Thursday, 16 July 2020

Nadean Stone: 40 Year Journey To Find Her Croatian Birth Parents

July 16, 2020 - We bring you an uplifting story about a recently published book titled "No Stone Unturned: A Remarkable Journey to Identity" by Nadean Stone, a member of the National Federation of Croatian Americans, about her decades-long search for her birth parents.

I first talked with the author in March, when she emailed me to share her amazing story that led to the discovery of her Croatian ancestry. Her story begins in Canada, where between 1945 and 1973, almost 350,000 unmarried Canadian mothers were persuaded, coerced, or forced into giving their babies up for adoption. (Andrews, Valerie: White Unwed Mother: The Adoption Mandate in Postwar Canada, Demeter Press, Toronto 2018.) Many babies were illegally given away, like a puppy at the pound, for a nominal donation to the church. Nadean shared with me that, “On Christmas Eve, 1952 I became one of those babies. From the moment my grandmother disclosed the story of my adoption, my birthday wish every year was to find my mother.” Nadean started her search in 1973 when she was 20.

Nadean and Great Uncle Mon      Oncle.jpg
Nadean with her Great-Uncle 

In 2008, the Province of Ontario changed its law, enabling legally adopted persons to access their birth registration records. That document usually contained the birth mother’s name at the time of the child’s birth, her home address, age, religion, nationality, and professional occupation. Armed with that information, the adoptee could then search Ontario databases, telephone directories and in time locate their birth parent. Birth father names were seldom placed on this document as it was not a requirement. After many communication exchanges with the provincial government, the hospital where Nadean was born and the Children’s Aid Society, she discovered that adoption had never taken place. Nadean was simply given away by Mother Superior at the hospital. This resulted in denial of her access to any birth records.

In 2013, Nadean increased her search efforts with an intense focus on DNA. She had concluded that “DNA became my only source of hope. In December 2013, I tested with 23andMe but didn’t know how to proceed with a search. However, the DNA indicated that I was of Eastern European descent, with one Croatian parent. A DNA genetic genealogist, Olivia, found my post on a Canadian adoption website in February 2017 and offered to assist. Olivia had me test on Ancestry to ensure we covered all possibilities and Olivia downloaded my DNA info to GEDmatch, a website designed to assist adoptees.”

Olivia and Nadean divided their responsibilities. Nadean sent messages through both Ancestry and 23andMe portals to all her new cousins asking them to share their DNA, family surnames, residences in Europe, the US, and Canada, family trees. They explained the mission to find her birth mother. Nadean messaged more than 150 cousins at numerous times during the journey. As the months progressed, many of the “cousins” became invested in her search. They exchanged personal email addresses and telephone numbers, creating a “Village of Cousins” desperate to help “the baby find its mother.”

Ancestry DNA found Nadean’s birth father’s family in June 2017 when his daughter tested. I asked Nadean how it felt to hear the news and she exclaimed that "I never thought I would find my birth father. I thought the chances of finding my mother were slim and even if she was alive, she might not be well or have the mental capacity or desire to share his identity. I must say that finding him first through DNA, was truly a miracle." It turned out that Nadean’s father, Vinko Tatarević died in 2000. Vinko was a Croatian fighter pilot during World War II, a Croatian Ace who was featured in a book called Croatian Aces of World War II. Vinko is considered to be a hero in his home town of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Nadean as a 2 year old on the farm .jpg
2-year-old Nadean on the farm

In finding Vinko, Nadean and Olivia zeroed in on the remote town he immigrated to in Canada in the early 1950s. Nadean and her husband Bill traveled there in August 2017, set up in the town’s library and texted addresses of names and addresses of possible family members from 1951, 1952, and 1953 telephone directories to Olivia who compared them to her spreadsheets. On their last day in town, they abandoned the library and utilized detective skills. They sought out elderly Croatians who might have known her birth parents in 1952. Nadean shared her story and explained that finding her mother was her only remaining wish in life. Nadean shared that “We found the house where Vinko lived during the 1950s and took photos and we found Peterson Electric where he had worked." The ownership had changed and they no longer had his employment records. They visited the Croatian Hall, the Croatian Catholic Parish, and the Multicultural Association sharing all around the purpose of their visit. Bill found a listing that day as well for the Croatian Recreational Center. Nadean called and left a message with their departure imminent.

