Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Emotion to Business: G2.5 Redefining Croatian Diaspora Relationship with Homeland

November 6, 2019 - Meeting G2.5, the fifth edition conference connecting the business-minded entrepreneurs of Croatia and its diaspora took place this week. A great success with some very positive seeds planted.  

Of all the complicated relationships and aspects of life in Croatia, none is arguably harder to understand for a foreigner like me than that of the Croatian diaspora and the homeland. When I started TCN four years, I had little concept of the Croatian diaspora, and none whatsoever of the differing relationships between various sections of that diaspora. 

It didn't take me long to get my first lessons... 

With relatively little English-language news coming out of Croatia, and with many second and third generation diaspora unable to speak much Croatian, TCN became a natural source of news for many who lived outside the Homeland. And it didn't take long for a naive foreigner to start upsetting people, from the very first day of TCN in fact. Looking for a signature interview to launch TCN, I thought I had done rather well by scoring an interview with Croatia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and it was an education to receive a torrent of abuse from Sydney at the very mention of Vesna Pusic. 

With time, I learned that the relationships with the Homeland were understandably linked to the reasons for emigration. Many New Zealand Croats, for example, considered themselves more Dalmatian than Croatian, their reason for emigration largely economic when Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Australia, by contrast, there was a sizable influx during the Tito era, the main reason being political persecution. As a result, emotions about the former Yugoslavia period and mention of the 'T' word evoke very strong and entrenched emotions. All totally understandable. 

There was one aspect of the diaspora experience which united all sections of the diaspora, however, or so it seems to me. Intense disappointment with their experiences of financially supporting the newly-independent Croatia with investments, many of which were made with emotion, and a large proportion of which was abused by those in Croatia entrusted with those investments. 

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I was invited to speak at a diaspora conference in Osijek last year, the first time I had been to a diaspora conference. I was not quite sure what to expect, but my initial impressions on the first day were quite depressing. There was such a focus on the tragic stories of the past and the waves of emigration that I felt almost as an intruder at a funeral. Thankfully, the mood lifted with the energy of the younger business-minded generation, who wanted to look forward. I particularly remember Ognjen Bagatin, CEO of Bagatin Clinic lifting the mood of the entire conference - you can read my reflections of the whole event here.

And if I had to grade the conference between emotion and business for that Osijek conference, it would have been Emotion 9, Business 1. Nothing wrong with that, just my perception. 

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The 2nd Diaspora Tourism conference in Split earlier this year was an altogether different affair, with a lot of younger blood in the audience, and a LOT more positive stories. Panel after panel of successful returnees told their stories and if the aim was to send a message to the diaspora that perhaps it was time to take a fresh look at investing in the Homeland, the conference achieved considerable success. There was still plenty of emotion built into the programme, however, and my foreign fly on the wall report is here

Emotion 4, Business 6. 

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This week saw the fifth edition of Meeting G2, a Zagreb diaspora conference much more focused on business and building meaningful bridges between entrepreneurs in the Homeland and the diaspora. I attended last year's event, G2.4 and was impressed by the business focus and real discussions taking place, as well as the focus on promoting and presenting young Croatian businesses with potential. But this year's event was outstanding, on so many levels. 

Ante Lucic's Cronnect initiative once more presented five great startups looking for investors, and the experienced Croatian jury chose their winner - Miret, the eco shoe startup business from Duga Resa. We will have an indepth interview with Miret on TCN shortly - it is a great product. 

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There was plenty of patriotism on show as well, with the style awards going to Josip Hrgetic, one of the G2.5 organisers. Great tie!  

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Five of the most successful Croatian franchises were also given their chance to present and impress in search of new franchisees.  

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There were several excellent panels, such as the powerful and successful Canadian Croatian diaspora business community. 

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But arguably the most useful aspect of the entire conference was the networking. From my experience, many conferences make the mistake of trying to pack in too many presentations, leaving little or no time for delegates to actually meet each other and forge connections. And in this regard, G2.5 was outstanding. The opening evening included a session called Who's Who in G2? Every participant was given 30 seconds to say who they were, where they were from, something about their company, and what was their interest in G2.5. With more than 100 people to listen to, the session was expertly controlled by Aco Momcilovic, and it was interesting to watch people making mental notes of people to approach now that they knew who they were. 

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And they networked. I must have been to over 30 conferences in Croatia in the last three years. None has come close to the connections I made yesterday, both in person and in my inbox since I left the conference about 20 hours ago. Several others I spoke to had the same feeling. Yes, there was emotion - and some incredible ties... - but this is a conference which is firmly focused on concrete connections, projects and solutions. 

Emotion 1, Business 9. 

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That emotion may rise a little today, as the final day of the conference includes a field trip to Zadar, as well as a visit to the tuna farm of one General Ante Gotovina. 

The message is clear. Croatia is very much open for business, but this time not on emotion as in the 1990s, but with serious, successful and determined entrepreneurs. Those bridges are being built slowly, and it is a journey that this foreign fly is very much enjoying following. 

To learn more about Meeting G2.5, visit the official website

For the latest from the Croatian diaspora, follow the dedicated TCN section

 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Croat Houses Will Not Be Demolished for Bosnian Motorway

ZAGREB, November 2, 2019 - The Bosnian Serb entity's vice-president Josip Jerković, who represents local Croats, said on Friday he had received assurances from the Serb leader Milorad Dodik that the planned route of the future motorway through the area of Modriča would be changed to avoid demolition of Croat houses in three villages.

Jerković told Hina that alterations would be made to the route, which is now planned to pass through the three Croat villages: Garevac, Čardak and Donji Kladari.

The plan to demolish some of the houses of Croat returnees for the purpose of the construction of the future motorway has caused great concern among local villagers and has promoted their representatives as well as Croatia's office-holders to react.

