Sunday, 13 March 2022

Women's Football in Croatia: Origins and Status Today

14 March 2022 - Women’s football in Croatia has gone through many changes throughout its history - from being solely a man’s sport to becoming one of the most popular for women worldwide. However, in Croatia, women's football still hasn’t received the traction it has in other countries, and many clubs, especially in Eastern Slavonia, saw an inevitable end. Why has this been happening, and what are the solutions to bring back the lost talents in women’s football? A look into women’s football in Croatia.

Women’s football has had many ups and downs throughout history. From being dismissed as only a man’s sport to its “golden age,” the ban that stopped the sport's progress and, in the end, one of the most significant rises in popularity of any sport in history. The “golden age” occurred in England at the beginning of the 20th century when British men were deployed and sent to the frontline during WWI. According to a BBC Three article from 2016, by 1921, there were around 150 women’s teams in England. A Boxing Day match in 1920 drew in crowds of nearly 70,000. However, after the war ended, women were pushed back to their “places” - closed in the houses to be housewives. In 1921, the “ban” was established, declaring it to be “quite unsuitable for females and ought to be encouraged!”. This “rule” was not lifted until 1971, and unfortunately, the damage has already been done.  

If we compare Croatian women’s football history from that timeline, we could say it’s been a bit different. However, even though that sort of ban hasn’t occurred in the established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes and later the so-called Kingdom of Yugoslavia, reservations about women in football were emphasized a lot. According to Grgic and his article “A Brief History of Women’s Football in Croatia/Yugoslavia in Between War Period,” football was generally open to both sexes. However, “experts” pointed out that women as sentient beings do not need to seriously follow men in sports because those who do it turn into masculine people. Throughout the article, Grgic also mentions multiple instances where football was solely considered for men, and women can only use it as a prop to “get into shape and take it easy because women are fragile.” This puts a lot of factors in perspective if we consider that communist countries (especially after WWII) like Yugoslavia set a significant emphasis on women's rights and their “rightful” part of the “revolution.” Still, even that couldn’t stop discrimination against women. But, once again, that didn’t stop women from playing football. For instance, ŽNK Dinamo-Maksimir is a Croatian women's football club based in Zagreb, and the club was founded as ŽNK Maksimir in 1937. The Yugoslav First Women's League was active between 1974 to 1991 and the fall of Yugoslavia. Zagreb, later called Maksimir, was the only Croatian club in the League, and the club with the most titles was Mašinac from Niš.

After the Homeland War, many Croatian women’s football clubs were founded, which led to the eventual establishment of the Croatian Women's First Football League formed in 1992, following the dissolution of the Yugoslav First Women's League, which is currently underway and features eight clubs.

However, in recent decades, women’s club popularity has not helped the sport's popularity in Croatia, especially in regions like Eastern Croatia. Yes, ŽNK Osijek is the most successful Croatian club in the country, but it didn’t help the inevitable shut down of multiple women’s football clubs, especially in Vukovar - Srijem county.

For instance, out of ten active women’s football clubs in the last two decades, only five of them stayed active with ŽNK Mikanovci, NK Dilj Vinkovci, and Graničar Županja mainly operating in Croatian Women’s Second League. The rest of them work only in younger categories. Displacement of the population, lack of children, and girls' disinterest in the sport made clubs shut down. Girls who wanted to play football had to go to other towns and clubs that were still active, and the best would go to ŽNK Osijek.

Also, most Croatian women’s football clubs pay miserable salaries to their players who are just too low for today’s living standards, whereas in lower league clubs' wages are just non-existent. However, in recent years there has been progress, namely in the infrastructure of the Leagues and clubs, possibilities of the clubs to pay to their players, and constant promotion of women’s football games. It made everything so much easier because of social media and an overall rise in the sport's popularity internationally.

 

ženski_klubovi.png

Out of ten clubs, five of them shut down in recent years, and the rest of them are mainly operating in younger categories - Screenshot: Wikipedia
*ugašen (shutdown) *djeluje u mlađim kategorijama (operating only in younger categories)

After the ban was lifted in the UK, women’s football finally progressed. Leagues and football clubs were founded, and the first World Cup in 1991 in China was finally held. In recent times, FIFA World Cup in 2015 and 2019 reached new heights in popularity and brought unprecedented ratings, which could be compared to Olympic Games. Women’s football is now a rapidly growing sport that finally started getting an influx of money and popularity long ago.