There was a big break when Leonard, an elderly Croatian man called with the news later that evening. Leonard said he knew Vinko very well. They had both worked initially at the bush camps upon arrival in Canada. Although Vinko was older than Leonard, Vinko had been very good to him and had taken care of him. He told Nadean that Vinko was very handsome and all the women in North Bay were in love with him. Leonard did add that he did not know any of Vinko’s girlfriends. 

Although not successful on that trip, Nadean continued in her dogged efforts to find her mother, resulting in an astonishing journey with a miraculous ending. Nadean started a memoir in 2017 as her life was already replete with unbelievably daunting life challenges, including a harrowing escape from a Caribbean island. As one reviewer noted, “This book is a MUST READ. Never judge a book by its cover. Don’t let the beauty and softness of Nadean fool you. She is tough as stone. No Stone Unturned is a real-life story that contains all the elements for a great movie: Real-life drama, pain, suspense, romance, royalty, politics, and more. You will cry, laugh, and get angry. Thank you Nadean for being transparent and opening up your soul to share such personal details.”

Her goal in writing the memoir is to use it as a platform for change. Nadean hopes to bring attention to the issue and to petition the Province of Ontario to amend the law enabling non-adoptees equal rights to their records. She has consulted with a leading civil rights attorney in Toronto who is interested in this precedent-setting case. In July 2018, Nadean filed a petition with the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child illuminating numerous Articles of the UN Convention that the Province of Ontario has violated in its treatment of illegally adopted children.

It was over several conversations with the author that the objective of her lifelong journey and her book became clear and Nadean said it best last week with her quote that, "My goal is to inspire readers to find faith, hope and the courage to persevere, despite the odds and to never give up." Her memoir, No Stone Unturned – A Remarkable Journey to Identity is available on Amazon. She also created a Birth Search Directory on her website to assist adoptees in their search,

Nadean's book is a riveting story that I highly recommend to all readers who want to be inspired at this time of a pandemic. It is a triumphant memoir of courage and perseverance, a story of love on many levels, and proves the miraculous and joyous ending we can achieve when we never give up!


If you want to learn more about Croatian diaspora, follow our dedicated section.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Annual National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation Meeting Held

July 2, 2020 - If you're surprised to hear that the Annual Assembly of Delegates of The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation took place over Zoom, one has to wonder what you've been doing for the past six months! 

The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation celebrated its 27th Annual Assembly of Delegates meeting, and not in Philadelphia as planned, but with three virtual zoom events. This year within a COVID-19 pandemic, the weekend opened with a virtual "Happy Hour" zoom celebration on Friday, June 5th, and a fundraiser for Croatia's Special Olympics. We were honored to have specials guests including world-famous winemaker Miljenko Grgich, filmmaker Nikola Knez and singer, Tony Butala of The Lettermen all zoomed in and spoke to our sixty participants.

The virtual guests were first entertained by the Croatian Fraternal Union's 354, The St. George Combo consisting of Derek Hohn, Marlene Luketich-Kochis, Bernadette Luketich-Sikaras, Marko Kochis and Dan Kochis got the party started with two Croatian songs: "Zdigni Casu." and "Jabuke." Annie Bosko, 2019 NFCACF "40 Under 40” winner closed as a featured entertainer and spoke to explain how her song "The Fighter" became her tribute to the COVID-19 front line workers! Annie's song was a big hit and as her powerful video played on the screen, a few tears were shed by several Croatian Americans.

