were Croatian Americans? It is with pleasureand pride that I share a few more details about Mark Pavelich and Buzz Schneider, the two Croatian Americans from the Iron Range of Minnesota who paired up with John "Bah" Harrington from Virginia, Minnesota (my dad's hometown) to help lead the Americans to the gold medal.
 
 
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(Mark Pavelich)
First, the Mark Pavelich story about the Olympic star who actually setup the winning goal against the Russians. Mark, son of Croatian immigrants, grew up in Eveleth Minnesota.  Eveleth was the hometown of another famous hockey player, Croatian  Johnny Mayasich, who many considered the best hockey player of all time in Minnesota and a two time Olympian. Also, it was the home of Joe Begich, longtime Mayor there and Minnesota State Representative and the Uncle to former US Senator Mark Begich, from Alaska (son of Congressman Nick Begich).
Mark was a hockey star at Eveleth High School and then was off to college and hockey at nearby University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD). Mark played three seasons there before joining the U.S. Olympic team.  The assistant coach there at UMD was Croatian AmericanMike Sertich from Virginia, Minnesota and neighbor to our Rukavina family in this Iron Range city.
Mark Pavelich played 355 games in the NHL, mostly with the NY Rangers and even scored five goals in one game, the only American ever to do so. This was in a game against the Hartford Whalers  on February 23, 1983 which was all after his stardom in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
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(Buzz Schneider)
 
Next, is Buzz Schneider and he tells the story that as a baby his Croatian grandmother kept calling him "buraz" (the Croatian word for brother) and his  name was turned into Buzz. This Croatian American born in Grand Rapids, home of Judy Garland, was a hockey star in Babbitt, Minnesota.  He played three years with Herb Brooks at the University of Minnesota and they were national champions in 1974. I actually met Buzz in 1974 since his first cousin Greg Trebnick was a football teammate  of mine nearby at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota and Greg told me about Buzz's Croatian roots.
Buzz had three great years at University of Minnesota and then joined the 1976 US Olympic team led by captain Steve Sertich from Virginia, Minnesota (Coach Mike's brother) which was held in Innsbruck, Austria and where the Americans took a fifth place. Buzz caught the Olympic bug with that Winter Olympics and stayed on to make the team again in 1979 under his former college Coach Herb Brooks.
The 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York on February 12-24 with 12 hockey teams. The Russians and the Czechs were considered the two best hockey teams of all and the American squad was not even considered a medal contender.
The Americans drew Sweden in the first round  and started out in trouble and had to score in the last minute to salvage a tie with the Swedes. This tie was a huge factor for their advancement to the medal round. Bill Baker's goal with 27 seconds left in the game had evened the score.
The next game was against the highly ranked and favored team from Czechoslovakia. Buzz Schneider scored two goals to lead the Americans to a big win against second best team in the world with a surprising 7-3 score. Mark Pavelich added a goal and an assist. It's an interesting fact that the Czech players, Milan Novy, Peter Stastny,  Jaroslav Pousaz were the three highest soccers overall in the 1980 Olympic hockey tourney and yet, the young college kids from the United States won by four goals.
The next three games saw the Americanseasily beat the Norwegians and Buzz had a goal in the game. The American 7-2 win against Romania saw Buzz score two more goals and Mark Pavelich added a key assist on one score. The Americans then dominated and won a solid 4-2 victory against the highly touted Germany team. 
The Americans had qualified for the final four and medal round of competition with their four victories and one tie in five games. The next opponent would be the Olympic favorite and the best hockey team in the world. This is the Soviet team that beat the NHL All-Stars by 6-0 a few months earlier and the American squa10-3 on February 10, 1980. The Americans had not beat the Soviet Union in 20 years in Olympic hockey.
The game against the Russians was set to be played before a loud and sold out Hockey Arena in Lake Placid on Friday Feb. 22nd  with the American flag and red, white and blue scattered all over the arena. All the telegrams to Coach Brooks (before the Internet) were inspiring and one that point blank said  "Hope you beat those Commie bastards." Before the game, Coach Brooks paused and looked around the locker room and told his players, "This is your time and great moments are born from great opportunities."
steve-sertich.jpg
(Steve Sertich and Buzz Schneider (front row-1976 US Olympic team))
 
 
It was not a surprise that the Russians scored first with Vladimir "the Tank" Krutov giving the Soviet Union a `1-0 lead at 9:12. Next, the Croatian American, Buzz Schneider, tied the game at 14:03 with an assist from fellow Minnesotan, Mark Pavelich. Buzz's score got the mostly American crowd to their feet and shouts of "USA-USA" filled the air.
 
