Monday, 18 November 2019

True Crime Story of a Croatian Immigrant in California: Jakov Dulcich

Recently, we wrote about a member of the Croatian diaspora who was a villain in a true-crime story. Today, it's time to hear about a very successful Croatian immigrant to California, Jakov Dulcich, who fell victim to violent crime in a somewhat bizarre story.

We all know about numerous Croats who have moved to California and started growing grapevines there. Maybe it's more precise to say that they continued growing grapes and making wine there, as most of them (or their families) were making wine here in Croatia long before moving to the New World.

However, there are other options of what can be made with grapes, Pretty Lady is one of the biggest growers, packers, and shippers of premium California Table Grapes and several raisin products. The company which owns the brand Pretty Lady, called Jakov P. Dulcich and Sons is located in McFarland in California's Central Valley, and was founded and owned by Jakov Dulcich. Mr. Dulcich was born in Argentina, but his parents returned to Brusje on the island of Hvar when he was just a boy.

He grew up on Hvar, and after getting married to his wife Antoinette, he left Hvar, first for Chile and then for California. That's where he founded the company, which grew each year, his sons joined him in the business and now they have thousands of acres of premium table grapes.

All of that would seem like an amazing success story of a Croatian emigrant, were it not for how Jakov's life ended, at the age of 85.

The story is told on Twitter by @kchironis (you can find the thread here).

On April the 11th, 2018, he was driving his SUV and was chased by a Kia, the whole thing was seen by an eyewitness. The witness later told the police that both his and Dulcich's cars swerved off the road and crashed, the driver of the Kia then got out and shot Dulcich point-blank. He tried to kill the witness too, but he managed to escape (it's not entirely clear how, as there were supposedly two assailants, and he just managed to escape them and go to the cops, apparently).

Soon after the incident, police located a burnt car belonging to a guy called Mariano Perez, and the witness picked him out of a lineup, saying that he looked "closest" to Dulcich's killer. Soon after, he retracts that, claiming that he wasn't sure it was Perez, and since there was no other evidence linking Perez to Dulcich's murder, he was found not guilty by the jury. But not even a full month after being released from jail, the suspected killer, Mariano Perez, turns up dead too. He was found with multiple gunshot wounds. His killer was never found. 

Then, a few months after that, another weird twist to the story emerged: another employee of Dulcich's company, Rodolfo Elizalde, called the police as his house was targeted by a drive-by shooting, and more than 30 rounds had been fired from what appears to be an AK47-type weapon. Elizalde had worked for the Dulcich's for over 25 years and told the police he was shot at twice before the final incident on his drive back home.

This seems to have been the final incident in the story thus far - if it even is the same story. Jakov Dulcich's killer has never been found. Perez's killer has not been found. It's not known who shot at Elizalde. There were rumours of it starting as a hired assassination of Dulcich, but why then kill the (potential) assassin after he's been found innocent? Does the series of attacks on his long-time employee have anything to do with Dulcich?

Hopefully, there will be a resolution to this mystery (dubbed by @kchironis as "True Grape Crimes"), and if that happens, you'll be able to read all about it on Total Croatia News!

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Croatian Night in Frankfurt Features Croatia's Biggest Music Stars

November 12, 2019 - Gibonni, Petar Graso, Mate Bulic, Miroslav Skoro, Domenica, Indira Forza, Prljavo kazaliste, Mladen Grdovic, Klapa Rispet and Zeljko Bebek will perform at the Croatian Night in Frankfurt this weekend. 

Namely, Dalmacija Danas reports that Croatia’s biggest music stars can be found in the same place on Saturday, November 16, in Frankfurt, where they will perform at the largest Croatian diaspora concert for an estimated 12,000 Croats and their guests at the Fraport Arena.

“As organizers, we are proud that 'Croatian Night' is recognized all over the world and has established itself as the most significant event of Croats abroad. Every year we strive, and fortunately, we manage to bring the best possible Croatian music team. This year, on the day of the concert, our Vatreni is playing for a spot at the European Championships, and we believe that the support of the 12,000 people in the arena will be felt and heard all the way to Rijeka. We believe that the atmosphere will be special and celebratory at the end of the game,” says Robert Martinovic on behalf of the Croatian Night organizers. 