Author Nadean Stone discussed her book "No Stone Unturned: A Remarkable Journey to Identity" which has been called "riveting" and received an Amazon 5-star review. Nadean's 44-year emotional roller coaster search for her identity brought over 100 Croatian cousins into her life. Nadean was finally able to finally track down her birth parents though she was thwarted for years by Canadian adoption laws. Nikola Knez, the filmmaker spoke about his recent film "Operation Storm" which the NFCACF showcased on Capitol Hill in October 2019. Mirena Bagur, representing Premium Wines of Boston shared her lifelong respect to Miljenko Grgich with a few stories. Mirena’s firm sells wonderful Croatian wines including Plavac Mali, Pošip, Plavac Mali Rose, and Saints Hill Dingač too.

Tony Butala, the founder and singer of The Lettermen made a guest appearance and shared a few career highlights about his illustrious career which included nine gold albums. It was discussed too how the song "The Way You Look Tonight” was a hit by The Lettermen in 1962 and two years before Frank Sinatra ever recorded it. Tony Butala won an NFCACF Lifetime achievement award in 2016 and has been active over the years within the Croatian American community and has headlined over fifteen successful Croatian fundraisers.

Andrea Novak Neumann was the executive producer of the sixty-minute NFCACF Croatian Happy Hour production and Eric Gregrich, managed the auction bids and items throughout the program. The auction winners and top bidders were Joe Brajevich, Marko Buljan, Carol Gartland, Mirena Bagur, Sanja Newman, Vedran Joseph Nazor and Dr. Damira Caric.

NFCACF thanks all the sponsors for the night: Grgich Hills Winery; Croatian Premium Wines (Boston); National Croatian Fraternal Union office; Herman Mihalich with his PA Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey, Nikola Knez (DVD films); Nena Komarica with her donation of Katunar Zlahtina wine. Andrea Novak Neumann introduced to attendees, the NFCA Clothing line which can be found at the website:

On Saturday morning, June 6th, the 27th Annual Assembly of Delegates meeting commenced and with thirty delegates on line for the private meeting. President Steve Rukavina opened up the morning proceedings with his annual State of the Union address with a focus on many of the past year’s priority activities. He mentioned that the organization is involved now with the management of two Catholic Church restoration projects in Croatia. He discussed: partnering with American Airlines and Croatia's Tourism Ministry regarding non-stop flights to Dubrovnik; raising $21,000 for the MUO-Arts and Craft Museum in Zagreb for restoration after the earthquake; arranging six "40 Under 40” award events; the on-going DTT and the Visa Waiver program activities and an October Croatian Congressional Caucus event. The NFCACF President stressed the significance of our continued dialogue with both the US and Croatian ambassadors and with the US State Department. He mentioned his very successful trip to Croatia, the summer of 2019 which included two dinners with the US Ambassador, a major Special Olympics event in Gospić, and meetings in Dubrovnik. He concluded with thanking the Board Members for all their volunteer time, keeping the organization very active and making a difference on a shoestring budget.

Next, the NFCACF National Treasurer, Eric Gregrich presented all the financial balances, listed all the group’s physical assets, and predicted a "budget neutral" year of 2020. The NFCACF committees gave their virtual reports live to all the delegates. The first one was about by-laws by John Kraljic with a few new clauses especially dealing with virtual-telephonic conferences. The BiH Croat Task Force with Zvonko Labas and Biljana Lovrinovic Abel shared a few updates about projects in motion and the recent controversy about a Mass in Sarajevo to honor the victims of the Tito Communist regime. The Special Projects committee members, Steve Rukavina and Vedran Nazor presented details about two new Catholic Church Restoration projects in Jelsa (Hvar) and in Racisce (Korcula) that the NFCACF are partnering with. The Social Media Chair Adam Radman outlined new developments with Facebook, social media and with the website. The Sports Hall of Fame Chair, Vedran Nazor highlighted the plans and process over the next 12-15 months for this exciting initiative. Dr. Dinko Podrug, Chair of the Art Committee shared updates about our collaboration with the MUO-Arts and Craft Museum and about our three NFCACF paintings there. He was very pleased that we were able to raise $21,000 for the relief fund for the Museum.