Croatian FA recently joined the UEFA Playmakers program, which was created with Disney. The project's primary goal is to introduce football to girls aged 5 to 8 who never experienced playing sports. The program will take place in 2022 and 2023, and four editions will be organized. The first edition - in March 2022 - will follow the animated film Frozen 2. The training will take place on the fields and/or in the halls of women's football clubs so that girls can join the clubs and continue playing football after participating in the UEFA Playmakers program. This project will also include cities all over Croatia and help promote the sport to girls across the country.

In conclusion, after everything researched, we can say that the rise of women’s football in Croatia is inevitable. Of course, it will take a long time since nothing can be done in one day, but positive times are here. Croatian Women’s Football Leagues are slowly but surely developing talent. The Croatian National Team is playing in playoffs for multiple big tournaments, and I don’t doubt that they will one day qualify. The interest in the game is rising again - even though many clubs shut down, girls are once again willing to play football, and rightfully so, because it’s our game too - a women’s game.

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

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

30 Years of International Recognition: A Look at Croatia's European Integration

January 26, 2022 - On January 15, Croatia celebrated 30-years of international recognition, marking yet another milestone for a country that has undergone drastic reform in only three short decades. To fully appreciate the significance of this anniversary, one must first understand where Croatia was and how it achieved its current standing as one of Europe’s safest nations. A look at Croatia's European integration. 

A Bit of Background

Before we can discuss recent events in Croatian economic and foreign policy, we should look back a little further. Prior to succession from communist Yugoslavia, Croatia existed in many forms over the last several centuries. Lying at the crossroads of central Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans, Croatia has a history that is as long and rich as its coastline. While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact date for the origins of Croatian nationhood, the elevation of the Dutchy of Croatia to kingdom status in 925 is a sufficient starting point. The Kingdom of Croatia maintained its independence until 1102 when it entered a personal union with Hungary, marking the beginning of over 800 years of foreign rule. 

The subsequent eight centuries were turbulent, to say the least. Large portions of Croat inhabited territory changed hands as regional powers like the Ottoman and Venetian empires vied for dominance in southeastern Europe. This situation persisted until between the late 18th and mid 19th centuries with the fall of Venice and the subsequent establishment of the Austro-Hungarian compromise in 1867. Following the dissolution of Austria-Hungary post-WWI, Croatia was incorporated into the short-lived Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After a brief stint as a Nazi puppet state during WWII, Croatia was reincorporated into the land of the south Slavs, giving birth to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a communist dictatorship that lasted for almost five decades. Independence was finally won after the Croatian War of Independence which ensued from 1991 to 1995. 

Recovery and Leading Up to EU Membership

Coming out of a brutal conflict, the impacts of war can still be felt today. Croatia had won its independence but at a significant cost. Thousands of lives were lost, and thousands more were displaced. In the years immediately following, a period of reconstruction began as damaged cities were rebuilt the state reconsolidated the institutions that had been damaged or destroyed during the war. Going into the 21st century, Croatia entered a period of shaky but upgraded stability and modest economic growth. Ties with the European Union improved and an application for membership was lodged in 2003. 

The road to EU accession was long and at times tedious. The Union required Croatia to agree to judicial reforms as well as cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. These issues became somewhat contentious at the time, delaying the opening of accession talks. Fortunately, they were resolved to the satisfaction of both parties, allowing negotiations to begin in 2005, hailing the beginning of Croatia’s European future. The next eight years were spent opening and closing the 35 chapters of the accession acquis. There was a brief ten-month delay due to the Piran Bay border dispute with Slovenia. But the restraints were eventually lifted, paving the road for Croatia’s EU membership in 2013.

European Integration: Croatia Today

Since 2013, Croatia has worked consistently to implement reforms that have firmly established it as a bona fide EU member. The right to freedom of movement probably represents the most significant change to the average Croatian’s life. EU states have the right to impose restrictions on new members. So, European labour market access has been one of the more obvious signs of progress within the union. Additionally, Switzerland granted Croatians equal residency and labour privileges, putting Croatia on par with other EU citizens in all associated countries. 

