Thursday, 1 July 2021

Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute Expanding Scientific Cooperation in Sarajevo (BiH)

July 2, 2021 - Dedication to researching and developing the field of social sciences sees the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute expanding scientific cooperation once again after Željko Holjevac's visit to Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute, active as always, continues to expand its cooperation on scientifically explain social issues (symbolically noted as 2021 marks 30 years of the Institute).

As reported on their official website, Institute headmaster dr. Željko Holjevac visited Sarajevo, the capital city of the neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, from June 21-23.

The main story of that visit was a signed bilateral cooperation agreement between the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute and the Sarajevo Catholic Faculty. The agreement was signed by Holjevac and Faculty dean dr. Darko Tomašević.

Additionally, Holjevac was at the reception with Vrhbosanski's vice bishop Vinko Puljić.

„They talked about possible shared projects that would be adjusted to the tradition, culture and developing needs of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina“, informed Ivo pilar social research Institute.

Croatian Cultural Society Napredak (progress) also met with Holjevac. Napredak soon celebrates 120 years of work and was founded at the start of the 20th century when the famous Croatian social scientist Pilar was active in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Napredak plans various manifestations for their big anniversary, and dr. Holjevac discussed the possible cooperation in organizing an international scientific symposium regarding the identity of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Ivo Pilar Institute working in full speed

This sort of cooperation in regards to researching the Croatian diaspora in the neighboring country where the Croatian historical role and present is significant is nothing new for the Ivo Pilar Social research Institute.

As TCN reported earlier in May, the Institute, along with scientific partners, organized a conference “Identity of Boka Kotorska Croatians“, and the three-day event gathered crucial scientific institutes in Croatia to the town of Tivat in the Bay of Croatian Saints in Montenegro.

Scientists from the Institute were also active this year as they participated at European Conference For Social Work Research (ECSWR), International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) Conference, and also by presenting a book on Croatian Mountain Rescue Service in Gospić, or by presenting book Cultural Identity of Vukovar – Contribution to Investigating Heritage and Successors“ – to list some of the activities TCN reported on throughout 2021.

As 2021 marks the 30th year anniversary of the Ivo Pilar Institute, apart from the aforementioned actions (to which we can include nurturing relations with scientific colleagues in Slovakia or opening a new research office on Vis Island), several more goals were envisioned by the end of the year: to publish the first edition of critical translation for the book „South Slavic (Yugoslav) Question“ by Ivo Pilar from 1918, and to make and publish Pilar's Kaleidoskop of Croatian society.

With the active academic dynamic demonstrated by the Institute, there is no doubt there is enough quality and capacity to achieve these goals. It is only a matter of time in such a busy and productive schedule.

Learn more about Croatian Diaspora on our TC page.

For more about science in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Croatian Diaspora in South America: The Story of Nadia from Argentina

June 17, 2021 - Reuniting with your Croatian ancestry can go in many ways. Many of the Croatian diaspora in South America tirelessly seek to trace their roots, and several of them without success. The chances of accidentally meeting your distant relatives are always low, but this is what surprisingly happened to Nadia from Argentina.

Every year, lists are written in media and blogs everywhere to rank Croatian destinations, facts, and people, but I don't know if it has occurred to anyone before that Croatia, in addition to its beaches, its islands, its nature, its Roman, Venetian, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslav heritage, its geniuses (both in science and sport) and more, Croatia could also be known for its surprises. It is true that being Croatian, of Croatian descent, or living in Croatia can surprise one on various occasions, and not always in a negative way.

Of course, there are known surprises that one can get when going to the police station to carry out a procedure, or when sitting at the table of a Croatian family at lunch, or after a rakija tasting. But some of its most interesting events happen when reconnecting with your Croatian ancestry. Not only through my own experience, but I know of many, many people over the years who have failed to find out more about their ancestors rather than the simple fact that they were Croats.

As the years go by, it becomes more difficult to connect the evidence that one finds to solve numerous questions such as the year their ancestor was born, where they were born, when did they leave Croatia, why did they leave Croatia, what did they do while living there, what did they do after arriving at their new country, and so on. This is very difficult to solve, especially for the large Croatian diaspora in South America, a distant continent in so many ways beyond what’s measurable. If there’s something I know, it is that one of the decisions that can facilitate this search is to return to the mother country. It is not a guarantee, but it can definitely bring you closer to the answer you are looking for.

But what if one is not looking for it? It does not mean that there is no type of interest, but precisely it ceases to be a priority when it becomes so difficult to know something about our origins. When you find something you were looking for, it always brings a pleasant sense of success and fulfillment. But when it is unexpected, the feeling of joy can be equal or even greater. This is what I thought when I first heard about Nadia's experience. But I feel like the story will feel more magical if it is shared through her own words. Meet Nadia Milevčić, a returnee from Argentina.

What country are you from and when were you born?

I am from Argentina, I was born in Buenos Aires in October 1994.

When did you know that you were of Croatian descent?