The delegates heard from Anna Maria Sicenica regarding the 2019 minutes from the Pittsburgh annual meeting. Also, a Croatian Fraternal Union report came from CFU President Ed Pazo with many highlights especially about the 125th Anniversary weekend in September 2019 in Pittsburgh. The Washington Report was next from NFCACF Public Affairs consultant, Joe Foley, which included Visa Waiver and Double Taxation Treaty updates and details about a Capitol Hill Croatian Congressional Caucus event in October 2019. The delegates heard a Medical Tourism and ACAP update from Dr. Steve Pavletic and a report by Nena Komarica about some proposed collaboration with the Archeological Institute of America and their commitment to support Zagreb's Archaeology Museum.
Next, the delegates elected the 2020-2021 Officers and Board members first re-electing all officers from the previous year including Steve Rukavina-President (PA), Andrea Novak Neumann-Executive Vice President (MN), Frank Jerbich-1st VP (IL), Mario Spalatin-2nd VP (FL), John Kraljic-3rd VP (NY) and Eric Gregrich-National Treasurer (MD). Finally, the Executive Committee was finalized with the election of officers-at-large: Bernadette Luketich-Sikaras (PA), Biljana Lovrinovic Abel (OH), Carolyn Bruno (MN), Zvonko Labas (MD). The election of Anna Maria Sicenica (PA) as the National Secretary, completed all the positions on the Executive Committee.

Annie Bosko

Also, the following delegates were elected to the NFCACF Board including Lydia Antoncic (NY), Vido Artukovich (CA), Marko Buljan (CA), Marko Kirn (MN), Nena Komarica (NJ), Jim Kresnik (NE), Tatjana Mustac (NY), Tom Mustac (NY), Vedran Nazor (PA), Sanja Newman (MD), Dr. Steve Pavletic (MD), Mark Plavetic (MD), Adam Radman (DC), Jelena Rudela (NY), Tom Steich (MD) and Ron Zivic (OH). The CFU delegation of President Ed Pazo, Franjo Bertovic, Derek Hohn, and Michael Ricci were delegates at this meeting.

The Saturday afternoon public webinar with sixty participants first featured the US Ambassador to Croatia, Bob Kohorst. The US Ambassador gave a detailed report on several major issues of interest and first saluted the 27 years of US-Croatia relations. He cited the overall significance of US-Croatia NATO relationship. He discussed the many obstacles facing the efforts to secure the Avoidance of a Double Taxation Treaty (DTT) and why it's more complicated for a small country. He outlined the many other priority issues that keep the U.S. Treasury Department from negotiating with Croatia at this time and with over 100 countries already on their DTT list. There’s better news with the VISA waiver program which may be possible this year with hopes Croatia will achieve a less than 3% refusal rate and complete all the Department of Homeland Security protocols and requirements by September 30th. Ambassador Kohorst was very positive about how Croatia handled the COVID-19 health challenge. Finally, he spoke positively about Croatia's recent success securing contracts for their floating Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, near the island of Krk and which in his estimation has become an important security issue and the existence should result with less energy reliance on Russia, for all of Southeast Europe.

Ambassador Pjer Šimunović spoke about currently holding the seat of Presidency of the European Council and unfortunately so many events had to be postponed due to the pandemic. He explained how Croatia's EU Presidency then became more "crisis" management than the planned focus on future programs and policies for the EU. He detailed how the EU intends support to help the economy and tourism of Croatia and all EU countries to offshoot the expected losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Croatian Ambassador shared that the Washington, DC Embassy will continue all their work with the on-going DTT and VISA waiver projects.

The former US Senator Mark Begich of Alaska spoke about his official role in Alaska with COVID-19 economic development initiatives, especially about dynamic supply chain links. Mark is very proud that his father was the first Croatian American Congressman and mentioned his nephew Nick, a NFCACF "40 Under 40” winner, has a successful business located in Zagreb. The former Mayor of Anchorage mentioned he would welcome the chance to get involved with a Croatian project in the future.