Furthermore, Croatia has made huge advances towards Schengen and Eurozone membership. In December of last year, prime minister Plenković announced that he expects final decisions on both application procedures in 2022. These treaties represent progress not only to Croatia but to the EU as a whole, providing fresh advances to a stagnating Europe.  

As Croatia moves further along the road of development, the small country will continue to face challenges. Only in the last few years, Croatia has had to manage rapid population decline, a migrant crisis, unusually frequent natural disasters, and a global pandemic. These stressors represent just a few examples of the trials that will test Croatian resilience in the years to come. 

But for now, Croatia should be proud of its achievements. Croatia has carved a crescent-shaped niche for itself on the world stage, going from a vague war-torn corner of southeastern Europe into a country renowned for its natural beauty, sports icons, and rich history. Croatia serves as an example for other western Balkan nations, showing that despite a complicated history, a bright future remains possible. So, wherever you may be reading this, as you contemplate Croatia’s 30-year anniversary, be considerate of the past, mindful of the future, and appreciative of the present. 

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 22 November 2021

How Kaiser Franz Josef I Ship Once Connected Dubrovnik and New York

November the 22nd, 2021 - The City of Dubrovnik, Croatia's southernmost city and longtime tourist Mecca, now relies very heavily on air traffic. It wasn't always so. Way back in 1912, the Kaiser Franz Josef I ship once connected Dubrovnik to a famous destination across the pond - fabulous New York.

As Morski/Ivo Batricevic writes, on the slipways of the Cantiere Navale Triestino shipyard in Monfalcone, the Kaiser Franz Josef I passenger ship was built in 1912 for the shipping company Unione Austriaca di Navigazione.

It had a 12567 GT, was 152 metres long, 18.9 metres wide, could accommodate 125 passengers in the first, 550 in the second and 1230 passengers in the third class. The main propulsion piston steam engine with a power of 12,800 hp produced by the Scottish D. Rowan & Co in Glasgow enabled it to sail at a speed of 17 knots. Until 1925, the vessel used garbun to drive the steam engine, and later diesel fuel, writes the chronicler Ivo Batricevic for local portal Dubrovacki dnevnik.

The Kaiser Franz Josef I ship was destined for voyages from the Italian town of Trieste to New York, calling in along the way to the ports of Dubrovnik or Split, Patras, Palermo and Algeria. It made his first commercial voyage on a tourist cruise departing from Trieste on May the 8th, 1912 with the following itinerary: Pula - Dubrovnik - Corfu - Malta - Tunisia - Ajaccio - Nice - Taormina - Katakolon - Kotor - Split - Zadar - Trieste. But as World War I broke out just a couple of years later, the ship found itself in Trieste where it was dismantled and almost undamaged, waiting patiently for the end of the devastating war to come.

After the First World War finally drew to a close, the Kaiser Franz Josef I ship changed its name to Presidente Wilson

The well-preserved liner ended up in Italian hands under the name General Diaz in the fleet of the shipping company Cosulich. In May 1919, for the same shipowner with the new name Presidente Wilson, it undertook the first overseas voyage from Genoa via Marseille all the way over to New York. However, the next voyage departed from Trieste via Messina and Naples, and then headed on to New York. Initially, it mainly transported soldiers on their way home, and later on, it undertook its very first commercial trips.

Presidente Wilson first sailed into the port of Gruz in Dubrovnik on the 27th of February 1921 while sailing a regular route from New York via Algeria, Naples and Patras. It sailed like this regularly until April the 9th, 1927, when it bypassed the Port of Dubrovnik and began to dock in the larger port of the City of Split, a little further north in Central Dalmatia. The Dubrovnik public of the time was indignant at the indifference of the city administration to this, as they had allowed Split to snatch such a prestigious deal from Gruz. Because, in addition to a lucrative deal with immigrants, most travellers would take the opportunity to tour Dubrovnik while the ship was docked, which brought great benefits to domestic traders and carriers.

The ship's passengers toured Dubrovnik and liked what they saw...