I can't give you an exact date because it's something I've known for as long as I can remember. Perhaps because of my last name, the fact of being of Croatian descent was always something very present. My dad's four grandparents were Croatians and he talks a lot about them and the things they taught him. My grandmother, daughter of Croats, used to speak to me in Croatian when my brother and I were young. She also told me about our family, about the city of Split in Dalmacija, and about the history of Croatia as a country. For all these things, the Croatian heritage was very important in my family.

When did you decide to travel to Croatia and what motivated you?

In 2018 I started thinking about studying abroad because I wanted to have the experience of living in a totally different environment from mine. First I thought that this trip would be related to something in my career. At that time I had two years left to finish my Bachelor of Arts degree and I looked for some scholarships in other countries, but nothing appeared.

I started thinking about studying in Croatia when I went to the Buenos Aires embassy to find out how to begin the process of Croatian nationality and the woman who worked there told me about the Croaticum program. It seemed to me that the idea united my desire to live in a totally new place and also my desire to finally know that country that I had been told so much about. In March of that year, I began to work on my project and began to study Croatian in Buenos Aires while waiting for the opening of the call for the scholarship program. That year I applied but did not win. It was very disappointing, but later I understood that it was not yet my time to leave Argentina. In 2018 I also finished the annual Croatian course and continued to search for papers that could help me to prove my Croatian ancestry more clearly.

In 2019, the last year of my degree, I applied for the scholarship again and won it. That same year, a distant cousin of mine contacted me from Croatia saying that we were family. At that time my idea was not only to get to know the country of my great-grandparents and live in it for a while but also to reestablish the bond with the rest of my family in Croatia, of whom I did not know any of them.

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Nadia on the popular Biokovo Skywalk, the same day she met her distant Croatian relatives. (Personal album)

What was your impression when you first arrived?

My first impression of Croatia was that everything was very beautiful and that the people were very friendly. When I met my cousins ​​they seemed to me to be very open and very loving people. The first month I was delighted with everything I saw, it seemed to me that everything was very organized and I felt very safe.

How did that impression evolve over time?

After living here for a year and having moved several times, I also began to see the negative side. All countries have something good and something bad, it is normal. There are things that I don't like and I think that's part of living in the reality of a country and getting out of that stage of infatuation in which I was at the beginning. Now I have a more realistic impression.

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Nadia was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1994. All of her grandparents are Croatian. (Personal album)

What did you know about your relatives in Croatia?

It was always quite a complicated story because all of my dad's grandparents are Croatian and most of them had a very large family. I know a lot about my great-grandmother Ermenegilda Stanić because they were like twelve siblings and my grandmother went to Argentina because my great-great-grandfather arranged her marriage to a rancher so that she would have a good future in financial terms. When she arrived in Argentina she fell in love with my great-grandfather Duje Runje, a Croatian who worked as a laborer in that ranch. Obviously, it was something very strong for all of his family and my dad always talked to me about the two of them. He doesn't have much information about his paternal great-grandparents because my grandfather, Spiro Milevcic, died when my dad was four years old.

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Nadia, who was living and working in Rijeka at the time, decided to travel to Dalmatia for vacation. She hadn't planned to find out about her family on the trip. (Personal album).

Did you have any expectations or plans to meet them?

Yes, my dad has a book that the Stanić family wrote about the descent of the twelve siblings. All the names appear there, including mine. The whole family has it and thanks to that my cousin contacted me from Croatia. It was just the same year that I won the scholarship. She told me that she lived in Rijeka and thanks to that I chose this city as the place where I was going to study for the Croatian language scholarship. This is how I met the descendants of one of the Stanić brothers, but I also knew that she had much more family in Croatia. Last year I didn't meet anyone else because most of them live in Dalmacija.

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Lokva Rogoznica is a Dalmatian town, one hour away south of Split and 10 minutes away from Omiš. (Google Maps)

The day you met your distant relative, what were you doing and where?

Last month I went on vacation to Split and decided to go to Lokva Rogoznica, a town about an hour away because my great-grandmother was born there. My dad and my Croatian cousins ​​had asked me to go meet him, but it was not my plan to look for anyone there, just take a couple of photos and see what the place was like.
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''La Sirena'' autokamp, in Lokva Rogoznica, the town where Nadia's family originated. (Personal album).

How was the encounter?

We stopped at a sign on the route to take a picture of me and we wanted to go down to the beach. I saw that there was a sign for an autokamp and that the beach was private. I remembered my cousins ​​telling me that one of the Stanić was the owner of a campsite somewhere in Dalmacija, but I didn't know where. When we were about to go down to the beach, the owner of the campsite appeared and told me that the beach was private and that we couldn't enter. I don't know why it occurred to me that this could be my relative and I asked him if his last name was Stanić. He said yes and at that moment I told him that we were family because I was Ermenegilda's great-granddaughter. At that moment his face changed completely and he asked me if my great-grandmother had traveled to Argentina. When I said yes, he came closer to me and gave me a hug, and introduced himself as Milan Stanić.

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Nadia, soon after she met her distant relative, Milan Stanić. (Personal album)

How did you feel when the last names matched?

