Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Croatian Diaspora: Venezuelan Iru Balic Breaks Freediving National Record!

September 15, 2021 - The Adriatic Freediving Cup competition was held the second week of September, where Venezuelan Iru Balic finished second and set a new national record, with less than 49 meters under the sea in the “Bialetas” modality. She spoke about how special it was to compete in Croatia, where her grandfather was born.

The Venezuelan portal interviewed diver Iru Balic, who recently achieved second place in the Adriatic Freediving competition in Krk, Croatia, and where she also broke the Venezuelan national record for free diving, better known as apnea. For Balic it was a special moment since she, in addition to being accompanied by her little daughter and her mother, was also able to compete in the seas of Croatia, the country where her grandfather was born last century.

“It is the first time that I participate in an event endorsed by AIDA and CMAS. Previously the deepest records were made in AIDA, but today things have changed and there are events like these where brands are validated in both. In 2007 at the CMAS Games in Bari Italy, we were disqualified leaving us out of the competition for having participated in a National AIDA Event. I am very happy that these types of penalties have been left in the past", said Balic.

The freediver went to Croatia, accompanied by her almost-two-year-old daughter and her mother, to represent the Venezuelan tricolor, after being out of competition since 2016.

“Croatia surprised me a lot. My paternal grandfather was Croatian and he was always telling stories about the benefits of his land. He never returned to his country, after escaping to Venezuela with his father and his brother during World War II. I would have liked my grandfather to be alive to tell him that his land seemed precious to me. Not to mention that I finally went to a place where my last name is pronounced well and I can put the accent on the "C" accordingly''.

The freediver said that the visibility in the sea was incredible and that the temperature did change a lot in relation to Venezuela. In the Caribbean, the water is at approximately 28 degrees, and in Croatia at 20 degrees of surface and 15 from 30 meters of depth. These conditions made her body less relaxed than in the warm sea of ​​Venezuela.

"From these climatic conditions I came out with much more strength because training and competing in those conditions makes you stronger", added Iru Balic.

Apnea is a sport where the air is retained spontaneously and depending on the modality, meters are lowered to the bottom of the sea with different types of fins or even without them. For Iru Balic, “the most special thing has been to be first in the world ranking from May to September 2013, with less than 73 meters under the sea, in the constant weight mode. So far it is my personal and national record''.

The mother and athlete told about the experience of traveling and competing with her almost-two-year-old daughter and mother: “it was super special, my mother had always been very nervous about going to a competition, and in fact, they waited for me on the shore, but having her here close and taking care of my daughter, Lara, gave me peace. Without a doubt, a great luxury''.

Competing now is a bigger challenge, says the athlete. “I like to win. If I said no, I would be lying. But I feel that something inside has changed a lot in me. I decided to enjoy the journey and I feel that I celebrated each descent and each meter much more daily than the final result, with the second position and the national record. Which surprised even me".

On training for the competition and the World Cup in Cyprus

“My previous training, to get here, was a month in Venezuela, at least 3 times a week going down in Chichiriviche de La Costa, in La Guaira. I even organized a week to stay often and I took my grandmother, my mother, my aunt, my sister, and Lara, it was great''.

''I was very supported because Williams Álvarez, a partner of Chichi, put aside the party that involves living in a town on the coast and was a great support, his perseverance, affection, and dedication to accompany me in training made the difference. With him, we practiced many rescue techniques, with his support boat together with Rafael Mayora, also a local from Chichiriviche. Every day they woke up early and waited for me with their best smiles, expecting absolutely nothing in return".

The Venezuelan freediver is now in Limassol, Cyprus where the Freediving World Cup will take place on September 20. An event that only takes place once a year and will also be on an individual basis. Among more than 120 athletes, for this world, Iru feels even more secure and strong because she has a clear strategy so that her participation is satisfactory. In this competition, she will also have the support of her mother and her daughter who are on the same island of Cyprus.

For both sporting events, Iru Balic only has the support of the Greek fins "Alchemy Hellas", her sponsorships from 2013 of hers remained in the past and now it is she, together with her family who pays for all trips and competitions. You can follow her to find out about her participation in the World Cup through her Instagram at @IruBalic.