Thus, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that Croatian authorities would investigate the possibility of changing the route of that motorway to run from Banja Luka to Belgrade whose construction would require the demolition of houses of Croat returnees in the municipality of Modriča in the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska. The PM said that he would check with the relevant authorities if it was possible to change the set motorway route.

Jerković said today that Dodik informed him about his talks with PM Plenković on Thursday and that Zagreb had requested the change of the route.

During the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, almost all houses in the Croat-populated villages of Garevac, Čardak and Donji Kladari which had a population of about 8,000, were destroyed and their residents were expelled. when the area was occupied by Bosnian Serb forces.

The process of return was obstructed for years but the most persistent ones managed to rebuild their homes and the community in Garevac today numbers around 150 people.

According to the existing plans, a section of the future Banja Luka - Belgrade motorway is to run through the part of Garevac where there are around 100 houses, of which 80 were rebuilt after the war. This would literally partition the village, with houses that would remain intact staying on one side of the motorway and farmland staying on the other side.

The motorway, to run to the border with Serbia, should connect to the Banja Luka-Doboj section, which has already been built.

The future motorway is not designed the way such roads are usually designed - as the shortest straight line - but at Doboj it turns at the right angle towards the north, in the direction of Garevac, which is only 20 kilometres away from the border with Croatia, and then turns back southwards, towards Bijeljina.

The reason for such a design was evidently to avoid crossing the entity line and build the road exclusively in the territory of the Serb entity, whose borders were defined by the Dayton peace agreement, which did not follow any geographical, transport, business or historical logic.

Expressing support for Croat returnees in the Bosnian Serb entity, Plenković said at the government meeting on Thursday morning that Transport Minister Oleg Butković had recently discussed the matter with the Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Dodik, and that additional political and diplomatic contacts had been established to avoid having to destroy houses in the three Croat villages.

Jerković today said that the change of the route would be enabled thanks to persistent diplomatic activities of Croatia after local Croat representatives warned of the problem.

More news about Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Diaspora section.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Croat Community Asks Belgrade Authorities to Provide It With Working Space

ZAGREB, October 30, 2019 - Representatives of the Croat community in Serbia on Tuesday held a news conference to point out the problem of a lack of working space for their activities in the Serbian capital city, underscoring that local authorities have been ignoring their requests for a few years.

Jasna Vojnić, the leader of the Croatian National Council, and Tomislav Žigmanov of the Democratic Alliance of the Vojvodina Croats (DSHV) and a parliamentary deputy in the Serbian assembly, told the conference in the Croatian embassy in Belgrade that in the last three years they had sent five letters with requests to the Belgrade authorities to ensure a working space for the local Croat community and for its cultural centre.

It is high time that in Belgrade there were some premises for Croat associations to meet and promote their culture to the benefit of both Croatia and Serbia, said the local Croat leaders.

They recalled that ethnic Serbs in the Croatian capital of city have the premises for their activities in the very centre of Zagreb, and that the high-level meetings have been held between the mayors of Belgrade and Zagreb on this topic, however, all that has not yet resulted in providing ethnic Croats with premises in Belgrade.

Vojnić says that in Belgrade there are 7,752 Croats and the space for their activities is essential for the survival of the Croat community.

Žigmanov warns that without the adequate premises the community could hardly organise its activities.

Unfortunately, we have not managed to solve this problem to date, he told the news conference.

Žigmanov said that the experiences and models for the activities of the Serb National Council and the Prosvjeta cultural society in Croatia should be followed by Serbia when it comes to creating conditions for activities of local Croats.

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

Monday, 28 October 2019

Moving to Ireland? Pros and Cons from an Irishman in Split

October 28, 2019 - While many Croats are emigrating to Ireland, some are headed in the opposite direction. Jason Berry, an Irishman living in Split for 6 years offers some excellent emigration food for thought. 

There were some interesting reactions to our article at the weekend interviewing a Croatian expat approaching 5 years living in Ireland after her decision to move from Croatia. You can read Lidija's experiences in Kinsale in Is the Grass Greener in Ireland? A Croatian Expat View After 5 Years Abroad. One of the first messages I received was from Maura from the United States:

Thank you for a delightful, honest appraisal of life in Kinsale. My parents immigrated to America in 1929. I have an Irish Passport and have been there only once. Beautiful land and people. So happy it's home to many now and can provide jobs, that's why my parents also left the old country for the New life. Blessings and love, Maura.

A nice message, and Lidija and Maura are now in touch, but it got me wondering - with all the emigration from Slavonia right now, could it be possible that we could see a similar immigration from a totally different country 90 years from now, with people coming for the very thing that is so hard to find right now - employment?

Even more interesting was an email I received yesterday from Jason Berry, an American-Irishman who has been living in Split for the last six years. Although I have never met Jason, we did feature his successful career in Dalmatia in our foreign entrepreneurs in Croatia feature

Jason offered a rather different perspective on the moving to Ireland discussion, and well worth a read for those considering the move. Plenty of pros and cons to contemplate. His article below is a version that originally appeared in Croatian in Dalmatinski Portal

Over to Jason Berry... 

So you are thinking about going to Ireland, the island of opportunity, where beer, jobs and money are everywhere. Here is what you need to know. I’m going to share with you what life is really like in Ireland when compared to life in Croatia.

Ireland and Croatia are remarkably similar. Approximately 4.5 million people in both countries, Catholic, and people in both countries speak excellent English. Both countries have very large diasporas and Ireland is one of only a few countries where Croats can immediately go to and work within the EU, no questions asked. Thank you European Union.