Croatian Night gathers thousands of visitors every year at Frankfurt's Fraport Arena with the biggest music stars from the homeland. 

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This year, the audience is eagerly awaiting Miroslav Skoro.

“Yet another Croatian Night in Frankfurt will be held this November, and I will have the honor of performing again at the largest gathering of us all outside Croatia. Come and have a good time with us in Frankfurt,” said Skoro. 

“We hope that this year, a lot of Croatians from Germany and Europe and all over the world respond and come to the largest manifestation of Croatian music in the world among the Diaspora. It is a beautiful occasion for all of us to gather and socialize. We are honored to have the luck to build even stronger ties between Croatians, those in the Diaspora and in our homeland,” the organizers added.

Just how eager our Diaspora is to experience Croatian music is shown by the fact that they come from all over the world: from Europe, Australia, America, and Canada.

To read more about the Croatian Diaspora, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Successful Diaspora Returnee Stories: Luis Miguel Zuvic, from Venezuela to Split

October 20, 2019 - Continuing our look at successful returnee stories and experiences from the Croatian diaspora to the homeland, next up Luis Miguel Zuvic on his journey from Venezuela to Split. 

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

I got a scholarship to learn the language, and mostly because of the situation in my country, I decided to take it. After a year in Croatia, I went back to Venezuela, which lasted for just three weeks, and decided to go back to Croatia. I studied for four semesters and got a job in a restaurant in Germany in a small town called Rosenheim. Now I am the chef at Fig restaurant in Split.

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

I was really excited to see the country of my grandfather and learn about his culture and language. I was a little bit afraid of the language as it was something different, something I never heard in my life before.
 
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3. How supportive was your Croatian community back home at the time?

There is not a big Croatian community in Venezuela, but I got a lot of information from families and the Consul of Croatia about the scholarship and life in Croatia.

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

Everything was as I expected. I read a lot before coming, but it was more impressive to see everything in person than just seeing the pictures.

5. 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 are different programs and scholarships, and it depends on where you are coming from. The culture is different, but I found that Croatians are similar to South Americans, funny and open people. My advice would be to try and live in Croatia or travel there often to see how you like the Croatian lifestyle.

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

The welcome was really warm I would say, and in 8-9 months, I made more friends than the last three years in Germany. For many Croatians, it is amazing that I can speak their language. Almost all together I've been here for five years.

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

It was a bit hard at the beginning for me as well. When I had just arrived, I didn't have my Croatian citizenship, so I couldn't work at the beginning. It's just a matter of patience with the Croatian bureaucracy

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

There are a lot of Latinos in Split and Zagreb, who have been living in Croatia. There are a lot of local people who want to learn a different language and culture, and are willing to speak and learn Spanish, for example.

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. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Meeting G2.5 - Let's Build Business Bridges to be Held in Zagreb

This year's MEETING G2 - Gradimo poslovne mostove, Meeting G2 - Let's build business bridges is to take place on November 4th until the 6th, 2019, in Zagreb.

Organised to connect the businesses of Croats in Croatia and the diaspora, the event expects over 200 participants, out of which 70 are expected to be successful international business people of Croatian origin. The participants will be able to learn, among other things, about the successes of the Canadian Croatian Business Network (CCBN), as well as the challenges for Croatian entrepreneurs in Austria.

CCBN has been established to improve and strengthen the relationships between the Canadian and Croatian business people, who wish to expand the potential of business cooperation between the two countries. One of the participants in the panel will be Joe Bašić, who is the president of the CCBN, and he will present the work of the network and their successes at the conference.

In the last nine years, since the network was established, the commerce between Canada and Croatia has gone up more than five-fold (from 127 million kuna in 2010 to 635 million kuna in 2019), that made Croatia one of Canada's leading partners and the biggest one in South-Eastern Europe.

Joe Bašić stated that the members of the CCBN are successful and renowned business people, experts, and entrepreneurs living and working in Croatia, but who have the direct experience of working in Canada. That experience allows them to fully understand the obstacles that might appear and ensures the expertise and the knowledge needed to overcome those barriers and succeed. He believes that further growth in commerce will happen, and especially after the CETA agreement (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) has been signed, which removes those barriers in various sectors.