I felt very good and very strange at the same time. I was thinking of my dad because his desire was always to meet his Croatian family. I was the first person in my family to return to Croatia and from the first moment, I felt that it was my task to re-establish the bond with the other descendants. I also thought that I had come to take a photo and I ended up leaving with one more piece of my family. I like to think that it was something that had to happen and that it was time for us to meet.

What was his reaction when he found out?

He was very excited and very happy. From the first moment, he was very open with me and he introduced me to all of his family. That day we had lunch and dinner together. It was a very nice moment because all his daughters and his wife welcomed me very well and everyone was interested in talking to me.

Are you still in touch with him?

We don't talk every day, but I have his number and my cousin’s Facebook, so I can let them know the day I'm going to visit them again. They know that I am living in Rijeka and that I am working, but that at the end of the summer I am going to travel with my brother so that he can meet them too.

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Milan, his daughter, and Nadia. (Personal album)

What is your goal in Croatia? Would you like to stay?

My idea of ​​Croatia totally changed over time. When I arrived I planned to stay for only four months to study, but then I applied again for a second semester. I think that the decision to reapply for the scholarship was no longer motivated by the desire to know another culture, but was related to the fact that I felt good in Croatia and that I still did not want to go back to Argentina. Nowadays I am more established with the Croatian language and culture, but I cannot tell you that I want to stay permanently. I feel a strong connection to Croatia, but I also have my best friends and family in Argentina. Every day I miss my country and the people who live there and that is why I know that I will return to my country at some point. I sincerely feel that one half is here and another half is there in Argentina and for that reason, I would like to go and come back, spend some time in each country. I think it is a decision that is made every day. I can only tell you that today I choose to stay here.

The Croatian diaspora in South America is one of the largest in the world, and we at Total Croatia and Total Croatia News are committed to developing more on the subject in the coming months. If you belong to the Croatian diaspora in South America and want to share with us a story of reuniting with your distant relatives or your experience living in the land of your ancestors, you can send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more about the Croatian diaspora in South America, visit our dedicated page here.

Monday, 14 June 2021

National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation and Croatian Fraternal Union To Celebrate Thirty Years of Croatian Independence

June the 14th, 2021 - This article was co-written by Steve Rukavina and Anna Maria Sicenica, NFCACF Board Members.

On Saturday, June the 26th at 11:00am Eastern time, the NFCA will be co-hosting with the Croatian Fraternal Union, a global webinar salute to the founding of the Republic of Croatia's democracy. The NFCA’s webinar will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Independence Day and the honoring of another “Statehood Day” (1990 milestone) and Croatia’s successful and historic road to democracy and its independence achieved especially in the 1990-1991 time frame.

Please let us invite you to a virtual celebration to mark thirty plus years of Croatian Independence (Croatian: Dan Državnosti), filled with traditional Croatian music and notable speakers. This event, as stated, will be held on June the 26th via a webinar to benefit the Special Olympics organization in Croatia!

Register Now for the 30th Anniversary of Croatia's Independence Celebration Webinar

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We will also commemorate this momentous day with keynote speeches by Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, the former President of the Republic of Croatia, and Peter Galbraith, the first  U.S. Ambassador to Croatia. We are honored to feature co-headliners like these two very prominent diplomats and principals whose leadership to assist Croatia's developing democracy was so instrumental at critical junctures over the past thirty years.

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Independence Day festivities will include a live singing performance from Dubrovnik. Petar Sambrailo (left) and Marijo Anđelić (right), are well-known 1st and 2nd tenors in the Croatian Klapa world. Both have performed with the group Klapa Kaše, who have won many awards at Klapa festivals throughout Croatia.   

Finally, athletes from the Croatian Showshoeing Special Olympic Team (which qualified for the Russian Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2022) will talk to us about their sport and their achievements. Founded back in 1992, the Special Olympics in Croatia has forty affiliated chapters all over the country and brings 16 sports to over 1,300 Croatians. The organization's mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities to develop physical fitness and to find joy in the participation of sports. Croatia's Special Olympics organization has been led by Executive Director, Franjo Horvat and associate Sladjana Tatic for over twenty years.

The NFCA has four primary sponsorship tiers from $100 Bronze to $250 Silver from the $500 Gold to the $1,000 for the Platinum level. Of course, donations of any amount are welcome and encouraged! 100% of the sponsorship proceeds and earmarked funds raised during this event will go to Croatia's Special Olympics organization. The NFCA is very proud to be a major sponsor and partner of this truly incredible organization. For inquiries about donations, please contact Steve Rukavina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We hope you will join us for a wonderful seventy-five-minute event full of Croatian music, culture, and history on June 26th from the comforts of your home whether you're in Croatia, anywhere globally or here in the USA!  

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Marija Bistrica to Host Int'l Conference on Croatian Diaspora

ZAGREB, 5 June 2021 - Marija Bistrica will host on 10-11 June an international conference focusing on numerous topics of importance for Croatia's expat communities and the relationship towards them, the Croatian Heritage Foundation has announced.

The live conference is a continuation of the 4th Croatian Emigrant Congress, which was not completed in Zagreb last November due to the pandemic.