On the occasion of this vessel's arrival in November 1923, the local weekly "Narodna svijest" noted that "24 passengers and 400 bags of mail disembarked from the ship. Many travellers disembarked at the end, toured our city, and were enchanted by the romantic natural beauty of our region. Thus, Presidente Wilson, although employed in regular passenger sailing, became the initiator of the first organised tourist visits to Dubrovnik after the First World War. That's why the grief and anger over its departure in 1927 to Split was so great among Dubrovnik's residents.

However, the people of Split didn't enjoy this ship's visits for all that long either. As early as mid-1929, The ship interrupted its regular travels to join Lloyd Trieste's fleet in 1930, for which it sailed for the Far East under the name Gange. As early as 1936, it changed its owner and name again. The fleet of the Trieste shipping company Societa Adriatica di Navigazione had by then been refurbished and modernised, under the name Marco Polo.

The former Kaiser Franz Josef I returned to Dubrovnik on August the 18th, 1937 carrying 208 passengers and 229 crew members, then sailing for the last time to Croatia's southernmost city on July the 17th, 1939 with 130 passengers - never to return again. It was soon dispatched to the port of La Spezia. With the capitulation of Italy, the ship passed, much like everything else, directly into German hands. Due to the danger of Allied attacks from the sea, on May the 12th, 1944, the Germans mined and sank the ship in order to block the entrance to La Spezia. It remained lying on the seabed until 1949, when it was pulled back up to the surface and cut into scrap iron in La Spezia by the end of the following year.

For more on Croatian maritime history, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

President Zoran Milanović: There's no Boycott, Some Generals Received Invitation Too Late

ZAGREB, 4 Aug, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that the fact that some of the army generals will not attend the Victory Day celebration in Knin is not a boycott, but that they received invitations too late.

Who has announced a boycott? Ljubo Ćesić Rojs has not. Josip Đakić is not a general, he is a bum, and a member of parliament, in other words he is nobody. Rojs will be there, Pavao Miljavac will be there and Ante Kotromanović will be there. Of course, not everyone can come every year, but most  people will be there," Milanović said during a visit to the southern town of Sinj.

He said he did not think there was any pressure on some of the generals by the Defence Ministry "because no one can exert pressure on those people," but noted that some of the generals and commanders were put in an awkward position because they received the invitation the day before the event, which was the ministry's responsibility.

During the visit, Milanović conferred high state medals on retired Brigadier Dušan Viro and posthumously on Franciscan Frane Bilokapić for their acts of humanity during the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

He said he did not consider the decoration of General Mladen Kruljac disputable even though he had been found guilty of corruption. "He is a war commander and is decorated what he did in the war. No one is perfect, but what he did in the war is without a doubt impeccable, and he is not the only one."

Judge Dobronić is my candidate for Supreme Court President

Answering questions from the press, Milanović confirmed that 61-year-old Judge Radovan Dobronić is his candidate for the position of Supreme Court President.

He has responded to the call for applications and "now we will see what will those who undermined, torpedoed and dishonoured my previous candidate do," Milanović said, describing Dobronić as smart, educated, honourable and incorruptible.

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

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

State Delegations Lay Wreaths at Mirogoj Cemetery

ZAGREB, 4 Aug, 2021 - On the eve of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, War Veterans Day and the central commemoration in Knin, state delegations laid wreaths at Zagreb's central Mirogoj cemetery on Wednesday.

The government delegation was led by Veterans' Minister Tomo Medved and a delegation of the Croatian Parliament was led by Deputy Speaker Željko Reiner.

The delegations laid wreaths at the Wall of Pain monument, the Central Cross in the Alley of Fallen Croatian Homeland War Defenders, the grave of Croatia's first president Franjo Tudjman, and at the common grave of unidentified victims of the 1991-95 war.

Wreaths were also laid by a delegation of President Zoran Milanović, led by his advisor on defence and national security Dragan Lozančić, as well as a delegation of the City of Zagreb, led by deputy mayor Luka Korlaet.