Denis Rukavina from Metronet, John Gasparac from PWC, Adrian Beljo from Edward Bernays University College for Communication Management and Dennis Zovko from Importanne Resort Dubrovnik will join Joe Bašić at the panel to discuss the concrete, successful examples of cooperation, as well as the specificities in the way of doing business. They will also offer their opinions on how to help entrepreneurs from both countries to improve cooperation.

A panel organised by the Association of the Croatian Entrepreneurs in Austria will discuss the experiences and challenges of working in Austria.

Several successful Croatian entrepreneurs from demanding sectors, such as IT, law, the hospitality industry and consulting, will offer their thoughts and advice. These include Mario Harapin (Delikro.at), Domagoj Dolinsek (Planradar), Bernard Batinić (Heptabit), Tomislav Stipic (Artus), Tanja Škorić (Startaparat) and Lucija Veličan (Talentarium).

Niko Ilić, the President of the Association, said that Austria is a robust market and that the possibilities for Croatian companies on that market are enormous. That's why the Association is trying to connect the two economies and make it easier for Croatian entrepreneurs to work in Austria. There are 150 members in the Association currently, mostly coming from the construction, metals, tourist, IT, and hospitality sectors, which have the best results. He added that they're also proud that the members of the Association still work actively on the Croatian market as well.

This year's Meeting G2 conference, just like every one before it, is organised under the auspices of the Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who will also speak at the opening of the conference.

On the first day of the event, the presentation of the successful Croatian franchises will be held, as well as a pitch session for the startups. The second day will focus on five panel-discussions that will also focus on the successes by the Croatian designers on the international markets, successful Croatian exporters, and current events in the IT world. In addition to the panels, the participants will be able to get to hear several inspirational business stories, including that of Ivan Mrvoš and his smart benches, and Hrvoje Bušić and Tomislav Anadolac, the duo that makes the best gin in the world.

Božo Skoko, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, will discuss the development of the identity and the brand of Croatia, while Natko Vlahović will discuss the importance of the Croatian chairing of the European Union.

You can find additional information on the conference website and the YouTube channel.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Croat Achieves Business Dreams in Canada, Wants to Expand in Croatia

Mateo from Rijeka, Croatia, arrived in the Canadian city of Toronto with some of his personal belongings and five thousand Canadian dollars, three thousand of which were his savings throughout the years, and a thousand dollars were given to him by his family. He didn't know anyone, and he didn't have a recommendation, writes Poslovni Dnevnik on the 8th of October, 2019.

Mateo Polić was born in 1990 in the Northern Ariatic city of Rijeka, where he graduated from school, after that, he graduated from the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, majoring in Business Economics. While studying in Zagreb, he met a few people who were resident or staying in Canada because of their work, which in some ways expanded his business perspective.

''I got a job offer in one company for 1,600 kuna. It was part of the program of employment of highly educated persons for vocational training without employment. I refused and decided to leave Croatia. Canada was my choice. I applied for a working holiday visa, which at the time was granted once per year, in February, under the "fastest finger" system, without looking for any other conditions.

At that time, the Canadian Embassy issued 275 such visas a year, and several thousand were reported that year. I was literally sitting in front of my computer waiting for a some news and - I succeeded, writes Novi list.

I told myself and them - I'm going to try it, so as to at least use the one year visa. Namely, after a year, 90 percent of people return from Canada because they cannot extend their residence permit in the country. A visa can only be extended if, if you've found a job, and you can prove that you're better than any Canadian applying for that same job, Polić explains.

A few months after obtaining a permanent visa, Mateo decided to move on, to change jobs. He left Michael Page, a company that recruits people for work, something like an employment agency.

''After Michael Page, I joined Shopify, which allows the fast startup of a website where I worked as an in-house headhunter. After three years working for others, in May 2016, I decided to start my own recruitment firm, Accentio Group, and we're focused on marketing and sales. I have two employees, I work five days a week, from 08:00 to 18:00, I'm free on the weekends. So far I'm very pleased, I'm making a decent living. However, I've got no intention of just stopping there,'' Polić told Novi list.

I saved about a thousand dollars a month, and after three years, I decided to invest all my savings from that period, a total of 36 thousand Canadian dollars, into my own business. I took the risk, but it paid off. I now have thirty clients from four countries - Canada, America, the Netherlands and Germany.