Former US Senator Mark Begich 

National CFU President Ed Pazo spoke next and shared some wonderful highlights from the 125th anniversary. Brother Pazo was very pleased that Madam President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic attended the September 2019 banquet with 675 others, including Pittsburgh's Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and prominent Congressman Mike Doyle. The CFU President cited how proud he was of the CFU Earthquake relief fund which raised $150,000 kuna and was sent recently to the Croatian Red Cross.

The public webinar finished with three brief presentations. First, from Joe Foley, the NFCACF Public Affairs Consultant shared details and updates about Capitol Hill activities. Then two partnering organizations based in Zagreb spoke next: Sladjana Tatic, from Croatia's Special Olympics, talked about their successful six-year partnering relationship with the NFCACF and their great appreciation of all the NFCACF financial support; Miroslav Gasparovic, from the MUO-Arts and Crafts Museum, shared details about the earthquake cleanup and their appreciation for our relief donation and for showcasing a few leased NFCACF paintings housed there.

There was no closing dinner this year during this pandemic crisis and there are plans for the 28th Annual Assembly of Delegates to be held in Philadelphia, in June of 2021. The NFCACF organization thanks everyone whose energy, support, and virtual vision made this annual meeting a unique success at a surreally challenging time for all of us.


To read more about Croatian diaspora (and the Croatian Americans), visit our dedicated Diaspora section.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

National Federation of Croatian Americans Relief Fund For MUO-Art Museum in Zagreb

June 6, 2020 - The 140th-anniversary celebrations for The Museum of Arts and Crafts, (MUO, Muzej za Umjetnost i Obrt), which started on 17th February were interrupted by a strong 5.5 magnitude earthquake. Croatian Americans decided to help.

The MUO Museum sustained considerable damages from the March 22nd Zagreb earthquake on that Sunday morning. The series of aftershocks caused considerable damages to the building and its artwork. The building has three severely damaged zones: the south wing corridor in the first and second floors, the extension along the north wall of the south wing, and the southwest corner of the mezzanine on the main staircase between the ground and the first floor. The MUO Museum sustained architectural damages but also many objects and artifacts of value and importance for the cultural heritage of Zagreb, Croatia, and beyond were also damaged. In the efforts on deciding to help Zagreb with the earthquake damages, the National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation leadership decided it was best to focus on our group's contribution to MUO. Our strong relationship with MUO Museum dates back to December 2017, in a ceremony, where the museum put on display "Madonna and Child", a major work by Dalmatian-Venetian painter Andrea Schiavone (also known as Andrija Medulić), which was donated to the NFCACF by Dr. Dinko Podrug, and is now leased to the museum. Fortunately, the painting and two other NFCACF-donated items remained undamaged. 

Andrija Medulic Schiavone Painting: Bogorodica S Djetetom

On April 2nd, the NFCACF started a modest fundraising drive to promptly gather and send to MUO, by appealing to NFCACF members to send a tax-deductible donation to NFCACF, with a note for the “MUO Earthquake Fund”. It was good news that one NFCACF supporter extended $5,000 of matching funds to jumpstart our effort on April 4th. The NFCACF raised funds from the group's quarterly newsletter that was sent to all our members, 300 personal emails, and through Facebook outreach. It was recognized that the MUO Art Museum had urgent needs for these funds to prevent further damage and to start with the needed restoration.

The NFCACF President Steve Rukavina proudly stated that "We are pleased to announce that we raised $21,000 US dollars for our NFCACF-MUO Relief Fund." It should be noted that all funds will be spent to clean, repair, and perform maintenance to protect and enhance the Museum’s art collections. We would like to acknowledge that major donations for this MUO Art Museum relief fund were received from Dr. Dinko Podrug, from Peter and Jessica Frankopan and The Staples Trust and from Kresimir Penavic and his AIC Foundation and from one anonymous donor.