The weather. According to the website www.currentresults.com Split gets an average of around 2600 hours of sunshine a year, and most of Dalmacija gets the same. Zagreb and Slavonia get around 1900 hours per year. Nice! Dublin gets 1400. Not so nice. It takes a lot of rain to make Ireland so green. It’s even rainier in the west of Ireland. If you are going to Ireland prepare for a lot less sunshine, shorter days, more darkness, and more grey in the winter. Ironically both countries get about the same rainfall, around 1000 mm, the difference is that Ireland gets a little each day, where in Croatia we have thunderous downpours where you can’t go outside because it is raining so hard. But don’t be fooled, plenty of places in Ireland get 2000mm per year. Bring an umbrella.

If you like swimming in the sea, bring a wetsuit to Ireland. Ireland sea temperatures rarely get higher than 17C. You’ll be coming back to Croatia for your summer holidays and tickets home aren’t cheap during the season unless you book far ahead. I’ve paid between 300-700 euro with an average of around 400-500 for round trip tickets. Off season it gets better, and flights on Ryanair and Aerlingus to Zagreb and Zadar help, but Split and Dubrovnik are pricey. Outside of the season there are no direct flights.

Ireland was ranked in or near the top 10 countries in the world for ease of business by the world bank, Croatia 51. It is much easier to do business in Ireland, less red tape, goodbye notaries, good bye uhlebs that get in your way, and peace of mind that officials aren’t trying to find some little problem with your business and fine you. Corporate tax in Ireland is 12.5% vs 20% in Croatia. 20% is pretty good by the way.

But let’s get down to business, the real reason everybody wants to go to Ireland is jobs. So let’s take a look at what it’s like in Ireland on the job front. Unemployment is at an all-time low in Ireland and salaries are on the increase. So how do you make the “big money” in Ireland. Couple of notes on that. In Ireland when discussing salaries, the Irish talk about salaries before tax. If somebody says they are making 30,000 euro per year, that is before tax. Income tax rates are a lot better though in Ireland than Croatia and big taxes don’t hit til after you are making 30K or so. Here’s a link to a tax calculator. https://salaryaftertax.com/ie But don’t get me wrong, by and large salaries are higher and job selection is better.  

There are a lot more professional career type jobs in IT, finance, and other 21st century careers, but you need to be qualified. These types of professional jobs are where the real opportunities are for Croats going to Ireland. Expect to get a low paying first professional job and then make more in your next jobs. But if you are going for a restaurant job, service sector, retail, or most manual labor jobs, income levels aren’t hugely different once you account for higher costs of living in Ireland which brings me to my next point. You might earn more in Ireland, but you pay more for everything except rain (that’s included).

Your biggest expense coming to Ireland will be rent. In Dublin average rent is 1875 a month. Those are euros by the way not kune. http://www.thejournal.ie/daft-rental-report-2-3992744-May2018/ Check out Daft.ie to get an idea of what is out there on the rental market. Good news, unlike Croatia, in Ireland, the renter doesn’t have to pay the estate agent for finding them a place. In Ireland only the landlord pays one month’s rent to the agent.

As a Croat your second biggest expense will be coffee, probably. Gone will be your days of 8-10 kn coffees a few times a day. In Ireland, take-away coffee will cost you around 2-4 Euro. If you want a croissant, tack on another 2-4 Euro. And if like me you love a good narancada after the coffee, OJ will set you back 4-6 euro. And if you want a coffee inside at a restaurant or café, its even more expensive. So if you start your day like me with a coffee, a croissant, and some OJ, you will have no change from 10 Euro. If you drink 3 cups of coffee a day, you’ll be spending around 15 euro a day or 450 euro a month. Prepare to learn how to make coffee, get a big high paying job, or curb that kava addiction.

If you have a smoking problem, your problem just got much bigger. A pack of cigarettes is 10-15 euro. https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/dublin. If you smoke a pack a day, here’s another 300-450 euro a month.

For the ladies, haircuts, blow-drying your hair, pedicure and manicure, you’ll need to take out a few loans. Haircuts are 60-100 euro. Blow dries are 30 euro. Manicures will run you 30-50 euro. I’m sure you can find cheaper, but you’ll struggle in Dublin city centre. For dudes, count on around 15-25 euro for a haircut.  https://www.treatwell.ie/places/treatment-haircuts-and-hairdressing/offer-type-local/in-dublin-ireland/

On average Dublin is 90% more expensive than Split and Zagreb. If you want to get an equal paying job in Ireland, it needs to pay at least twice as much as in Croatia. If you earn 1,000 euro a month in Croatia, you want to be earning well above 2.5K in Ireland, that means a job that pays around 45K euro in Irish terms. You’ll have to be creative to save money and live a similar standard under that number.

If I had to go back to Ireland tomorrow the things I would miss immediately are: no fresh fruits and veggies from my friends and family. No homemade olive oil from my punac. No burek. Sunshine. Coffee culture and cheap good coffee and chats (people generally get coffee to go, so no more lingering around the kafic). Skampi na buzaru. No vineyards and good wine everywhere. The sea. Teleca Peka. Sunshine. Fresh fruit and vegetables all year round. Basketball is everywhere. Croatian international football. Our nanny. Life is in general very inexpensive and good value in Croatia. Going to the beach for 6 months of the year and of course the network of friends and family that look after me and my family. And sunshine. Do not underestimate how powerful good weather is on your well-being.

So for those of you considering a life in Ireland only for financial purposes, its not an easy decision. You’ll be living in a new country, enjoying the experience, meeting new people, but you probably won’t be saving much or sending money home. In exchange for living in Ireland, you give up sunshine, being close to family, burek and cevapcici. Ireland is a great place, but make sure you do your research on the financials of your job and everyday expenses, know what you are getting into. It's not all a pot of gold at the end of an Irish rainbow.

Thanks Jason, very interesting. 

Have you emigrated to Ireland or another country in the last few years and would like to share your experiences, positive and negative? Contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Greener Grass.