Shortly after that, a delegation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), led by member of the SDP presidency and MEP Predrag Fred Matic, laid flowers and lit candles at the Wall of Pain monument and the Central Cross in the Alley of Fallen Croatian Homeland War Defenders.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Minister Tomo Medved: Central Celebration of Operation Storm to be Held at Knin Stadium

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - The 26th anniversary of Operation Storm will be organised in accordance with epidemiological measures and the central celebration will be held at the football stadium in Knin, while the ceremonial part will take place at the Knin Fortress, Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved said on Tuesday.

Based on guidance from the Croatian Public Health Institute on compliance with coronavirus restrictions, it has been assessed that the Knin stadium is the best place to organise a dignified commemoration of this important date in our recent history while respecting the epidemiological measures, Medved told a press conference after a meeting of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and relevant cabinet ministers with representatives of the association of retired Croatian army generals.

Before the commemoration, senior state officials will lay wreaths in front of the monument to the casualties and the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Asked whether he expected representatives of the Serb minority to attend, after Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS) attended last year's ceremony, Medved said that an agreement had not yet been reached as to which cabinet members would be attending.

Reporters were also interested in hearing whether anyone from the Croatian Defence Force (HOS), the paramilitary arm of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights,  would attend, Medved said that the position of the Council for Facing the Past was clear and that all components of the Croatian army and police, as well as associations of Homeland War veterans and casualties, would be invited to attend that important anniversary.

Miljavac: The problem is that young people are being recruited with HOS insignia

The head of the association of retired army generals, Pavao Miljavac, said that the association supports the idea for the commemoration to be held at the stadium due to the COVID-19 situation.

As for HOS's participation in the war, Miljavac said that its members need to be honoured as they went to defend Croatia without any ideology.

"The problem to me is that young people, 19 or 20 year olds,  are again being recruited with HOS insignia," said Miljavac and quoted the late president Franjo Tuđman as saying: "Had we continued down that path, Croatia would hardly have been recognised."

During the meeting, the participants discussed disagreements over the Civilian Casualties of the Homeland War Act.

Miljavac underscored that the minister assured them that the law would be implemented in such a way that it will minimise any possible abuse of the law.

"Strict coordination will be conducted between the Interior Ministry and Croatian defenders. We have a list of who was where - almost 95%, so that it will be strictly implemented, and there shouldn't be any abuse," he said.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Croatia FM Grlić Radman For Shedding Light on Fate of Missing, Killed Bugojno Croats

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Tuesday he expected light to be shed on the fate of missing and killed Croats from Bugojno, central Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he laid wreaths and attended Mass in a church destroyed in the 1990s war.

"It's very important to shed light on the dark past so we can live together, so we can open a new chapter of coexistence. It's important to shed light on the past, on the fate of the missing, the killed. Their families are still alive," Grlić Radman said in Kandija.

Croats in Bugojno are commemorating the 28th anniversary of suffering during the war with the Bosniak Army of BiH. In the summer of 1993, about 16,000 were driven out and about 300 were killed, while 15 top military and political officials, who were captured, taken to concentration camps and then killed, are still being traced.

Tomorrow, the search for their bodies will continue with excavations at Rostova, where the remains of four missing Bugojno Croats were exhumed last year.

In Kandija, Grlić Radman laid a wreath for the Croat victims of the Homeland and other wars.

He said Bugojno was a test for all in BiH in "bringing back the spirit of unity, tolerance, multi-ethnicity."

The minister said it was sad that 16,000 Croats lived in Bugojno before the 1990s war and only 2,500 today.

"It's necessary to create the prerequisites for their return. The Croatian government and all its institutions will help with appropriate crossborder cooperation projects and through EU funds. I'm sure the Croats of Bugojno will be able to return home and that the Croatian identity will be cultivated and shown here again, while respecting all other faiths and nations as it used to be."

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

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Total Croatia in Ukrainian: Word of Support by Former Ukrainian Diplomat and Writer Jurij Lisenko

July 12, 2021 - As the Total Croatia site offers translations on all things Croatian in various languages, former diplomat and a famous Ukrainian writer Jurij Lisenko gave his opinion on the Ukrainian translations of the articles. Check out the video, acquired by Ivor Kruljac and edited by Jose Alfonso Cussianovich.