The NFCACF will host it 27th Annual Assembly of Delegates June 5-6 and the public webinar session on June 6th will include featured guest speakers: US Ambassador Bob Kohorst, Croatian Ambassador Pjer Simunovic, former US Senator Mark Begich and Croatian Fraternal Union President Ed Pazo and MUO Art Museum Director Miroslav Gasparovic. This year's assembly will be all virtual meetings and on June 5th, Croatian Americans will host a "Happy Hour" as a fundraiser for Croatia's Special Olympics.

Mark Plavetic, the NFCACF 2020 Rudy Perpich Summer Fellow is a co-author of this article.


To find out more about the Croatian diaspora, follow our dedicated section. 

Monday, 13 January 2020

Trump Is My Idol: Croatian Tycoon Vladimir Kraljević Gushes

“I was with Trump the night he decided to attack Iran,” gushes Croatian American tycoon Vladimir Kraljević, who was at an exclusive New Year’s Eve party with the US president, the night he made that fateful decision. It felt tenser than usual that night. He came to the party late and was among the first to leave. But he still said to me, "Love you man."

It all started abruptly and took place in 30 seconds. Trump got up from the table and headed for the exit. Frowning, he crossed the hall, then noticed a man he knew among the crowd. Vladimir Kraljević waved at him immediately, and Trump in a rare rush of goodwill that evening, smiled and pointed his thumbs up. It was a sign that Kraljević could approach him, as he excitedly recounted his in-person encounter with the US President.


Trump's Ardent Supporter Gets to Shake His Hand

“A firm handshake, two or three sentences and a photo opportunity, that's how it always goes with Trump,” Kraljević tells me. I am your ardent supporter, and a loyal American from Europe; was the first thing he said to the president and put out his hand.

"Love you, love you man," Trump replied as Kraljević's wife breathlessly pulled out her cellphone and took pictures of them together, according to Tomislav Novak/Jutarnji List on January 12, 2020.

Trump patted Kraljević on the shoulder and then, with Melania dressed in a spectacular Givenchy dress, retired for the evening. It was just past midnight, at the luxurious Mar-a-Lago resort, and the world had just sailed into 2020. At Trump's traditional New Year's party of 740 people, Vladimir Kraljević and his wife Marija were the only Croatians and among only a few from Europe who attended.

Kraljević Witnesses History in the Making

So, by chance, Kraljević witnessed a crucial moment in history, because Trump made a risky decision at his resort that day: to execute Iranian General Kasem Suleimani and put him in danger of a serious conflict with Iran.

“It felt like Trump was a little more tense than usual that night," Kraljević remembers. The US president is among the first to arrive at his New Year's party, giving speeches, a toast, and sometimes leading the countdown to midnight while the entire ballroom watches the ball roll down Times Square in New York.

“This time he was among the last to arrive. He briefly addressed the press at the entrance, and immediately after midnight he was among the first to leave. He didn't hold a toast,” describes a disappointed Kraljević ten days later at the Esplanada Hotel, a sort of Kraljević pop up office, where he often holds court and receives reporters as a Miss Universe Croatia license holder.


Tuđman Ordered Kraljević to Obtain Miss Universe License

That license is also the most important link between him and Trump. The US president was one of New York's leading businessmen when he bought the stumbling enterprise from ITT in 1996, and along with NBC, turned it into an event that is watched by more than one billion people. And Kraljević, who was living in New York at the time, was contacted by President Franjo Tudjman himself regarding the license Trump owned.

“I remember as if it were yesterday, it was three o'clock in the morning when the phone rang in my apartment. I heard a voice on the other end when I answered, but didn't immediately recognize that it was Tudjman, Kraljević recounts.

“Kraljević, by God, so everyone, including Serbia, is licensed for Miss Universe. Bring that opportunity to us in Zagreb, it will be a great promotion of the country,” the late Croatian President proclaimed to him.