For more news about the Croatian diaspora, follow the dedicated TCN section

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Is the Grass Greener in Ireland? A Croatian Expat View After 5 Years Abroad

October 26, 2019 - With so many Croats in Ireland, and many more making the move, is the grass really greener? Some Croatian reflections as a 5-year anniversary in Ireland approaches. 

Croatia's entry to the EU back in 2013 brought many changes to the country, one of which was easier access to job opportunities in other EU countries. With initial UK restrictions on jobs for Croatians, many Croats headed to the only other English-speaking EU country, Ireland. A trickle turned to a wave, and the Emerald Isle has seen thousands of Croatia move to Ireland in the last few years. 

Among them is occasional TCN contributor Lidija Ivanek SiLa, who has been writing for us since 2016. As her 5 years in Ireland approaches, I asked her what it was like for Croatians moving there, and was the grass really greener. Some great responses, honestly pointing out the positives and negatives, which will hopefully prove useful one way or the other for those contemplating the move. 

1. Firstly, tell us about your own Irish journey. How long have you been there and why did you move?

It is almost five years that we live in Ireland. Me and my husband moved to Ireland on Valentine’s day 2015. How romantic, you would think, right? Little did I know that this is a time of the worst storms in Ireland. Did I mention, we drove all the way from Croatia to Ireland and were taking a ferry from Wales to Ireland? So, crossing the Irish Sea in the middle of the night with waves up to 10 meters, not for the faint-hearted.

Why did we move? Job, plain and simple. Well, my husband is in a sought-after business, the holy grail – IT. When he posted his CV online, headhunters spotted him and interviews start coming. But, before all that, there was a decision to move out of Croatia. You have to know that I was born in Zagreb and the type of person who thought would never move out of Croatia, one who fought for and believed in Croatia, while my husband was born in Germany and spent his early childhood years there. He was more inclined to move.

In the end, our decision was based on the situation around us, falling economy in the country, inability to live a normal life and the general feeling of depression and all-in-all negative attitudes. To work in Croatia you have to be tough, everything is more complicated and people are disheartened and lose courage. That and a few more things were the reasons to move. When the decision was made, the wheels started rolling. A job that was interesting to my husband was offered to him and he accepted it. We even managed to rent the house in Ireland while still in Croatia.

Why Ireland in particular? My hubby already had a colleague in Cork who was telling him that this is the best place to be if you are in IT. There are plenty of IT companies and they are constantly on the lookout for new talent. So we moved to County Cork and we are living in Kinsale, a small town at the beginning of the majestic Wild Atlantic Way.

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2. Cast your mind back - what were your expectations back then and have they been realised?

We didn’t have any grand expectations. It was more of an adventure. We had hopes that it will be better than the one we were leaving behind. It was the idea that if we don’t do something now, soon it would be too late as we are not in our prime years anymore. I would say, we did get more than expected. My husband advanced in his work. He is respected at work. I am an artist, I can work and create anywhere in the world. But even for me it is more “normal” to be artist here than in Croatia. In Croatia there is a general feeling that what you have studied is what defines you. It is almost impossible to change your profession multiple times in life and not be considered odd. I was a doctor of veterinary medicine once, but not anymore. I am an artist, printmaker, painter, digital artist, photographer, and writer now. But that doesn’t define me. That attitude is more normal in Ireland than in Croatia. If you are happy, and can make a living from what you do, it’s ok. That’s Ireland.

3. What was better about moving to Ireland, and what was worse?

Life is here less stressful than in Croatia. We are not bombarded with political news every single day. If you only read Croatian newspapers it seems that every day in Croatia some terrible and horrifying news is happening. In a way it looks like the media didn’t move far from war journalism and is constantly hungry for drama. We don’t have that feeling in Ireland at all. The only drama we have here is when we have Atlantic storms and people freak out about the shortage of bread in the supermarkets, lol.

We’ve met a lot of wonderful, inspiring people and they are from all over the world. The experience of different cultures in one place was a bit frightening at first, but then it became one of the best things here. The Irish tax system is a blessing after you have experienced the Croatian one. It is just easier to work. If the Inland Revenue owes you tax at the end of the year, they will return it immediately. In Croatia you need to beg, wait, and hope to get your money back.

That was all good, but here comes the bad stuff. Of course there is bad in Ireland too.

The Health system is a disaster. Really, no kidding. Expensive and not effective like it was in Croatia. Roads here are mainly for rally drivers. Narrow streets, potholes and the worst of all are the drivers. I mean Irish (not all of course) are in general poor drivers.

If you want to go on a vacation outside Ireland, you have to fly, but yes, flights to a lot of popular summer destinations are inexpensive. Sadly Croatia is not one of them.And last, but not least – the housing crisis. There are not enough apartments & houses for all people wanting to live here. Prices are on the rise. Rents are horrendous.

Buildings are poorly built. Insulations are often non-existent. I mentioned the weather a bit before. Well, my hubby is fine with the cold, damp, windy weather. I am not that keen on that. Winters for me are the hardest, when we have one storm after another and often can’t see the blue sky for weeks. But then when it is sunny, then it is really nice and beautiful and you would never consider living anywhere else.

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4. How has your view of Croatia changed with your new viewpoint from abroad?

Oh dear, that is a tough one. We are trying to visit Croatia twice every year and I can see that some things did change, but not a lot. Depending on what area we have visited, we heard different stories. We moved with the idea to return to Croatia eventually. We still plan to return, I just don’t know when. While so many experts moved out, soon it will be a perfect time to come back. Companies will be forced to rethink their behaviour and offer better deals. That’s a bitter joke circling around. The sad truth is, they’ll probably hire cheap, and less educated people just to fill the spots.

5. Let's look at the huge influx of young Croatians coming to Ireland in the last few years. Without reverting to stereotypes, how would you categorise them? What kinds of people are coming?