The Russians scored again to take a 2-1 lead at 17:34 and luckily, American Mark Johnson scored with one second left in the first period to tie the
game just before the first intermission.  The Russian coach then pulled Vladislav Tretiak, and replaced his best goalie in a major move that shocked many hockey experts. The second period was dominated by the Soviet team and the Russians went on to outshoot the Americans 12-2 in this period and they took a 3-2 lead at 22:18 and held it throughoutthe second period.
 
In the final and third period,Mark Johnson's second goal of the game tied the score at 3-3 at 48:39.It was just eighty-one seconds later at the 50:00 mark that Mike Eruzione scored the fourth American goal on a power play with a Russian in the penalty box. The Americans were now in the lead and it was Mark Pavelichand John Harrington assisting on the go-ahead goal which a few sports reporters called the "shot heard around the world."
 
There was still ten minutes left and the Russians swarmed the American net endlessly in those last 600 seconds. Jim Craig, the American goaltender came up with a few incredible saves and stopped 36 of 39 Russian shots on goal that historic day.  The USA won this game with only 16 shots on goal which tells a story in itself about the valiant effort that was required that day to make the winning difference.
 
scoreboard.jpg
(Scoreboard after the US-Soviet Union game)
 
It was in the last few seconds of the game the ABC sports broadcaster Al Michaels uttered the famous phrase, "Do you believe in miracles" and a few seconds later the game was over. The Americans had pulled off the biggest upset in international hockey ever. Buzz Schneider said in an interview many years later, "There was a feeling of magic there and it's like we were a team of destiny." 
 
The gold medal round game was Sunday against a tough and talented Finnish team and the upstart young Americans prevailed with a 4-2 win that clinched the gold medal.  Again, it was a bunch of inspired, well-conditioned and well-coached 21 year olds that had beat the Czechs, the Russians and finally, the Finns to claim the gold medal.
 
The three American teammates from the Iron Range of Minnesota that skated together in the 1980 Olympics on one line, had scored the most points overall in the seven hockey games played at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Iron Range line, called the "Coneheads" by the Coach Herb Brooks tallied twenty points overall at this Winter Olympics. The two Croatian Americans, Buzz Schneider with eight points and Mark Pavelich with seven points earned Olympic hockey immortality for their team's triumphant success athe 1980 Winter Olympics. They both have my support for selection and inclusion within the newly created National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation-North American Sports Hall of Fame. 
Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Croatian Americans Raise 160,000 Dollars for Croatian Hospitals

ZAGREB, April 15, 2020 - The Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) has raised over $160,000 to help Croatian hospitals purchase medical equipment and supplies after the March 22 earthquake in Zagreb and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first instalment of funds was transferred on Tuesday to a charitable fund “Croatia against Coronavirus” established by the Croatian government.

"We understand that help is needed and needed now, especially for the new born and those most vulnerable... These are difficult and uncertain economic times for everyone, including our members. The show of unity and support across all parts of the United States has been extraordinary," ACAP vice president Steven Pavletić said, adding that more than 400 donations have been made.

The campaign has been coordinated with ACAP's Zagreb chapter, which is chaired by Don Markušić, an Australian lawyer of Croatian descent.

"We have been in daily contact with the hospitals in Zagreb and the Croatian Ministry of Health to identify their most critical need which at this stage appears to be a new neonatal incubator for Petrova Hospital," he has said.

The ACAP brings together business leaders, academics, lawyers, doctors, students and community organisers in the US.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Only Several Thousand Croats From Abroad Have Come Home for Easter

ZAGREB, April 12, 2020 - Over the past four days only several thousand Croats came home from abroad for the Easter holidays whereas in previous years 170,000 would do so, the head of the national civil protection authority, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said on Saturday.

Speaking on Nova TV, he said a little over 700 Croats had entered Croatia per day on average over the past four days and that the figure included repatriations organised by the Foreign Ministry.

He said that upon entering the country all were instructed to self-isolate or quarantine in line with COVID-19 protection measures.

He concluded that most Croats abroad had listened to the appeals of the national civil protection authority not to come home for Easter because of the coronavirus epidemic.

More Easter news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 6 April 2020

As Many as 50 000 Expats Could Return to Croatia

ZAGREB, April 6, 2020 - Croatian expats who lost their jobs in EU members states have started returning to Croatia following the outbreak of the coronavirus, aware that medical expenses, in case they get infected, will be much higher there than in Croatia, the Večernji List daily wrote on Monday.

In case the crisis lasts, the number of expats returning to Croatia will rise because as foreigners in other EU countries they will be among the first to get laid off, the daily said.

According to demographer Stjepan Šterc, those who left Croatia over the past several years will return to Croatia because they will lose their jobs in the crisis and will be unable to pay expensive rents and apartment leases in the EU.

It is difficult to estimate how many of them will return, but under the assumption that approximately 350,000 Croats have emigrated and that many of them will lose their jobs during the crisis, it can be estimated that up to 50,000 of them could potentially return to Croatia, Šterc said.