I have plans to expand to England, but my wish is to expand to Croatia, says Mateo Polić, adding that at the moment he is not considering returning to Croatia, but does want to open a branch here.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

Monday, 23 September 2019

VIDEO: Scientist With Croatian Roots Creates ''Flying Fish'' Robot

As Goran Jungvirth/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 22nd of September, 2019, Mirko Kovač, a team leader for scientists and director of the Aerial Robotics Laboratory at the Imperial College London, has achieved yet another great success by creating a new type of biology-inspired robot. This scientist with Croatian roots has thus created a very unusual invention indeed.

The unusual robot uses water to generate gas and as such, launch from the water's surface. After takeoff, it can travel 26 metres through the air and could be used to collect water samples in hazardous and inaccessible areas, such as during floods and to control the pollution of the world's oceans, seas and rivers.

Robots that can transition from water to air are desirable in situations such as the above-mentioned scenario, but when it comes to really making them move, it takes a lot of power, which is much more difficult to achieve for small robots.

Now, researchers at the Imperial College London have, under Kovač's direction, invented a system that requires only 0.2 grams of calcium carbide powder in a combustion chamber. The only moving part is a small pump that brings in water from the surrounding environment, such as a lake, river or, ocean. The collected water and the calcium carbide powder are then combined in the reaction chamber, creating a flammable acetylene gas. As the gas ignites and expands, it displaces the water like a jet, which pushes the robot out of the water and gives it energy to fly up to 26 metres.

"The water-to-air transition is a process that requires a lot of energy, and this is difficult to achieve with small vehicles that need to be light when they're in flight. We used water-responsive chemicals to reduce the materials the robot needed to carry. Because the chamber is filled passively and the water from the environment acts as a piston, we can create a full combustion cycle with only one moving part, which is a pump that mixes water and fuel," Mirko Kovač, a robotics researcher with Croatian roots who has researched robots at prestigious universities such as Harvard and Berkeley, told Poslovni Dnevnik.

The robot, weighing a mere 160 grams can "jump" multiple times after filling up its water tank. This can allow it to hover over water and take samples in multiple locations without needing to use additional power, thus successfully saving energy over greater distances compared to an electrically driven robot.

Today, a team of experts led by Dr. Kovač work with their partners in Switzerland to build new vehicles using advanced materials, and field trials of robots in a variety of environments are underway, including monitoring the ocean around coral reefs and coastal energy platforms.

Mirko Kovač is, as mentioned, a Swiss of Croatian roots, and this year Poslovni Dnevnik interviewed him to discuss the potential of robotics development here in Croatia. He then participated in the international DroneDays conference held at the Faculty of Electronics and Computing in the City of Zagreb.

The new Swiss Centre was created in collaboration with the London Laboratory, which Kovač included in collaboration with the FER Laboratory for Robotics and Intelligent Control Systems.

Because of this collaboration, which has been going on for several years now, the Zagreb and London laboratories were awarded the AeRo Twin project from the EU's Horizon 2020 EU research and innovation program, pushing them rightfully to the very top in the fast paced and ever advancing world of robotics.

Various lectures will be organised, as well as an exchange of scientists, and roboticists from Croatia will be staying in London to see what they can do in a similar sense in Zagreb.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Owner of Korčula Boutique Hotel: ''I Came Home and Fulfilled My Dreams''

As Novac/Dora Lozica writes on the 25th of August, 2019, Novac met Zlatko Fabris, 41, at his hotel on Korčula, engrossed in figures and tables. He received the journalists cordially, though limping, telling them that he had injured his leg when splitting firewood, he had to undergo surgery, but that there's no time for that now!

When the season starts, there's no time for health either, Zlatko says, only work! The times of hotel owners simply sitting back and watching as hotel and restaurant workers do the hard work have passed.

With this philosophy, Zlatko came from South Africa to beautiful Korčula exactly fifteen years ago. Born in South Africa, Zlatko has always dreamed of one day returning to his roots, his old Korčula surname, Fabris, called him back to the Dalmatian island. However, it was not easy to decide to come to Croatia without knowing the language and the everyday ways of life, Fabris revealed.

His family is engaged in construction and tourism, but South Africa's dark history of the coexistence of blacks and whites was turbulent, to say the very least. 