About 60 participants will analyse the challenges and prospects of Croatian emigrants in relation to the homeland, demographic challenges, and emigrants as promoters of Croatia.

The event will also be an opportunity to talk about the aid expats sent via their Catholic missions to the areas of Croatia struck by last year's earthquakes.

A cultural evening dedicated to the Croat community in Kosovo will be organised on 9 June, including a photo exhibition.

For more about the Croatian Diaspora, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Identity of Boka Kotorska Croatians - Scientific Conference by Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute

May 12, 2021 - Earlier in May, Boka Kotorska, in the town of Tivat in Montenegro, was the host of the scientific conference "Identity of Boka Kotorska Croatians" which will introduce changes in Croatian education.

Croatia has a big diaspora, no secrets there, but its worldwide spread makes you miss the region.

In Boka Kotorska, in Montenegro, Croatia's first neighbor on the southern border after Dubrovnik, not only is there a huge population of Croatians, but they also have a significant cultural impact on the area. So significant it even calls for social science to step in.

As Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute reported on its website, May 6 to 9 saw the conference “Identity of Boka Kotorska Croatians“. The three-day conference gathered crucial scientific institutes in Croatia to the town of Tivat in the Bay of Croatian Saints. Headed with Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute, Croatian Catholic University, Croatian Studies Faculty, Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics as well as Institute for Historical Sciences in Zadar attended the conference while Croatian ministries of European, and Foreign Affairs, Science and Education, Culture, and Media, as well as Croatian Central State Office for Croatians Outside of the Republic of Croatia, founded the event.

„The scientific conference went well as well as signing conclusions with recommendations that that knowledge on Bokelj Croatians we learned on this conference enter the Croatian national curriculum in important subjects. These conclusions are the crown of our efforts to launch this conference in public, not just in an academical way, but to massively popularize to ensure long-term benefits for Bokelj Croatians as for every educated citizen of Croatia and Montenegro“, said Dr. Željko Holjevac, head of the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute.

Conference conclusions suggest additions to the curriculum documents on key definitions of Croatian National Identity to make space for Croatians outside Croatia, including Boka Kotorska Croatians. Identity features and creativity of Bokelj Croatians in Croatian education, and the book „Boka Kotorska - the Bay of the Saints and Croatian Culture“, by Vanda Babić to be the mandatory literature for tourist guides in Montenegro.
Final meetings at the conference, as well as sailing with a „Katica“ ship through Boka Kotorska Bay, Saw the participation of Boris Bastijančić, the advisor and representative of the Montenegro president and representer of Croatian parliament and MP, Zdravka Bušić, and others.

„I'm glad to be at this scientific conference, and I want to thank everyone's effort for something like this to happen in Boka Kotorska. I would especially like to thank students that took part in this and gave their part as young people who love the truth of Boka, the place of saints. This is a message that we too need to do something to mark this time with love, hope, and faith“, said the Kotorska bishop, mons. Ivan Štironja.

Some Croatians live outside of Croatia, but maybe you would want to live in Croatia. Learn more about living in Croatia on our TC page

For more about the Croatian Diaspora, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Peru to Croatia: Returnee Perspective Two Years Later

April 17, 2021 - Two years ago I moved from Peru to Croatia. Thousands of returnees like me are hurting each year to leave our countries behind. But we have to look forward.

My parents taught me and my siblings from a very young age to value and appreciate the best of Peru: its people, our history, our culture, our traditions, our food, our ecosystems, and much more. That, no matter what, we should always speak with pride of our country when a foreigner asks us about it. In the same way, and as we have grown and had experiences that eventually proved it, we learned to recognize that there were not just one or two, but an immeasurable amount of problems in our country. And that we needed to recognize those them, criticize whoever we had to, and work on solutions to overcome those problems.

We have normalized a very harmful lifestyle, in which parents always say goodbye to their children when they go out to study, work, or with their friends with a ‘‘please, take care of yourself. Let me know when you arrive and let me know when you return’’. We have normalized discriminating against our compatriots based on where they live, the color of their skin, their way of speaking, and more. We have normalized reducing women to the minimum expression within society. We have normalized attacking gay or trans people and even make them invisible among the population. We have normalized that our natural resources should be exploited at the cost of the destruction of our environment and our Andean and indigenous communities. We have normalized electing politicians who represent self-interest and destructive ideals. We are now living in a country where everything is normal and terribly wrong at the same time.

The day came when I moved from Peru to Croatia. As I landed at the Franjo Tuđman Airport in October 2019 and looked down at the city of Zagreb, I thought about how I could put all my personal conflicts behind, but I couldn't help but think that I was leaving all that I had normalized for so long. It is part of who I am now. And not all of it was bad.

Six days ago, in the midst of one of our worst moments during the current pandemic, Peru held its presidential and congressional elections. I had distanced myself from political discussions about my country for the simple fact that I did not feel that I could really contribute something real while being so far from there, except for voting.

After an atypical electoral day, the electoral results seem to indicate that there will be a second round. Between whom? One for sure is a radical left candidate, named Pedro Castillo; and the other is Keiko Fujimori, recently released from pretrial detention on charges of corruption and money laundering, and daughter of dictator Alberto Fujimori.