This does not mean that all of them would return immediately, but this and over the next several years. The number of the returnees will depend on Croatia's reaction to the economic crisis, the daily said.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

American Croats Start Fund Raiser for Damaged Hospitals in Zagreb

ZAGREB, April 1, 2020 - The Association of Croatian-American Professionals (ACAP) has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for hospitals damaged in the 22 March earthquake in Zagreb.

The entire proceeds collected will be donated to the Petrova Women's Hospital, Rebro University Hospital and other hospitals in the capital.

Our aim is to collect USD 200,000 in the next two to three weeks because we know funds are needed now to reconstruct after the quake-damaged buildings and to provide support to hospitals battling with coronavirus. We will try and do what we can, a member of ACAP's executive board, Maria Sentić told Hina.

ACAP launched the campaign in coordination with its Zagreb branch managed by a Croatian-Australian ex-pat, attorney Don Markušić, who is also the vice president of Transparency International Croatia.

"We are in contact with Zagreb hospitals and the Health Ministry. Even though the campaign originally focused on Petrova and Rebro hospitals, we are prepared to help other hospitals," Sentić added.

Members to the Association of Croatian American Professionals represent all facets of the international professional community, including scientists, doctors, engineers, attorneys, artists, journalists, business executives, accountants, and so on.

"We are organised through 15 local branches and have more than 1,000 members. Our mission is to promote networking among members and the promotion of advancement in matters related to the Croatian community in the USA. Our objective is the prosperity of a global Croatia. We are a member-driven non-profit organization and we are all volunteers," Sentić underlined.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 16 March 2020

5 Million Kuna to Be Allocated for Croat Minority Programmes in 12 European Countries

ZAGREB, March 16, 2020 - Croatia has set aside five million kuna, the same as in 2019, for Croat minority programmes in 12 European countries, and applications for grants can be submitted until April 14, the Central State Office for Croats Abroad has said.

Of the five million kuna (approx. 660,000 euro), 1.25 million is intended for Croat minority organisations in Serbia, HRK 550,000 is intended for Croats in Slovenia, HRK 500,000 each for Croat minority organisations in Austria and Hungary, and HRK 400,000 each for Croats in Montenegro and Italy.

A total of HRK 350,000 each is to be allocated to Croat minority organisations in Romania and North Macedonia, HRK 300,000 to Croats in Kosovo, HRK 250,000 to the Croat minority in Slovakia, HRK 100,000 to Croats in the Czech Republic and HRK 50,000 to Croats in Bulgaria.

The minimum grant amounts to HRK 3,000 per project and the maximum grant cannot exceed the total amount intended for an individual country.

The priority areas in which Croat organisations can apply for funding are development of Croat minority organisations, culture, education and science, as well as sports, economic and similar programmes that contribute to the preservation of the Croat identity, strengthen the status of the respective Croat minority and enhance its relations with Croatia.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

DSHV to Run in Elections in Coalition with United Democratic Serbia

ZAGREB, March 12, 2020 - The only political party of the Croat minority in Serbia will run in the country's April elections in a coalition with pro-democracy and pro-European parties, organisations and individuals, the leader of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), Tomislav Žigmanov, said on Wednesday.

Serbia will hold elections on 26 April for city councils, the parliament of Vojvodina province and the national parliament.

As a member of the Vojvodina Front movement, which includes the Social Democratic League of Vojvodina and the Vojvodina Party, the DSHV has joined the United Democratic Serbia coalition, which comprises the organisation Serbia 21, the Modern Serbia Party and the Civic Democratic Forum.

United Democratic Serbia includes "individuals, parties and organisations that publicly, unequivocally and consistently advocate the European future of Serbia," Žigmanov said, adding that the DSHV shares their goals and values.

Žigmanov said that he would be the DSHV's candidate for the national parliament, while his deputy, Mirko Ostrogonac, would run for the provincial parliament.

As part of this coalition, the DSHV will also run in local elections in Subotica, Sombor, Bač, Zrenjanin, Pančevo, Novi Sad and Beočin.

Žigmanov said that the DSHV hadn't had any contacts with the ruling Serbian Progressive Party of President Aleksandar Vučić.

"The biggest problem is that this time too we are left without guaranteed seats. The excuse by Serbian officials is that this cannot be done without changing the constitution, which has turned out to be untrue because the election law has been amended with regard to the election threshold," the DSHV leader said.

He added that "there is no political readiness in Serbia to ensure guaranteed seats" for the Croat minority, which is why the DSHV joined those who have expressed an interest in the status of the Croat minority.

The question of guaranteed seats for the Croat minority in the Serbian National Assembly and the Vojvodina Assembly, based on the model that exists for the Serb minority in Croatia, has for years been at the top of the list of unresolved issues between the two countries.

More news about the status of Croats in Serbia can be found in the Diaspora section.

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