For more about the Croatian Diaspora, visit our dedicated page here.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Croatia to Send Humanitarian Aid to Albania and Venezuela

ZAGREB, February 13, 2020 - The Croatian government on Thursday decided to send humanitarian aid to Albania as earthquake relief, and to Venezuela that is in a humanitarian and economic crisis and Zagreb will also help Bosnia and Herzegovina in procurement of police equipment necessary for the fight against cross-border crime.

Croatia will donate 1 million euro to Albania at a donor conference to be held in Brussels on 17 February. Albania will receive donations for reconstruction after a destructive earthquake hit that country in November last year, State-Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Zdravka Bušić informed the cabinet.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is expected to attend the Brussels conference.

On 26 November 2019, an earthquake of magnitude 6.4 hit Albania, resulting in 51 fatalities, with 1,000 people sustaining injuries while 4,000 people had to leave temporarily their homes. The disaster caused havoc to public and private infrastructure, hitting thousands of households and thousands of buildings were seriously damaged, including schools and health care facilities.

The Croatian government responded immediately after the earthquake and sent food and other kinds of aid to the local population.

Five thermal vision cameras and 198 sets of police equipment to be donated to Bosnia

Croatia will send aid to Bosnia and Herzegovina following several requests by Bosnia and Herzegovina's Interior Ministry and the ministries of three cantons in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and border police in those cantons, considering a rise in cross-border crime.

That represents a security challenge particularly in southern areas of the Federation entity that borders with Croatia, Bušić explained.

Therefore, Zagreb has decided to donate five thermal vision cameras and 198 sets of police equipment used in establishing public peace and order. The equipment is part of write-offs that the Croatian Ministry of Interior conducted last year.

Croatia will send USD 100,000 to Venezuela in order to procure medicines and basic hygienic products for vulnerable residents, including Croats and their descendants.

The crisis in Venezuela is one of the most critical humanitarian crises in the world at the moment, Bušić said and more than four million people have left the country since 2015 in the wake of economic and political instability.

An estimated million people have left the country since the end of last year alone while 90% of the population is living in poverty.

Since 2016 the EU has allocated €90 million in humanitarian aid for the people in Venezuela and those who have fled to neighbouring countries.

More news about relations between Croatia and Albania can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Office for Croats Abroad Helping Diaspora in Venezuela

ZAGREB, June 5, 2019 - State-Secretary in the Central State Office for Croats Abroad, Zvonko Milas, on Wednesday informed that the office was actively helping the Croat community in Venezuela, which is in a difficult social, economic and security situation.

There are just under 5,000 Croats in that community and together with humanitarian organisations, the UN and anyone who can, the Office for Croats Abroad is helping in preserving that community, Milas said, submitting a report to parliament on the office's activities in 2017.

The state should have certain "magnets" that will attract some people who are having a hard time living there, MP Ante Babić (HDZ) said.

Milas informed that in 2017 the office had granted 1.3 million kuna for projects submitted by the Croat communities in South America and South Africa.

He boasted that funds to assist Croat minorities in 12 European countries had increased by 50% compared to 2016 and that Croatia has agreements on the protection of ethnic minority rights with four countries: Hungary, Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro.

Milas underscored however that since 1991, Croats in Slovenia do not have any status. "That means that they aren't treated as a national minority or linguistic minority," Milas said adding that a commission was established in 2017 aimed at resolving the status of the Croat community in that country.

He said the office focused mainly on assisting the Croat people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that funds had increased by 20% in 2017 compared to 2016, financing 88 projects.

The office granted 500 scholarships in the 2016/2017 academic year for Croat students and secured additional funding for the University in Mostar and the national theatre in that city. An agreement with the University of Zagreb signed in 2017 provided for a special enrolment quota for Croat students from abroad and launched an online Croatian language course.

More diaspora news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Croatia Worried about Fate of Croats Living in Venezuela

ZAGREB, February 27, 2018 - The situation in Venezuela, which has a Croatian community of about 5,000 people, continues to deteriorate as the authorities do not allow deliveries of the most essential humanitarian aid, Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said in Brussels on Monday. She attended a meeting of EU foreign ministers who discussed the situation in Venezuela, relations with Moldova and the Middle East peace process.