After meeting Tuđman in Zagreb, Kraljević reached out to Trump through his acquaintances and settled the license and gained a rather powerful acquaintance at the same time. A member of the Republican Party member since the 1970s, he has managed to get a coveted seat at Trump’s exclusive New Year's Eve celebration.

Membership Fee for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago $200,000

This is a very exclusive event for Mar-a-Lago club members and Trump's closest friends. And the cost of joining the club is about 200,000 USD (180,000 EUR) upfront, plus an annual fee of 14,000 USD (12,500 EUR). The price tag of a chair at the New Year's Eve party was 560 USD (504 EUR) three years ago, according to foreign media, but that has risen to a thousand USD (900 EUR).

“Once they approved me for a table with eight seats, preparations began for the trip, which lasted four months in total. I needed to find people to come with me and my wife, Marija, and hand over my passport for a background check,” he tells me.

Regarding the background check, Kraljević assumes that the CIA plays a role. In the end, besides Marija, they were joined by Michael Pfaller, one of the sponsors of Miss Universe Croatia and entrepreneur from Graz; New York entrepreneur Charles Paris, and Stephen Fanuka, an interior designer for the rich and famous whose father is a Croat from Ugljan.


People Arrive at Mar-a-Lago by Limo or Private Plane Only

They arrived from Paris three days early, and the Kraljevićs stayed at their summer residence in Pompano Beach. Then they headed to the Mar-a-Lago resort in a rented limo the afternoon of the party. Or as Kraljević points out, it’s a place where taxi drivers refuse to drive. People only fly to Mar-a-Lago in private jets or arrive in limousines.

“We waited half an hour in the limo. During this time, the Secret Service checked our information and the limo itself, from the undercarriage to the engine. The level of security was intense but very professional and friendly. The day before, we had to send over the limo driver’s personal information even though he had to leave us at the entrance. Once they checked everything, we were allowed inside, through the first, second and third entrance,” says Kraljević.

Despite all these checks, everything went without a hitch, so right before 7pm, they finally found themselves in line for the red carpet draped across a perfectly landscaped lawn, where they arrived at a welcome cocktail set up by the outdoor pool. Each guest was personally greeted by managing director, Bernd Lembcke, who was very hospitable.

“During the welcome cocktail, we chatted with other guests. Some of them were curious about how we had arrived, specifically on what kind of private jet. They were confused when we told them Lufthansa,” he laughs.

“And the ensuing dinner is between nine in the evening and half past one in the morning,” Kraljević says, while eagerly showing off the menu. Trump appeared later at the beginning of dinner and gave a brief speech to reporters.

Trump Rule: Must Give Thumbs Up Before Photo Opportunity

Everyone who has ever been to his New Year's Eve knows the one key rule. Trump will shake hands with everyone, but he can only be approached for a photo shoot if he gives a thumbs up.

“Simply, 740 guests are too many people to talk to. For the same reason, he did not approach Trump at the table where he sat with his family, because otherwise he would spend the entire evening welcoming guests,” explains Kraljević.

Kraljević's life path is already well-known, as a young immigrant to America in the 1970s he worked as a maître d' at many famous New York restaurants of that era, such as the Russian Tea Room, a cult Art Deco hangout located between Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Tower, and Central Park’s Tavern on the Green.

His boss was the legendary Warner LeRoy, both the son of Mervyn LeRoy and grandson of Harry Warner, one of the founders of Warner Bros. Kraljević, who served many celebrities there such like John Wayne, Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra and others, first met Donald's father Fred, who gave him some essential advice.

Kraljević Confused by Trump Senior’s Advice for Success

“I was young, crazy and eager for success. ‘Happy go lucky’ is a term that describes it well (laughs). I approached Fred and asked him directly: ‘I want to be successful and rich like you, what do I do?’ Fred Trump paused, looked into the distance and answered.

"Do something nice for the people around you," he told him. Kraljević didn’t understand him at first.

“It took me years to conclude that this was the best piece of advice he could have given me,” he reveals.