I mean, what is a huge influx of young? The truth is all age groups arrived in Ireland in the recent 4 years. When we arrived in Kinsale, there was only one Croatian woman here before us. Now I don’t know them anymore. It is that many. They are coming from all professions, with different plans and ideas. Some are coming only during the tourist season and work in the hospitality business. Some are coming and staying, getting married here, buying houses, having kids. I hate categorising people. How can you categorize different life stories? They are all people with hopes, plans, ideas, coming here to improve their own life, the best way they can.

6. For those thinking of making the move, tell us about the process. How easy is it to find work, a place to stay, a support network?

These days it is more difficult to start a new life in Ireland. Brexit just worsened an already difficult housing situation. A lot of people have moved from the UK to Ireland in recent months. The Government’s “most optimistic statement” on the housing crisis reveals that the problem will get worse at least until 2022, Focus Ireland has said. If they still want to move, the best way to do so would be to have someone here already, so they can stay with them till they find their own place. About jobs, to the best of my knowledge there are still open positions in IT, the pharmaceutical sector, the always needy hospitality sector, and nursing homes.

7. Finding a job may be easy, but how about a job to match the qualifications of the new arrivals?

As in any country, there is a demand for certain qualifications while others not so much. If you are willing to work, it doesn’t matter that much here that you are not holding a certain certificate or diploma. Speaking the language is a must. I did hear about some people washing dishes in restaurants without speaking any word of English, but that is the exception rather than the norm. Croatians still hold a respectable title here, which is that of a hard-working and positive people. How ironic, knowing that at home the same people weren’t treated with that kind of respect.

8. Weighing up everything, do you think the grass is greener in Ireland?

We didn’t regret our move. For us it was the best thing that we could do in the given moment. The Republic of Ireland is not a paradise on Earth. It is a society with very colourful people, a place of optimism and growth, but still in constant change like the weather.

You can read more from Lidija Ivanek SiLa via her TCN profile.

Have you emigrated from Croatia in the last few years and interested in sharing your experiences, good and bad? Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., subject title Greener Grass. 

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Conference on Diaspora and Homeland Begins

ZAGREB, October 10, 2019 - A two-day international conference called "The diaspora and the homeland" began on Thursday, with participants underlining the importance of expatriates for Croatia's development, recognisability and branding.

Presidential envoy Mirjana Hrga said expatriates were a key topic for the survival of the Croatian state and nation given that more Croats lived abroad than in Croatia.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović considers that an unforgivably wasted capital for the country, a resource from which a relatively young and independent state should draw its wealth, she said.

She recalled that the president had proposed establishing a demography ministry a few years ago, which did not happen, but that she would insist on the establishment of a state body to deal with expatriates and immigration.

Hrga said expatriates poured HRK 15.5 billion into Croatia annually and that this was more than all the annual foreign investment.

Zvonko Milas, state secretary at the State Office for Croats outside Croatia, underlined the role of the diaspora in the creation of the Croatian state, saying there had been no Croat community around the world that did not collect money or politically lobby for that.

"Croats around the world must care for Croats in Croatia, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but vice versa as well. We must have common values whereby we recognise each other as members of one nation."

Milas said the government must promote the Croatian identity in Croatian communities around the world and that Croats abroad must be included in every state strategy. He underlined the importance of passing a new law on the acquisition of Croatian citizenship for facilitating returns, studying and starting a business in Croatia.

After Ireland, Croatia has the relatively largest diaspora, said Božo Ljubić, chair of the parliamentary Committee on Croats outside Croatia. He added that the Croatian Heritage Foundation had been caring for Croats abroad for over 65 years.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Year is 1986: Yugoslav Child Moves to Croatian Diaspora in Australia

October 6, 2019 - The innocence of a child, and what happened when a Yugoslav child, aged 5, found herself transported from former Yugoslavia to a Croatian diaspora community in Australia. The year is 1986.

A few years ago, I went to pick up my daughter from kindergarten in Jelsa. She was 4 at the time. As we walked to the cafe for a cold one for Dad and an ice cream for her, I asked her about her day.

"My friend Ivan is HDZ and my friend Iva is SDP," she announced. 

"What is HDZ and what is SDP?" I asked.

"I have no idea, Daddy, but that is what they are."

The conditioning of children begins at an early age in Croatia, and I was shocked at how these political divisions and rivalries start at such an early age in Croatian society. We never discuss politics at home (nor do we have any), but by the age of 9, both my daughters could name all the Croatian Presidents, at least 3 Prime Ministers and the names of the mayors of Zagreb, Split and Jelsa. Contrast that with the average British adult who can probably recognise and name no more than 5 or 6. 

And so a lot of kids have their political colours painted for them at an age when they should be playing in the park and blissfully unaware of such things. The obsession of dragging Croatia today back to the past at every opportunity when it is politically expedient to do so reinforces these political divisions and the effect they have on even the youngest in this society, at least in my opinion. 

That kindergarten declaration has stayed with me for years, and it came back to me this week when I caught up with an Australian returnee friend recently. At least I had always thought that she had been born in Australia and moved to the homeland. She had, in fact, been born in Croatia during Yugoslav times, back in 1981, then moved to Australia when she was five. She moved back to Croatia several years ago to bring kids up in a safer environment. 

I asked her what it was like being a Yugoslav child moving to a Croatian diaspora community in Australia. Did she remember the move at all? It turns out that she did, very well in fact. Here is what she told me... 

The year is 1986 and this is what the diaspora looked like through the eyes of a five-year-old…

We’re preparing for the adventure of a lifetime, we’re going to Australia. There were what seemed like hours spent in waiting rooms while Mum spoke to people and filled out forms, all of the office spaces looked the same, the same boring shade of dull.

I remember the anticipation and excitement although I have no recollection of the flight, the goodbyes, or the actual airport. I do remember arriving and being amazed at how colourful, shiny and new everything was. Realistically, it was the mid 80’s and most likely it was not all that impressive but it was probably the opposite of the dull hues of communism. 