The tourist season is underway, and the goal is to get tourists from all over the world while providing safety in challenging times of corona – both for locals and visitors. As TCN reported, despite the tourist season in 2021 already being 58% better than that of 2020, it also seems that even with predicted Croatian tourism growth for this year, 2019 levels are very far.

With these predictions, Croatian tourists boards should do as much as possible in informing and promoting Croatia to have the best possible outcome. But given that doesn't always work out for the best, TCN is here to help.

Total Croatia: TCN's Multilingual brother

Well, more precisely, not TCN but rather TC or Total Croatia, if you will, the sister site that explains Croatia in detail. TC offers you in-depth articles to explain Croatia from head to toe: What you need to know about Croatia, how to come and travel around the country, detailed views on Croatian destinations, and info on everything you can see and do during your stay.

In addition, articles are translated to various European and world languages!

Word of support from an established Ukrainian writer

One of these languages is Ukrainian and in an effort to see how we did, we reached out to a Ukrainian writer Jurij Lisenko.

„Regarding the text itself, it is really well written. It contains very significant specific business information on various aspects, such as finding apartments or finding jobs for foreigners. At the same time, it is written lively, objective, bit ironic, but with great love for Croatia“, said Lisenko commenting on the Ukrainian translation for the article „Living In Croatia“.  

Check out the video to see his verdict for yourselves. 

Jurij Lisenko sends a special greeting to Total Croatia News and Total Croatia from Ukraine.

Famous Ukrainian writer helping Croatian writers

In a pool of quality Ukrainian writers, Jurij Lisenko is particularly interesting, not just for his excellent writing, but also as he was a former diplomatic advisor at Ukrainian Embassy in Zagreb.

As Akademija Art wrote, Jurij Lisenko was born on May 9, 1958 in Kyiv. Educated in Slavic languages, he lectured the Ukrainian language as well Serbian-Croatian in the Journalist faculty in Kyiv from 1980 to 1997. He also published over 20 scientific papers on philology and is a known poet publishing under the name of Jurko Pozajak. In 1998 he moved to diplomacy and worked for the Ukrainian Embassy in two terms (1998-2002 and 2013-2017), and also in Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, from 2004 to 2008. He was also a speechwriter for Ukrainian president Viktor Juščenko and continued to work for Ukrainian's Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2017.  

Lisenko captured the attention of the Croatian public when along with his daughter Daria, he made new Croatian words, and the two co-authored a book of poetry for kids „Ide Svašta!“ (Everything coming).

As Večernji List reported back in 2016, their book was published back in 2002, and an expanded edition was printed in 2014.

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Jurij Lisenko reading his poetry at the exhibition opening of Ukrainian folklore "Petrikivski Rospis" in Samobor screenshot / Gradska knjižnica Samobor 

Apart from that, the Lisenko family was very active and beloved on the Croatian poetry scene, and apart from presenting Ukrainian culture in Croatia, Jurij also introduced Croatian writers to Ukrainians.  

The best instance of that is the Ukrainian translation of Croatian slam poet and writer Žarko Jovanovski and his short story collection „Tales of Lenin and Stalin“.

In addition, the good cooperation of the Ukrainian and Croatian writers is evident in an international literary magazine, Alternator, published by Sisak's Association For Alternative Culture, where Lisenko is a member of the editorial staff.

And the relevance of Lisenko as a partner for promoting Croatian writers in Ukraine was perhaps best described by the head of Edicije Božičević publishing house, Josip Ivanović.

„For a number of years, I knew a poet, diplomat, and genius Jurij Lisenko who I deeply respect. He is known in Ukraine more or less as an Avant Gard poet. And he published his book a long time ago. We walked around Lviv, and when there is a Lviv Book Fair, there are quite a lot of people and the atmosphere is as on a festival. Students approached him asking him to sign a book that he, as a poet, published 20 or 30 years ago. I never saw anything like that in Zagreb“, recalled Ivanović for Podcast Sekstant.

This shows not only that Ukrainians in general respect literature more than Croatians, but it is evident Lisenko is quite the rock star on the scene.

„I was very happy to see on Total Croatia a text on possibilities of foreigners in Croatia and that it was translated to 16 or 15 languages, including Ukrainian. I was very pleased with that. This means that connections between Ukraine and Croatia are significantly stronger. Indeed, in the last 10-15 years, Croatia became a favorite holiday spot for Ukrainians“, commented Lisenko.