Likewise, it is almost definite that our congress will be represented, in its majority, by ultra-conservative political parties. I followed most of the election day on social media, and I felt everyone's concern and confusion from a distance. It is true that Peruvians may be surprised one day in one way and the next in another, but something is very true and that is that difficult times are coming for women’s rights and the LGBTQ community.

It was during these recent weeks that I tried to imagine all the possible scenarios my country would face with each candidate, and I realized that despite all my attempts to assimilate that my life had already taken another course here in Croatia, I am still Peruvian and the problems of my friends, family, and compatriots are mine as well. 

Most of the people I have met here in Croatia were surprised when I said that one of the reasons I came here was to flee the toxic environment of a country steeped in corruption, lack of opportunities, and insecurity on the streets. ''Peru to Croatia? Don't you know we have a corrupt country as well?''. I get that a lot.

I know that I could spend hours discussing and demonstrating that the political situation not only in my country but in the entire continent is much more serious, but I do understand what they are trying to tell me. In the same way, I see that there is also a very complex situation regarding the migration of young Croatians for better jobs and wages in Europe and even beyond. We are different, definitely, but not as much as I thought. There’s no perfect country, and the margin of improvement is huge.

It is when I process all this information that I can reach a very valuable conclusion, and it is about the responsibility we have as citizens of a country or immigrants, and even more so if we are both at the same time. And this is something that I have learned a lot in recent years, meeting several South Americans of Croatian descent here: we run away from something, and at the same time we do not run away at all. It doesn't matter how far away we are.

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It is now that I think of Pero Kusijanović, our ancestor who left the small town of Mokošica and set out for Peru almost 150 years ago. I think of my grandmother, who left everything and went to Spain. I think of my aunts, who have lived in the United States for approximately 30 years. I think of the millions of Croats and Peruvians who have historically migrated to leave everything behind and seek a better future ahead. But is it worth keeping looking back once we made it out?

I think this was told to me by my psychologist a few years ago, but it's an analogy that I really appreciate, about the idea of ​​moving forward and leaving something behind. He told me that life was like driving a car. We cannot drive just by constantly looking at the rearview mirrors, taking into account that we can hit someone or something in front of us. Just as we cannot drive without seeing them, because we could be hit by someone or something behind.

What I believe is that we have a great responsibility to raise the best of our countries whenever we have the opportunity, as well as to be critical and reflect on what is really wrong there in the distance. I know it is difficult to think about the idea of change or the way we can be part of it when the only thing that brings us closer to our country are social networks and the news, but it is a matter of being patient and being prepared when the opportunity arises. Be proud, be critical. Moving from Peru to Croatia distanced me physically from my country, but not entirely.

I cannot say, however, all of the above without finishing by saying that at the end of the day we are not just Peruvians, Chileans, Argentines, Bolivians, Venezuelans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Brazilians, Uruguayans, Paraguayans, or Croats. As human beings, it is also important to ensure our happiness, our goals, our mental health, and the well-being of our families. Sometimes the best choice (sometimes the only choice) is to climb on a plane and fight it off elsewhere, even if it hurts. The decision of moving, migrating, and leaving everything behind is something we should never be ashamed of.

If there is one thing I am sure of, it is that I am happy to know that the place I went to was Croatia. Why? It is a country that has suffered as much as mine in the last 40 years. There’s so much to be done, but so much to be proud of. That way, I won't lose sight of where I come from, and the mission I still have to accomplish.

In the next weeks, TCN will be working on a series about the South American Diaspora in Croatia. If you're part of the South American Diaspora in Croatia and would like to share your story, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Inspiring Croatian Diaspora Story: Dusica Hoban  – Making Individual Donations to Croatia from UK

March 27, 2021 – In an inspiring Croatian diaspora story, meet Dusica Hoban, a woman who has been helping Croatia with her selfless donations.

In the last 6 years, I was part of the team that organized — Meeting G2 — a business conference for Croatian Diaspora. It was an exciting project that allowed me to meet a lot of Croats from the diaspora and to discuss their ideas, wishes, but also problems and obstacles that they are facing when coming to Croatia and trying to do business here. Through the Crowdfunding campaign that I did for Visnjan Observatory, I also met Dusica Hoban, who dedicated a lot of her time and financial resources to helping people in Croatia. Since I found her motivation and results rare in Croatia and the Croatian diaspora, I proposed doing a short interview. Hopefully, her enthusiasm will inspire others to similar actions or to connect with her and maybe in the future to create some humanitarian trust.

1. For the beginning, share with us a bit about your background story? How long are you living in the UK, and what are you doing right now?

I was born in Pazin, and from 1966 I lived and studied in Sweden. From 1972 I lived studied and worked in the U.K. For many years I worked in the NHS in finance and business management. Following several personal tragedies in 2004/5, I had to leave that work and rethink how to survive financially to enable me to continue to support myself and my two children, to finish the private education system and universities. That is when I took steps to start investing and have continued to do so to this day.