We arrived at our relatives house, everything seemed big and colourful, I asked who the “čiko” in the large photo on the wall was, I distinctly remember the disapproving glares directed at my mum and was told not to use that word, we say “striko,” I asked if the man is my grandfather, it made sense at the time, he too had a photo in a uniform from when he was a young man, more disapproving stares are sent in Mum's direction, I’m asked some questions that make me feel like Mum is going to get into trouble, so I come to her defence with- well, we have Tito at our house, the funny thing is we didn’t, but I had seen enough of his pictures in the offices we had been to while getting our paperwork done for the visit so I must have thought it would be impressive- it was anything but that.  

People would come to visit, I would be encouraged to greet them and not to be shy every time I would say “zdravo” the reaction was one of annoyance or anger, I would be told -say “bog” and to stop saying zdravo, I quickly learned to say “hello” to everyone.  I had no understanding of what the problem was, however the more they glared at Mum disapprovingly the more defiant I become. 

Things seemed to slowly ease up as I stopped using the words they disapproved of. I don’t know if anyone ever told me why I couldn’t use these words that were commonly used by Croatians living in Croatia, not only would it have most probably been more than a kid could grasp, but I possibly did not understand what they were saying, everyone spoke very differently to what I was used to, a combination of poorly strung together sentences combined with broken English. 

One day that I remember vividly is the day I am told I can stay home with my older cousins while the adults run some errands, I was excited, but what was going to be a fun day quickly turned into some sort of quiz and eventually a bottle with a grb is shoved in my face “this is the flag, this is OUR grb, this is our flag” I look at my cousin defiantly and say no, our flag has a red sta- the words hadn’t completely left my mouth when I felt the impact of his hand slap my face so hard it left me stunned.  

I don’t remember seeing the sites although I have the photos, but I do remember being excited to finally go home.  

Then came a surprise - I am told we are not going home, this is now home. I soon started school, I could already speak some English but was convinced if I didn’t speak I would be able to return to my real home. The teacher asked the children in the class if there was anyone from Yugoslavia, a Macedonian kid raised his hand, the teacher would ask me a question and he would translate, obviously I didn’t understand a word he was saying, but would nod yes or no when he was finished, it was short-lived as Mum explained we didn’t speak the same language and the teacher then knew I understood her.  

Then we moved, I would be attending a Catholic school with a large Croatian population, so it would be so much easier they said. I was still the new kid when we were told to draw the flag of where our parents were originally from, I drew the one from my passport, the only flag I had ever seen while in Croatia, blue, white, red, with a big red star in the middle. The other Croatian kids drew the Croatian flag, the flags were displayed in the window for everyone to see how multicultural and inclusive our class was, in the days that followed I was called a Serb and a Yugoslav. 'Communist' was later added to the repertoire, they probably had no idea what it meant, just as I didn’t.  Some of the older Croatian kids were relentless, and I often spent recess hiding. It passed, as all things do.  

Although it did cement the feeling that I did not belong.  

High school was different, I never felt the need to have Croatian friends as my peers did, I felt different to them, even though it was the 90’s and more important than ever to prove just how Croatian you are, I didn’t feel the need to talk about ustasha or wars or other things I knew little about to prove just how Croatian I was. I no longer had a yearning desire to belong either. I had fond memories of where I was from, of people who were kind, a place where I had once belonged, I felt no need to prove anything to kids who challenged just how Croatian I was, and yet had never been to Croatia and barely spoke the language. The friends I did have didn’t care about how Croatian I was, they were like-minded. I felt a sense of belonging with them that I never had with the Croatian kids who had tormented me.

I attended Croatian language classes every Saturday throughout high school. Croatian communities are generally run like the country itself- “preko veze.” So most of my Croatian language teachers spoke Croatian like the vast majority of young people – hardly at all. What was once a quiet shy kid, was now an angsty teenager, I took great pleasure in antagonising the teachers by correcting their grammar and challenging their knowledge of the language.  The other smart arse kids would have dictionary handy to prove me right, I spent a lot of time outside that classroom door. 

In all fairness there were some teachers whose language skills were better, they rambled on about Croatian history that came from no history book in particular, just an uneducated interpretation, stories about Ante Pavelić, the man that was in the picture on the wall, the first image that had taught a five-year-old what it felt like to be foreign and unaccepted. 
As an adult I came to understand that this diaspora was an older generation who left a long time ago, with views that were out of touch with the issues of the current time. Their views had not evolved and moved on as had the people living in Croatia, but they were passed on to younger generations, they nostalgically hung onto the past completely unaware. Much like today while most nations are united by patriotism, we are often divided by it.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Plenković, Slovenian Croats Discuss Their Undefined Status

ZAGREB, October 3, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and representatives of Slovenia's ethnic Croat community agreed on Wednesday that it was necessary to continue to work on having Ljubljana recognise the status of Slovenian Croats as an ethnic minority, the Croatian government reported.

Plenković received in Zagreb for talks representatives of the Croat communities from Slovenia and Montenegro, which has defined the status of its Croat community.

"While Croats in Montenegro have the status of an ethnic minority, the status of ethnic Croats in Slovenia is undefined. That is why the need was expressed to continue activities on defining their status," the government said after the meeting.

A commission in charge of the status of Slovenian Croats was formed in February 2018 with the aim of coordinating activities contributing to the preservation and promotion of Croatian identity, defining the status of ethnic Croats and recognising the Croat ethnic minority in Slovenia, the government added.

The PM said that a summit meeting of leaders of EU and Southeast European countries, to be held in Zagreb next year, would provide an opportunity to do something about the settlement of outstanding issues in relations with neighbouring countries.