''Back there, people will put a gun to your head there for money,'' Zlatko admits, so he decided to come to Korčula, hoping to find his peace there and a place where life is worth more than just money. And he wasn't mistaken. First, he tried his best to learn the Croatian language, because how can someone named Zlatko not speak Croatian!? It's simply impossible! And then he got to grips with what's best for him - his business, writes Slobodna Dalmacija.

With his initial capital, he bought a house on Plokata, the main town square in the very centre of Korčula. He bought the house from the City of Korčula itself, who then bought the birth house of Marco Polo with that money. The house soon became the famous "Happy House" hostel, with dozens of backpackers staying overnight. There was always a loud and cheerful atmosphere at "Happy House", Zlatko admits they had a good time with alcohol, song and laughter, but that it annoyed the people who lived nearby.

''They were absolutely right and I understood them one hundred percent, I started thinking how I could change the concept. I have to say, hats off to the team from the Lešić Dimitri Hotel and the Korsal Hotel, they were the first to start the story of the boutique hotel, they had the courage to do it first.

When one begins, the other is encouraged, and in 2015 one of them was me. The Fabris opened its doors,'' Zlatko says, referring to his four-star boutique hotel, which is not really a hotel because it has no elevator. Namely, in order to register his facility as a hotel, he has to have an elevator for four floors, and circumstances don't allow him to install an elevator, so he calls his facility simply "The Fabris''.

But "The Fabris" is, after all, a small "boutique" four-star hotel.

Increasingly, the term "boutique" hotel can be heard in Croatia as an ideal destination for those who, in addition to their holidays, want to experience and know more about the destination they're visiting.

"Boutique" or "lifestyle" hotels are a new trend of tourist offer, only a few decades or so old. They are smaller in capacity, but are designed in a luxury and indigenous style, relying on the values, culture and customs of the area in which they are located.

This was exactly the concept that Zlatko used to manage the interior of his building in Korčula, so he could leave everything in its original form when it was renovated. The interior walls, as well as the exterior ones, are made of antique stone, and the stairs, floors, beds and openings are made of solid oak. In all the bathrooms, there is a combination of stone and glass, the floors are adorned with expensive carpets that Zlatko brought from different parts of the world, while on the walls are old photographs of the Fabris family, which tell the visual stories of formerly world-renowned Korčula shipbuilders, including Zlatko's great-grandfather.

"The Fabris" is an attractive yet relaxed blend of tradition and a modern, minimalist approach. Zlatko didn't make the mistake of taking his initial success for granted, and last year, he decided to make another investment. About ten metres from the hotel, he bought another abandoned ruin in the heart of Korčula.

With an investment of one million euros and a lot of hard and dedicated work, that ruin has been transformed into "The Fabris 2" this season, with eleven luxurious rooms decorated in the same tone as the first hotel. The capacity of "The Fabris" is currently 21 rooms, with a rating of 9.4 on booking.com. His guests are delighted, they don't want an industrial environment, but the ability to enjoy Korčula's history, architecture and authentic culture. Most of Zlatko's guests are English-speaking, as many as 80 percent of them.

Zlatko does not take all the credit for his success.

''In the season, I employ 11 people for 6 months, half of them for longer than that. They do a fantastic job and it's important to me that they have good salaries. Money motivates people and if you want loyalty and quality, you have to pay. In addition, I want people on the island to live well all 12 months of the year, I wish that every year I could travel somewhere to get to know other countries and cultures so that they would be good hosts themselves. Yes, the season has been 30 percent weaker, but that's temporary, next year, it will be even worse, So, 2015 or 2016 will happen again. You just have to always do your best,'' Fabris explained.

''I believe in Croatia and our future. We're not just any old country or any old city, we have centuries of culture and history and this is our strongest asset. We quarrel with each other, but when there is a serious problem, we are one. I think the workers from the hospitality sector from the island need to meet once a month, we have to have a common plan and strategy, stick together and help one another. From the first day, the Korčula locals have accepted me just as I am, and I'm grateful to be able to live and work here,'' Zlatko concluded.

Make sure to follow our dedicated travellifestyle and Croatian diaspora pages for much more.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Follow the Journey of Kristiana Banđen on Croatia's First Domovina Birthright Program

June 30, 2019 - An excellent initiative to bring the diaspora in closer contact with the Homeland starts next month. Follow Kristiana Banđen on her journey on the inaugural Domovina Birthright Program.