Ukraine and Croatia – similar and friendly

With some differences between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavian communist practices, both Croatia and Ukraine share the same history of denied independence under a multi-national regime.

Đuro vidmarović, Croatian writer and former diplomat, told Laudato TV how the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman appointed him as a Croatian Ambassador to Ukraine and how he was afraid as he wasn't sure what will await him there. But in the end, Ukraine for Vidmarović became a great topic and a happy period of his life. đuro_vidmarović.jpg

Former Croatian ambassador in Ukraine and writer Đuro Vidmarović, screenshot / LaudatoTV

„After I very quickly learned Ukrainian, a big area of Ukrainian culture and heritage opened up to me“, said Vidmarović adding that he met a lot of good colleagues there, particularly writers. As it was his mission to present Croatia, he also learned a lot and remained fascinated with the country of his mission.

„Ukraine is big, huge, contradictory, magical, unique, with a culture that makes it impossible for someone to stay indifferent. You come to Kyiv, and you see the Saint Sophia Cathedral from the 12th century with beautiful frescoes and architecture. My god, someone had to build it, had a sense for it. It was a civilization stronger from the majority of European countries at the time“, said Vidmarović for Laudato TV mesmerized with Ukraine he researches even to this day.  

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Breath-taking view of Kyiv © Pixabay

As Lisenko acknowledged, Croatia is also very famous in Ukraine too.

„Ukrainians discovered Croatia for themselves. Croatia is a beautiful country. You know that for yourselves. But, for Ukrainians, it is particularly pleasant in Croatia that they don't feel like strangers. But, for Ukrainians is a particular joy that languages are similar and Ukrainians, after several days, start to orient themselves in the language, to understand a bit, and can communicate with Croatians in cafes, restaurants, shops, streets, anywhere“, explained Lisenko for TCN.

He added that a lot of Ukrainians also come to Croatia searching for a job. While this may not be the best thing from the perspective of the Ukrainian economy (same as Croatians leaving Croatia isn't great for Croatian economic interests), Lisenko recognizes that the trend „also brings our two nations close“.

 Discover Croatia in your native language

Apart from the article Lisenko commented on, Життя в Хорватії 2021: Витрати, дозволи, стиль життя та зустрічі з людьми, Ukrainians can also follow latest reports on COVID-19 in Croatia as well as 10 речей, які роблять Хорватію найкращою країною (or for English audience, 10 Things Croatia Does Better than Anywhere Else).

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View of Total Croatia site and languages

So far, only these three articles are available in Ukrainian, but no doubt the future will bring more to make Croatia more accessible to beloved Ukrainian visitors.

Currently, TC counts 15 languages with the most translated content from English: Croatian, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Chinese (both traditional „zh-Hant“ and simplified "zh-Hans"), Slovenian, Czech, Romanian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Norwegian (Bokmål), and Russian.

If you want to learn more about diplomatic relations of Croatia, and everything regarding diplomacy and Croatia, check out TCN's series "Friends of Croatia" by Ivor Kruljac.

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

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Zagreb Grič Cannon: Explosive Noon Reminder

July 9, 2021 - Zagreb Grič Cannon - a reminder of noon, and a reason to avoid the centre if you aren't a fan of loud sounds. Get your noise-canceling headphones and read about the cannon's history, courtesy of TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac.

If you find yourself walking around a wider Zagreb centre (such as Savska Cesta or Marin Držić Avenue) around noon, and you focus on the sounds of the city, you may notice a weird sound in between traffic and people passing. An unusual sound, as if someone dropped a heavy box. But, if around noon, you find yourself at Ban Jelačić square or upper town, you will hear a clear and loud BANG! Fear not, as this is not a terrorist attack, and you weren't lied to when your tourist agency swore to god Zagreb is safe from such horrors. The heart-stopping bang is a signifier of noon. If you hear a boom at 11:59 or 12:01, your watch is behind a minute. The cannon states that clear and very, very loud.