He also said that he expected the continuation of activities that would enable the institutional, financial and project support for the preservation of Croatian identity in Montenegro.

The Montenegrin Croat delegation also held talks with Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation Announces Croatian American Sports Hall of Fame

The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCACF) announced today that 58 years ago, on this day, October 1, 1961, Roger Maris (Maraš) of the New York Yankees, hit his record 61st home run in one baseball season, eclipsing the 34-year old record of 60 home runs by baseball legend Babe Ruth.

Roger Maris was born in 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota to Croatian American parents.

Maris played 12 years of major league baseball. He hit 275 Home runs, was All-Star 12 times, won the World Series 3 times, was the Most Valuable Player 2 times, Gold Glove Award winner, and had his number (9) retired by the New York Yankees. The New York Yankees Old Timers Game in 1984 featured the retirement of his number 9 and the addition of a plaque in his honor that took place alongside those of other Yankee greats in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium.

"The more people said he couldn't do it, he tried harder – he became more determined," Tony Kubek, one of Maris's teammates on the 1961 New York Yankees, said in August, 1998.

Click here to read more about Roger Maris.

"Whether it’s the World Cup, Olympics, Wimbledon or the seven players in the NBA, Croatians have been synonymous with success on the global sports scene since the very beginning. The idea of a Croatian American Sports Hall of Fame is very exciting and something that will certainly have many candidates for years to come." says Pete Radovich, Jr., CBS Sports Creative Director, 37-time Emmy Award winner and Croatian American!

The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCACF) hereby has officially inaugurated today the formation of the Croatian American Sports Hall of Fame.

The NFCACF is excited to salute the many Croatian Americans who have contributed and made their mark with valor, fortitude and lasting results in all areas of sports. Their achievements are impressive. The list is long and admirable: from baseball, basketball, boxing, football, ice hockey, rowing, to coaching, refereeing, sports administration and sports management. The names are impressive. It is time to recognize those individuals and coaches for their exemplary sports achievements and for their Croatian heritage.

Roger Maris, Croatian American Baseball Legend is the perfect candidate for the initial class of the Croatian American Sports Hall of Fame. The complete list of the first Inaugural Sports Hall of Fame Inductees will be announced in the summer of 2020.

The Inaugural Ceremony to the Croatian American Sports Hall of Fame is planned for the Fall of 2020 in New York City. For additional information, contributions or suggestions, please send an email to Vedran Joseph Nazor, the NFCACF Sports Committee Chair at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Successful Diaspora Returnee Stories: Daniel Nikic, from Canada to Zagreb

September 28, 2019 - Continuing our look at successful returnee stories and experiences from the Croatian diaspora to the homeland, next up Daniel Nikic from Cohres on his journey from Canada to Zagreb. 

  1. Born in Canada, returned to Croatia, something that many diaspora dream of doing. Tell us briefly about your journey.

I was born to Croatian parents from Bosnia and Herzegovina, more specifically from small villages of Ruzici and Tihaljina in the town of Grude. My parents moved to Canada in their early 20s in the late 1960s via Stuttgart, Germany. I grew up in a small town called Halton Hills (45-min drive from Toronto) and had a great childhood. After university, I was not really ambitious in terms of my career and quite frankly I wanted to be like Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, The Beach. As a kid I would visit Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summers and established good quality relationships with locals, therefore I had some knowledge of Croatia, although vacationing is very different from living (especially for diaspora / ex-pats). I was fortunate to have an uncle who lives in Zagreb and he would always push my cousins and others in Canada to move back to Croatia. Once I finished university in 2009, I spent the summer in Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoying the last days of my youth and moved to Zagreb in September 2009. I worked for my uncle's company for a year and then proceeded to work for a Slovakian real estate development company, which later led me to become an entrepreneur and open my own company, Cohres in 2014. Cohres initially started off as an outsource consulting firm for finance and market research and then restructured in 2017 to focus on investment research.

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  1. Looking back, what were your hopes, expectations and fears about moving to Croatia?

The first year in Croatia started off with the mentality to take advantage of being in Croatia, and to not say “what-if” as I did not expect to stay in Croatia for a long time. I quite frankly had a plan to stay one year at most. I did not share my expectations with anyone because I myself was not sure what to expect. I have to admit I missed Canada quite a lot since I felt more Canadian than ever once I started living in Zagreb. In the beginning, I felt a real social-cultural difference between Canada and Croatia, which is logical in some ways, but I was a 21-year old who was quite impulsive to say the least. Overall, my expectation was that it would be easy in Croatia, since I thought economic barriers are not that important, which in some ways is true, however should not be the main and only factor when deciding to move somewhere. I must admit that my fear of moving to Croatia was leaving behind good friends and family back home in Canada and moving on with my own life, similar to what many had to do when leaving Europe to move to North America, Australia and South America. I hoped that Croatia would be a hidden gem and I would become a rock star quickly and gain quick success, well I was wrong about that. It took a lot of patience and persistence to get to where I am today. One thing that I have always felt, and still feel, is that Zagreb has a spirit and it is a city that offers much to do and experience. This is a feeling that has not changed since I first arrived and even now.

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  1. How supportive was your Croatian community back home at the time?

In terms of back home, I have to admit some people in my life were positive and some were negative when I announced that I would be moving to Croatia. I must be honest, if I did not meet my now wife after my year in Zagreb, I would have most likely moved back, as I told myself I would only stay a year. As the expression goes “you never know what to expect in life.” Those who were negative shared with me that they had bad experiences in Croatia, were afraid of change or were stubborn in their thoughts that there is no potential in Croatia and/or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those who were supportive stated many times that due to globalization, Croatia should prosper and improve in terms of quality of life. I am glad I pushed myself to stay a minimum of one year in Croatia. All in all, I think many diaspora make their decisions of living in Croatia based on their own expectations and experiences.