As previously reported on TCN, the first Domovina Birthright Program will take place next month, an initiative between the American Croatian Association of Professionals, and the Croatian Government. 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.

We are delighted to welcome Kristiana Banđen to TCN. Kristiana is one of the 34 initial participants in the program, and she will be documenting her journey as she explores the country of her heritage. Here she is, introducing herself. 

Follow the journey through the Domovina Program

This year, the Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) has partnered with the Croatian government to announce the Domovina Birthright Program (DBP). The DBP is a unique, historical 16-day cultural and educational immersion tour of Croatia created to allow young Croatian adults the opportunity to explore their country while learning about their Croatian heritage and explore their identity with 33 other chosen participants.

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This is the first year that the DBP has been announced and having been one of the chosen participants, I will be writing an insight into the program and its daily activities.

>Born in Canada, both of my parents were born and raised in Croatia. I have chosen to apply to participate in the program to be able to further explore my country in a way I have never been able to before. This cultural experience will be eye-opening and I wish to share our adventures in the hopes to create excitement for the program in young Croatian adults. Being the first year the program is being held, I hope to aid in the success of the program and in generating interest for future participants to apply.

Commencing on July 10th and ending on July 25th, follow my journey throughout the Domovina Birthright Program exploring sites of cultural and historical significance and in varied hikes of Croatia’s landscape and nature.

To follow more from the Croatian diaspora, follow the dedicated TCN section

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Successful Diaspora Returnee Stories: Daniela Rogulj, Total Croatia News, Split

June 18, 2019 - TCN's recent series featuring the successful returnee stories from the speakers at the recent diaspora tourism conference in Split led to several requests for more of the same. And so we continue in the same vein, looking at more people who have made the successful switch back to the Homeland, starting with TCN's very own Daniela Rogulj, who made the switch from California to Split. 

1. You are from California, returned to Croatia, something that many diaspora dream of doing. Tell us briefly about your journey.

It all happened by accident. In a nutshell, I came to Croatia via San Diego, San Francisco, Nashville, and London. I was born and raised in San Diego to a mother from Metković, father from Split, a grandfather from Prapatnica and grandmother from Stari Grad on Hvar. I moved to San Francisco for University, managed a cupcake shop, graduated, played a part in the tech industry, started developing my own mobile app and said bye to it all at 23 for Nashville and eventually London. 

After impulsively crossing the pond with my parents at 24, which saw me nearly overstay my six months as an American in the U.K., I needed a solution, and fast. I went back to California to get my birth certificate amended (my last name was spelled ‘Roguli’ instead of ‘Rogulj’), so I could begin the process of obtaining my Croatian citizenship to ensure I could remain living in London. Let’s just say that upon my return back to Heathrow, the immigration officer was having a bad day, and back to California, I went. Over the next few months, my parents decided to move back to the homeland and settled in Split. I visited them in Split the summer of 2015 without the faintest idea that it would be my home for the next four years.

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The day Daniela became a Croatian citizen

My first 10 or so months in Split were spent trying to meet people while figuring out what I would here. A job at Total Split popped up on my Facebook feed in April 2016, and considering I studied journalism in college and was the token blog writer for the San Francisco startups I worked for, I gave it a shot. I joined Total Croatia News in May of 2016 to lead Total Split, and that’s when my life in Croatia really began. 

Not only did TCN open a world of doors for me, with invites to exclusive events and excursions to explore the gems of Croatia, but I've had the chance to meet (and befriend) innovative business and restaurant owners around the country, many of whom are in the diaspora community. It's also given me opportunities I never thought possible - at least not possible for me in the United States. Like following Hajduk from Split to Liverpool, or the Croatia national team from Zagreb to London. My work for TCN during the World Cup last summer was recognized by the largest sports radio station in the world, and I found myself as the Croatian correspondent for various radio shows in the UK last year - the BBC even called me for an interview. I marked my third year with TCN last month (thanks Paul & team).

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

Maybe it’s best that I didn’t have many considering I had no plans to live here at all. After I received my citizenship that summer (which surprisingly took a painless two weeks in Croatia compared to a year of torture in London and the US), I must have told my parents every day that I would not be calling Croatia my home and furiously looked at apartments and jobs in Berlin or anywhere but Croatia. To me, Croatia was my summer home; where life stopped when the seasons changed. I didn’t know Croatia past the warm and lively summer season, and I wasn’t interested in finding out. 