2. How did you come to the idea to help Croatian people, institutions, or the state in general?

My charitable effort really started with a Moldovan boy Andre, around 2006/7. This boy had a hole in his skull when an electrical cable fell on him; at that point, he had not been outside for three years to prevent infections. The local doctors only managed to patch up his skull with some skin, but what he actually needed was a metal plate and many operations performed in the U.K. over a period of two years.

Andre successfully recovered and learned fluent English at a private school in Surrey, which was not far from the hospital where he was being treated and staying with a compassionate English family.

As I was being updated on Andres's progress, it made me realize how important it is what we individually do for others…in some cases literally saving their life.

The reason I have decided to focus primarily on helping in Croatia is following a talk at the Croatian Embassy in London. The talk was by EBRD Bank, about the integration of Eastern European countries into the EU. I was shocked to hear that Croatia was the country they were concerned about the most, even falling behind Bulgaria and Romania. At the end of the talk, I challenged the speaker to explain Croatia, and his short answer was - Croatia lacks quality people…This came as a huge shock to me!

3. What types of projects are you aiming at?

I have been aiming and concentrating mainly on a humanitarian concept, although I have been known to dip into culture and education.

4. You participated in Visnjan Crowdfunding, did you had other successful ideas or projects that you backed up or initiated?

This is the list of projects that I supported in the last few years:

2017 — Pazin School (books, English club)

2017 — Maggie’s, Charring Cross Hospital (Cancer support)

2018 — Senoa House, Zagreb (Repairs)

2018 — Pazin Hospital (Palliative Care)

2019 — Podravsko Sunce (Montessori Materials)

2019 — Pazin Hospital (Ultrasound)

2020 — Adra, Zagreb (Earthquake first aid)

2020 — Nismo Same, Zagreb (Cancer support)

2020 — Zvjezdarnica, Visnjan (Education)

5. What is your favorite so far?

I think my favorite so far has to be the ultrasound equipment for Pazin hospital. When I was shown around by the hospital manager, and I realized that they only had some old broken X-ray mc. They were working very hard to obtain the palliative care status so that the chronically sick patients didn’t have to pay to stay and be cared for in their last few weeks in this world. To obtain that status and for the government to fund this service, they had to have a European standard; however, on my visit, they were still missing adequate beds, shower rooms, etc. I decided to buy them two beds and two televisions immediately. I had a subsequent meeting with the director of Istarski Domovi Zdravlja and promised to pay a substantial sum towards a new ultrasound, providing he could explore how to fund the rest. It all took about 20 months to materialize, which included a fantastic concert and a play to raise the money and not forget that some Croatian people sent money from Canada and Sweden. They decided to invest in superior ultrasound equipment to develop further clinics at the center, and the vulnerable didn’t have to travel to Pula/Rijeka.

6. You had a certain number of interactions with „locals" in Croatia, representatives of the different government or state bodies and institutions. What is your experience with them?

I am sorry to have to say that initially, I didn't find the people I was trying to obtain information from very helpful. In the beginning, I didn’t know where to start, so I wrote emails to the heads of towns, hoping that they would guide me to the right departments, however at times, I sent three messages and did not get a reply. This was very disappointing for me, considering I was looking to help, and they couldn’t even be bothered to reply to my messages. Also, one institution didn’t even acknowledge the receipt of the donation, I had to keep ringing them, and the head has not to this day personally contacted me to acknowledge anything, just got a member of her staff to write to me, at which point in quite a rude, arrogant manor.

Also, I tried to contact an ex-Ambassador, when I was planning to sponsor a top student to study in the U.K. He never replied to my message, following that I sent a message to his wife, just in case he didn’t receive my message, she also did not reply. All I needed was a contact at the university…

Also, I feel that people are not used to someone giving something with no expectation in return. Often they don’t want to get involved because that would mean more work for them, and they choose to do the minimum and choose not to be helpful, even if it means that someone else will lose out. I find that very sad.

7. How are you connected with other members of the Croatian diaspora, and do you have any plans?

With regret, I am not connected to the diaspora. I have tried but have not been very successful. The few I have met in London have not been in any way inspirational, not even vaguely interested in what I am trying to do. I was told that they are only interested in culture…

8. From whom did you get the most support in Croatia so far?

I would love to be able to say that it was a Croatian person who was the most helpful and supportive in my charitable endeavor. Still, it is with pride that I can tell that it is Ambassador Andrew Dalgleish, who has taken the trouble to meet up with me on several occasions and Andreja Maretic. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do. Sometimes it just needs a kind word from people I respect to give me strength and belief to continue, despite the negative people one meets on the route.

9. What are your plans for donations?

Hopefully, if good health serves me well, I intend to continue for the rest of my life.

Ideally, it would have been brilliant if I had met someone with my outlook and passion and form a trust, which would have enabled me to do even more. But as it is now, if I get involved with one or two projects per year, I am happy. Otherwise, it would take up all my time, and I feel having worked exceptionally hard in my youth, I intend to enjoy some of my free time before I get too old.

To read more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Sarah Milkovich of Croatian Descent, Part of NASA Team Launching Mars Rover

July 29, 2020 - Sarah Milkovich Ph. D. is the Assistant Science Office Manager for the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission.