Fred occasionally came to the restaurant for lunch with Donald, so Kraljević met him too, and the rest is history. He recalls traveling Europe with Marija during the presidential election and lobbying American citizens who live here to vote for Trump.

"There are three million Americans living in Europe, but you won't find a more ardent Trump supporter than I am," he claims.


Kraljević Does Not Need to Boast About Trump Friendship

“I do not want to be misunderstood; we would not meet for coffee. We are not that close, and I have no need to brag about our acquaintance. We have met twenty times over the years, always briefly, but I can say that he is my idol and I believe that he is an honest man, and not racist at all. People often say negative things about Trump, the media doesn't like him, and much is written about him.

“However, as someone who knows him, I can only praise him. In three years, he has done more for America than all the previous presidents put together: unemployment has never been lower, and the stock market has broken all records. He abolished many unnecessary taxes and has relieved Americans of their tax burdens. He is doing everything to improve the life of an average American,” says Kraljević.

Trump was always a five-sentence man, he says. He is always interested in whether we are going get something done and makes his decisions quickly because he has no time to waste.

“After Trump left, we stayed for another hour and headed home. People were dancing and having a great time. There was an unprecedented crowd on the podium and we soon realized that getting home was even harder than getting into the party. The roads were jammed, and it took us a long time to arrive home. I feel lucky, of course, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Kraljević gushes.

No Celebrities Present at Trump’s 2020 New Year’s Party

Trump's New Year's party has traditionally featured superstars like Sylvester Stallone, Woody Allen, Rod Stewart, Serena Williams and Martha Stewart, but Kraljević says he didn’t notice any prominent celebrities this year.

"I think there were more gems and furs in that room at that moment than anywhere else in the world," he says excitedly.

Trump's critics, however, are telling Kraljević that a US president should not holding private dinners on New Year's Eve, from which he makes an income. He ignores the naysayers. Mar-a-Lago's revenue is about 27 million USD (24.3 million EUR) a year. Impressive.

"This will be a very good year again," Trump said at one point that night. If you ask Kraljević, he would surely agree. 

Follow our Politics page and Lifestyle page to keep updated on Croatian tycoons, celebrities and US presidents. 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Inaugural Domovina Birthright Program Trip to Croatia in July 2019

Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP), working with the Croatian government, has organized a 16-day cultural and educational immersion tour of Croatia called the Domovina Birthright Program Trip. The idea of the program is to take the young adults of Croatian descent (ages 18 – 30), who wish to learn about their heritage, explore Croatia, connect with their Croatian identity and meet other young Croatian adults on an amazing trip to Croatia! Eligible individuals for the trip are those who identify as Croatian and have at least one Croatian birth grandparent. All participants must be between 18 and 30 as of July 1, 2019 and have finished high school by the time their trip departs (meaning they need to be born between July 2, 1988 and July 1, 2001.)

The participants will travel throughout the country, explore sites of historic, cultural, and religious significance, hike and take in Croatia’s varied landscape and nature. One of the greatest things about the program is the fact that young people living in Croatia will also be joining in on the trip, helping navigate Croatia and introducing their guests from the States to what it’s like to live in Croatia.

The itinerary starts on July 10, and finishes on July 25 in Zagreb. It includes visits to the heroic city of Vukovar, the wine cellars of Ilok, the Osječka Tvrđa, the Istrian gems: Bale, Grožnjan, Pula and Rovinj, the most beautiful Croatian islands: Brijuni, Vis and Kornati, the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, the Knin Fortress, the hidden beauties of Imotski and Pakoštane, Zadar and Šibenik, the Dubrovnik riviera. The participants will have to pay $1,250 towards the total cost of the trip, and that does not include the flight to Croatia (which you have to pay on your own). Hotels, transportation in Croatia, meals etc. are included in the aforementioned fee.

For more details on Domovina Birthright Program, including how to apply, please go to CroAmPro website.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Minnesota Honors Several Croatian Americans at their 37th Annual Christmas Party

Croatian Americans were honored in Minnesota at the 38th annual Christmas party.