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But after the summer settled that September and I celebrated my 25th birthday on a mild Split day, something changed. Split wasn’t just the transit hub I knew to get to Hvar or the pitstop my family would make for a Hajduk game. Split was a spirited city - and at the time, it was experiencing a new renaissance. I told myself I’d be a fool not to give Split a chance, and perhaps my biggest fear then was not knowing the slightest bit of what lay ahead. I was lucky to be young enough at the time to fail and start over again 100 times, and I guess I expected that much. I was worried about meeting people, if the language barrier would make it harder, and what job I would do in Croatia at all. I had experience in the tech industry, which at the time I had no idea even existed in Croatia, and I knew I wasn’t comfortable jumping into an office job in a working culture I knew nothing about. The one upside about moving here without a clue of what I’d do is that it forced me to get out, meet people and begin the conversation. This settled my fear and slowly made me more and more comfortable with my decision to stay here. 

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

My Croatian community back home consisted exclusively of my extended family, and I remember some of them expressing mixed feelings about it all. The ones that knew Croatia well wondered what I’d do here. “You’ll make significantly less than you did in San Francisco, and you have no idea what it’s like in the winter!” I’m sure even today some of them think I’ll come back to the States, which isn’t in my plans whatsoever. 

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My immediate family has supported me unconditionally throughout my journey, and I owe them the world for that. It certainly helped that my parents were by my side as I started my journey in Split. 

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Because I never officially announced that I was moving to Croatia, and just proceeded to stay after that summer, I think I missed a lot of the pressure and criticisms there could be otherwise. 

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

Learning to live seasonally. Something I cherish now, but struggled with when I couldn’t find tomatoes my first winter here. But also adapting to the seasons in general - spring is the warm up, summer is the peak when you're too busy to breathe, autumn is reserved for unwinding from the season, as is winter, but everything in the winter is closed. Seasons don’t exist in California, so this took some getting used to.  

The pace of life, in general, is another one. While it’s easy to adapt to the lax mentality in Dalmatia when you’re holidaying here in the summer, it throws you for a loop when you’re living here permanently and trying to get things done. Though it has its perks, and I’ve definitely adopted the ‘pomalo’ way in some aspects of my life, like learning to walk at a considerably slower pace than my city days in San Francisco. And to-go coffee is a thing of the past. 

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Furthermore, America is the land of customer service, and you learn pretty quickly that Croatia is not. Though I still tip as I would in the States hoping that this small nod to good service can be an example for others. 

A monumental difference is how safe Croatia is. Ditching the pepper spray from my city days for the uninterrupted late-night walk home is a massive bonus. You also get the feeling that the people around you will lend a helping hand, without asking any questions. 

 4. Many diasporas 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?

Be patient, take a lot of deep breaths, stay here in the winter or a good part of the offseason, and try not to compare it to back home. Coming here with a plan is probably smart, though you have to expect that plan will be altered, edited, amended, adjusted, and most likely rewritten at least once. On the contrary, I had no plan and really no idea, and still managed to find my way. 

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While it's nearly impossible for us stubborn Dalmatians, ask for help, because you’ll be surprised to find how many people have already been through what you’re going through. And if they don’t have answers, they’ll at least lead you in the right direction. 

But really, deep breaths and the willingness to endure uphill battles is a must, though coming out on the other side is incredibly rewarding. Come determined and try to weed out a lot of the negativity you'll hear - it's not always true, and remember, we do love any reason to complain. 

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

“Why in the world would you leave California?” If I had a lipa for every Uber driver’s baffled expression when I tell them I live here permanently…

On the upside, it does open a platform to educate Croatians thinking of leaving that life isn’t always greener on the other side. 

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But yes, the welcome was warm, and you quickly learn that there are a lot of others just like you; a lot of others who took the leap to live here. And that is a feeling of comfort by itself.

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

Learn the importance of having a bubble (and when to come out of it), persevere (the American work ethic definitely pays off here), and keep a supportive group of like-minded people close. Try not to let people know too much too quickly and be careful with who you let in. Testing the waters is key. Acclimating to how the locals operate to ease your daily frustrations is equally as important.  And if you're lucky to have just a few run-ins with the beauty of Croatian bureaucracy while you're here, consider that a great success.