My mother's maiden name was Milković (which is a common Croatian last name, to be fair), so when I noticed that in the internet community I enjoy, there was another person with that last name, I reached out to her and told her that she was probably my long lost cousin. She's most likely not, in all honesty. Still, that lead to us talking a bit more and me realizing what an awesome person I started talking to. Sarah Milkovich is not just your run-of-the-mill great scientist; her biography is so impressive it's not easy even to summarize it into a few sentences.

A bachelor's degree in planetary science from Caltech and a Ph.D. in planetary geology from the Ivy League Brown University tend to lead to a job at NASA, and Sarah has worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a while now, where she's worked on several major missions. Those include the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and the previous Mars rover, Curiosity. These days Sarah and her team are very busy on their new mission, the Mars 2020 rover, which is set to be launched towards Mars tomorrow, on July 30, 2020. I interviewed her for my radio science talk show on Croatian radio back in March, but due to numerous complications too complex to elaborate on, our conversation was broadcast yesterday (if you want to hear the entire conversation and can follow it in Croatian, you can hear it here).

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Sarah explained to me how her great-grandparents on her father’s side arrived from Croatia to the USA quite a long time ago, from a village in Croatia near the Slovenian border (which is a piece of information later confirmed in a conversation on Twitter, where Sarah used a Slovenian word for what we'd call orahnjača or orehnjača in Croatia, thus bursting every last small remaining bubble of hope that I might be related to such a brilliant person, as my family was from nowhere near Slovenia :( ). Her father was the first one in his family in the States who married outside the Croatian community. Sarah was born and raised in Minnesota, learning about geology from her parents, and about space exploration from watching the numerous documentaries on the topic. She explained all about the planetary geology, how it takes what we understand about the forces which formed the Earth, and applies that to figure out how the same forces would've worked under the conditions which are present on other planets. It started by using telescopes, but these days, as we are capable of landing delicate equipment on Mars, they're applying similar techniques and methods used in geology on Earth (except that, of course, we still can't get the samples back, but we're hoping to be able to do that soon). 

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She explained to me what the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover would be about: it's a car-sized vehicle, planned to land into the Jezero crater on Mars (if that sounds a bit Croatian to you, you're right, the crater was named after the Croatian word for a lake and a village in Bosnia). The shape of the crater strongly suggests there used to be a river going into it at some point, back when there was flowing water on the surface of Mars. The time period of that running water seems to match the time period when life began on Earth, and since the conditions were similar on Mars and Earth back then, the scientists are trying to find evidence that there was life on Mars then. In the conversation, I got to hear many more technical details on the rover and about the plans for its operation on Mars, including the ambitious plans to collect samples and leave them on the surface of Mars for some future mission, which will be able to collect them and bring them back to Earth. Oh, yeah, the mission will also include a Mars helicopter, although we didn't talk about it much!

Follow the launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover tomorrow, and wish the rover and the people behind it (including our own Sarah Milkovich) the best of luck and a successful mission after it lands on Mars in February of 2021!

 

Monday, 27 July 2020

Communication Challenges in COVID-19 Era

July 27, 2020 - Organized in partnership with Global NGO Executive Committee, the UN Civil Society Communications Workshop Series will consist of several workshops taking place online during the period of July - September 2020.

Srećko Mavrek, a Croatian international educational expert based in New York, participated in the UN Civil Society Communications Workshop: Communication Challenges and Opportunities in the COVID-19 Era on Thursday, July 23, 2020. This workshop was organized in partnership with American Counseling Association, International Council of Nurses, Medical Women’s International Association, NGO Committee on Education, Learning and Literacy, and Akshar Foundation.

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“The first session Tools and Techniques of Effective Communication for NGOs addressed civil society communication challenges and opportunities during the COVID-19 era and some contemporary issues related to disparities and discrimination. Participants were exploring the role of effective communication strategies and resources. The second session Transforming NGO Communications: From Conversation to Advocacy, Action and Social Policy addressed the issues of communications regarding complex, global, contemporary societal issues resulting in disparities and discrimination. Both sessions focused on intersectionality as the main cause of all disparities and inequalities,” said Mavrek.

He gave his opinion on the matter: “For nearly 30 years, a flawed theoretical concept of intersectionality has been one of the standard categories in over exaggerated discussions of race in American life, but its proponents sometimes have difficulties with their subjective biases. Identity politics, group identification and tribalism have not led to the social progress and inclusion, but to more divisions by ignoring individualism, character, achievements, and talents. More important questions are how to overcome fake news and social media censorship, how to improve civic culture in communication, and how to protect the right to free speech in the COVID-19 era?”

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Successful Diaspora Returnee Stories: Daniel Cavka, from Australia to Split

July 25, 2020 - Continuing our look as successful returnees from the Croatian diaspora, meet Daniel Cavka, who swapped life in Australia for Split.  

So many Croatians abroad dream of moving back to the Homeland, but concerns about corruption, low wages, job availability and a host of other concerns deter many. But more and more are taking the plunge, and succeeding. In the latest in our series of successful returnees, meet Daniel Cavka.  