  1. What were the main differences in what you expected to find in Croatia and the reality of living in Croatia?

Personally, I expected Croatia to be very easy-going and that I would not have to work too much to be able to make a comfortable living, which is not true and it is not true for wherever one decides to live. I also felt that Croatia was behind in many factors such as education and work environment, but I must admit, for a small market, Croatia is quite advanced despite bureaucracy issues, just look at how many entrepreneurs there are compared to other countries. Also, I did not realize the lack of adoption to technology in terms of bureaucracy in Croatia, which I believe is a major turn off to many when deciding to live in Croatia. One thing I greatly admire about Croatia is that not everything is commercialized in other words there is an originality that is sometimes hard to find elsewhere.

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  1. Many diaspora think of returning but few do. In truth, there is little information out there about real-life stories and help/info about the process. What advice do you have for those who are thinking about making the move?

I think despite what many think about diaspora, moving to Croatia is difficult. If someone is born and raised for example in Canada even if their parents could be from Lika, Dalmatia, or Zagorje they are still Canadian and will most likely to some extent have Canadian values in terms of social and cultural values. There is definitely little information and help/info on the process, because when someone from the diaspora visits Croatia they are usually visiting where their parents are from, as I did and are probably going to touristic destinations, so it is quite difficult to have a clear picture in terms of living in the country. My advice to anyone moving to Croatia is do not expect it to be golden. However, with technology today, the world is becoming connected and Croatia is not a country that is lagging behind or disconnected. There will be struggles, however there are rising opportunities as Croatia is developing. Overall, Croatia to me is a country that has great potential, but you cannot expect the government to work for you, which I believe is a factor that negatively impacts Croatians. I think Croatia can be a great outsource centre for large multinational companies and those companies that hold large value in assets due to location and being able to offer lower wages, which the wages can be very good in Croatian terms.

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  1. How were you perceived in Zagreb as foreigners/diaspora moving back - was the welcome warm?

I received some warm welcomes and some negative, which I think is normal for everyone when moving to a new country. I received a few comments, along the lines of judgment that diaspora does not have to work hard or has everything handed to them and that they come from money. This is not true, as to succeed, you must give it your all, and not rely on anyone else or anything else. However, Croatians are warm people, one thing that I have noticed about Croatians is that they are willing to come together to help for example when the devastating floods happened or donating money for someone that is sick or in need. I have to admit many were interested just to know about Canada and would sometimes ask me a million questions such as “why would you leave Canada”? Some would assume that everyone has lots of money in Canada and tell me that Croatia is horrible! After a while I found it difficult to deal with the frequent comments and questions about why I moved back, not due to the subject but the repetitiveness of comments and questions and it felt like a broken record being replayed over and over again.

  1. Through a lot of hard work, you have been very successful, while many foreigners have given up and left Croatia. What are the keys to success in doing business in Croatia in your opinion?

After working for the Slovakian company that had an office in Croatia for 3 and a half years – I had to decide what to do next. The Slovakian company ended up closing their offices, and I was left searching for work. Fortunately my wife and I had options, which is very lucky since many people do not. My wife is from Bugojno, Bosnia and Herzegovina and lived in Germany as of the mid-90s due to the war and then moved back to Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically to Ljubuski. Also, due to my wife's and my own life experiences we had options if we decided to not stay in Croatia, to move to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany or Canada. During that period when I was without a job, my wife was pregnant and that definitely was a huge factor in making our decision to stay in Croatia.

The only question was if I did not find a job in Croatia, what would I do? Move to Austria, Germany, the UK? I always wanted to become an entrepreneur, and I was motivated by my father in many ways who himself was an entrepreneur, though I never could actually take that risk. I remember while working for the Slovakian company I would have to go to Bratislava often and while I was there I was shocked at how many foreigners lived there and worked for large multinational corporations such as AT&T, Skoda and others as outsourced workers. That is when I began to think, why would I not do the same in Croatia – firstly, English is my native language and secondly, I also had some work experience from Canada and worked in a multinational environment. I made the decision to become an entrepreneur and I decided to focus on something that I felt I was good at, which was finance and market research.

The name of my company became Cohres (Coherent Research) and my focus was the market outside of Croatia (North America and Western Europe) due to their financial capital and work opportunities. I started from my bedroom and worked long hours – quite frankly, being an entrepreneur in the starting phases can at times be lonely. Everything depends on you and you cannot rely on anyone but yourself to execute the idea, although I was lucky to have a family that supported me mentally.

In the end I noticed that being an entrepreneur for over 5 years, no one cares where you are from as long as you can get the job done (obviously there are specific situations where location is a factor). Over the past 5 years, Cohres has enhanced its portfolio working with many funds, asset managers, and investors, which made me change my company's focus in 2017 to investment research. The company now has worked both domestically and internationally serving a wide range of markets. Overall, I think with persistence many in Croatia can be successful and should ignore the negative influences and opinions because at the end of the day those comments do not do anything positive for your life but rather just serve as excuses.

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  1. What is the diaspora community like in Zagreb and how integrated is it with locals?

To be honest I was shocked at how large and impactful the diaspora community is here in Croatia. For example, for Canadians there is the Canadian-Croatian Business Network, which has many members who have been in Croatia since the early 90s. Overall, I believe that Zagreb has a huge community for diaspora due to Zagreb being an economic power in Croatia. As for integration, I believe many have integrated with locals and in my opinion if you do not integrate yourself with locals, you will not be able to live in Croatia or anywhere else happily for over a year because you cannot bring Canada or whatever other country to Croatia and live a specific way, you need to adapt, just like anywhere else.

You can learn more about Cohres and connect with Daniel Nikic via the company website.  

For more on the Croatian diaspora, check out the TCN dedicated section

Are you a returnee who has moved back to Croatia and would like to be featured in this series? Please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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