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Daniela on-air with Talk Sport at their studio in London.

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

I’d say that Split has a reasonably large diaspora (and expat) community. From the events I’ve been to, there seem to be more ‘foreigners’ than locals. The expat group holds book swaps, coffee meetups and pizza nights, while the 'Croatian Australians & NZers and Friends in Split' group organizes outings for Anzac Day and the like. I believe that keeping a healthy balance of locals and expats is crucial to creating the harmony you need in Split. 

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8. And finally, 3 things you would change in Croatia?

The drivers - do pedestrian crossings mean anything in Croatia?

Talk about the war - which I am surprised to see discussed often in the diaspora community. We will never move forward by looking back.

The amount of time it takes to get anything done. From the beloved Croatian bureaucracy to checking out at a grocery store. You quickly get used to the delay, and while I enjoy that waiters don’t rush to bring you your bill after coffee, it’s another story when paperwork is involved, or you’re at the bank or just trying to keep anything to a schedule. Schedules don’t really exist here, and neither does the concept of being ‘on time’. Remember, "I'll be there in 5 minutes" usually means at least 30 and probably an hour. Welcome to Dalmatia. It has its perks. 

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. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A Delight for Croatian Diaspora: Oliver to be Honored with 70 Concerts Around World

Petar Dragojević, a famous Split singer, is the most sought after Croatian musician among the Croatian Diaspora around the world. Many of them know Petar as Oliver's nephew, whose singing skills often remind them of the musical legend. Petar and Oliver even created a duet titled "Istog smo roda” ("We are the same") a couple of years ago, reports Dalmacija Danas on April 22, 2019. 

Performing at concerts from Australia to Germany, the young Dragojević often remembers this, especially when his audience knows that he is Oliver's blood. 

“We spent a lot of time together in Vela Luka, where we used to be together 24 hours a day. Oliver's family and my family lived together until I was three, and we are still very attached today. I have excellent contact with my cousins, Oliver's sons, and Vesna. There are a lot of nice memories, the emotions from fishing to the bocce we often played, as well as cards. There was only a little song, and you will not believe that we talked very little about music in these family circles, mostly about family topics. If you'd touched on music then the conversations on the subject would be good, short and fruitful. Oliver did not like to philosophize. He would just give me advice for three minutes, saying it would be good to write that song,” said Petar Dragojević. 

“Then if I would bring the text of that song a second time and sing it so Oliver could hear it, he would simply say: 'That's a good thing for you!' He always said that the most important thing is a good song and how the song will best succeed. So that’s how we came to do a duet when we recorded the song 'Istog smo roda'. Concerning the music, we talked for three minutes and that was all. I really miss Oliver, first as an uncle and then as a man. He was an icon of the Croatian music scene, for 50 years writing songs for people who were emotionally attached. I see how much it means to people today, how people miss him, and no one can replace or inherit him. Oliver is unrepeatable!”

Did Oliver have anything to do with the beginning of Petar’s music career?

“Absolutely. In our family, everyone was involved in Oliver’s music, my father and our grandfather, and even great grandfather. Genetics were like that with me. Otherwise, Oliver and my dad never needed to push their kids into music. Only when someone had ambitions, Oliver would support them. I went to music school and music was my path from the beginning. Oliver immediately recognized that and helped me at the most important moments, and knew to say, 'You fight for it son because only you will achieve what you want!'

Petar will also honor Oliver with concerts around the world.

“Most performances are in Germany and then in Canada and Australia. Soon we plan to organize 70 concerts around the world for our Diaspora. The concerts will include the most beautiful Oliver songs, featuring ten famous performers, including my little one. All singers will follow Oliver's musical composition. The tour will last for a year and a half, and will start in Sweden, Germany, Australia, Canada, America, mostly in larger cities, where many of our emigrants worshipped Oliver.”

Petar wants to remind the Diaspora of Oliver's music.

“I often visit our Diaspora in Frankfurt, and I am very pleased to visit Kruno Perković in Darmstadt, where I plan to hold a performance soon. He often presents our songs to his guests, which I enjoy. I see that our successful business people around the world have not forgotten their roots and they remain connected with their homeland,” concluded Petar.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

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