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

I was born on the East Coast of Australia in a regional city called Gold Coast. It's where I lived most of my life with the exception of a couple of years in Sydney. I never really found myself comfortable in the city and after living there for about two years I decided it wasn't for me so I moved back to the Gold Coast where I worked alongside my dad on a rendering business we own. After being back home for about 12 months I came to the conclusion I needed something more and was hungry for a new challenge. This all happened around the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, after Croatia beat Russia I decided to head over and watch the games in person. After the grand final loss to France I decided to head over to Split and visit family for a week. A few days before I was due to head back to Australia, two friends visited Croatia. They were heading over to Hvar and asked if I'd fancy coming along for the trip to which I couldn't say no. I started making my way to Split Ferry Port, only to be told that I in fact had to meet at the airport because the boat was leaving from the beach below Zračna Luka. I made my way over there and met them where I was then guided to a speedboat, I said what's this to which my friends told me was our mode of transport to Hvar. The rest is history, my brain started working overtime thinking about the possibilities of starting my own transfer service, and here I am....

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

I knew what I wanted, a Nautical Tourism business operating out of Split and servicing the entire Croatian coast through both company-owned and partner vessels. I love Croatia, the old towns and crystal clear waters had me jumping at the idea of knowing I could actually live in such an incredible part of the world, so my expectations had already been realised through my desire to be here. I'm now 26 but the decision to start the business came to me at 23, so my fear was focused more on what if I don't go and what could have come from it had I moved to Croatia. I would be left wondering and when I played that scenario in my head I didn't like it one bit. So as far as I was concerned I had no real fear, I was just ready to embrace the risk of moving to Croatia and hungry to see my goal become a reality.

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

The people I knew in the Croatian community were not so supportive of the idea. However, I couldn't have asked for a more encouraging family, they threw all of their support behind me. 

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

I used to visit my family who live close to Split yearly, hence I was quite aware of the living conditions so from that aspect there were no major shocks for me. There were definitely major shocks when it came to starting a business, which I don't want to comment on too much as every country has its own sovereignty and therefore right to operate how they wish. All I will say on this point is that there is a need for reform and action to make starting a business in Croatia a simpler and more efficient process. So that more and more Croatians take it upon themselves to get out there and really give life a go rather than live with the perceptions that they have no opportunity to succeed if they stay in Croatia.

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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?

There was close to no relevant information available online for diaspora wanting to start a business in Croatia. The information that was out there was basic and not relevant to the issues faced when trying to get up and running. I'm in the process of working on a very visually descriptive site for diaspora wanting to start a business in Croatia, to help them through the hurdles. All in all, my view was and still is just do it! For me as I've mentioned it was only a case of what if I don't do it, what could have come from it! Yes, it's been incredibly challenging when you throw the coronavirus pandemic in the mix, but it's testing me and building me up to be a better version of myself every day.

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

Are you crazy? You've lost the plot? Why did you decide to work here for a few months, oh wait what you opened a business here? How did you manage that, it's impossible to do that? - These were the main questions I received from people who were simply shocked out of their minds that I would lift my life up in Australia and open a business in Croatia. Yes, the quality of life from a work perspective is different, and the typical relaxed Dalmatian response to anything that happens takes some getting used to. However, the quality of life in Croatia isn't as bad as Croatians make it out to be! It all comes back to how motivated you are to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Croatia is the best playground for Nautical tourism in the world, nobody can deny that, and if they do they've clearly never been to the Croatian Coast and experienced it for themself. So for me the question was more like... why would you not start a business in Croatia?

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What are the keys to success in doing business in Croatia in your opinion?

Well, for me it was quite simple - I love to embrace risk and know how to keep focus on the original goal I set for myself. So to get there I quickly found out I had to remind myself that if it's attainable through persistence and resilience I can't settle for a mundane reality. This is a motto you have to stick to through the whole process, because no day and sometimes even no minute is the same. Quite literally blood, sweat, and tears will be a part of your day when trying to set up a business in Croatia, especially the Dalmatian coast. I can't offer any other way to get through the issues you'll face in starting a business in Croatia other than embracing the challenges and making it your mission to be able to say I did it.

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What is the diaspora community like in Split and how integrated is it with locals?

Since arriving, I've been head down and focused on getting Nautical Croatia & Nautical Adriatic up and running. So I haven't actually taken the time to reach out to the diaspora community. I'll definitely be making an effort to integrate myself more with the community.

The struggles of Coronavirus?

Well, where do I start? The business is now at a standstill and because of such a high drop in tourist numbers, the risk of border closure, and the risk of contracting Coronavirus from tourists and infecting my family I made the extremely difficult and gut-wrenching decision to not operate in 2020 and rather resume in mid-May of 2021. So I'm using this year to update everything from my website(which has just gone live!) right through to altering the specifications on the boat so that in 2021 I can bounce back stronger than ever and provide the best experience out of any other Nautical tourism business operating on the Adriatic Coast.

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To learn more about Daniel's services and to contact him, check out his Nautical Croatia 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.  Subject Successful Returnee

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