Loudest time checker you could think of

Grič cannon first started signaling noon on January 1, 1877, and was located at the State's Meteorology department, back in times when Croatia was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. It wasn't until 1927 that it was moved to Fort Lotršćak where it is situated today.

According to the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery's official website, Fort Lotrščak was named after a bell and comes from campana latrunculorum, which is Latin for „Bell of Thieves“ that rang before closing city gates. Historians aren't exactly sure what the Fort looked like in medieval times, although it is speculated based on old sketches that it had only two floors. It wasn't until 1857 that romanticistic architecture gave the fortress today's four floors and an additional tower at the very top (from which you have a breath-taking view of Zagreb today).

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Fort Lotrščak © Ivor Kruljac / Total Croatia News

In the 17th century, the Fort served as trading storage and had various other ways to adapt to the need of Zagreb and Zagreb's citizens at different times. At one point, when the City was out of money to restore and repair the Fort, it gave Lotrščak to citizens for rent. Citizens who wanted the Fort also had the obligation of maintaining it, and in case of enemy assault, it was to be returned back to the City for defense purposes.  

Warning shot 

Speaking of defense purposes, an old legend says how this cannon managed to save Zagreb with a single shot from the Ottoman conquerors. Legend has it that the Ottoman commander Hasan Pasha (Hasan Paša) settled his army at the coast of the Sava river, in today's area of Novi Zagreb. He was preparing to cross the river and invade the city. But before that, he was about to have lunch one day, and Zagreb fired from the cannon in the Ottoman's direction, close to Hasan and blasting a chicken he wanted to eat. The shot scared the hell out of the Ottomans and they retreated, leaving Zagreb intact.

Changing arsenal

Over the course of time, there were five different Grič cannons that served the purpose of signaling noon. The current canon was given during Zagreb's Univerzijada in 1987, courtesy of the Yugoslavian National Army (JNA) as Croatia at the time was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ).

As for the first three, you can find them today in the collection of the Zagreb City Museum. The first cannon originated in 1876 and was replaced by the second cannon in the unidentified year at the end of the 19th century. The third cannon you can see in Zagreb City Museum, and the first that was situated on Lotrščak fort, was introduced in 1928, and it was made by restoring a Polish cannon from 1912.

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Three cannons showcased at Zagreb City Museum  © Ivor Kruljac / Total Croatia News   

So finding yourself in front of Fort Lotrščak (whose entrance is located right next to the Upper town funicular station) is not recognizable if you are not a fan of loud noise as it can give you a sound fright even down below at Jelačić square and the surrounding area. But, for the brave ones, the Grič cannon can provide a unique souvenir from Zagreb. It doesn't use live ammo (the cannon is modified so it can't), but it does fire several pieces of thick cardboard that then flies down to the area underneath Lotrščak's entrance and smelling like gunpowder.

Ceased fire

Despite being a regular background sound for the experience of living in Zagreb, Grič cannon went through periods when it ceased fire and stopped making statements. The first such instance was World War I and then followed by the war in the nineties. Most recently, the cannon was silenced after the Zagreb earthquake on March 22, 2020, but it re-fired hot and heavy sometimes in May 2020. However, followed by the December 29th Petrinja earthquake, which was also felt heavy in Zagreb, the cannon is silent even today.

„We are not quite sure when it will re-fire“, briefly commented the Zagreb Tourist Board member that welcomed me in Fort Lotrščak, one of the locations where Zagreb TB has a regular stand. Still, despite the cannon being silenced, you can climb and sightsee Lotrščak, the famous cannon as well as the watchtower on top of the Fort, for the prize of 20 kunas.

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One of the exhibitions at Lotrščak © Kula Lotrščak

The Lotrščak Fort address is Tomićeva 9, and the Fort occasionally also hosts various exhibitions at times too. But, the cannon is a regular feature, and there are lots of info on the history of the cannon and the Fort itself there too on the walls- both in English and Croatian.    

Learn more about Zagreb on our TC page.

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

Monday, 5 July 2021

Zagreb Gay Pride 2021 Analysis: Issues Still Exist, Pride Celebrates History and Present Equality

July 5, 2021 - Gay rights in Croatia still have challenges ahead, but even if all problems are resolved, Pride should remain a commemorative event. A look at the history of gay culture in Croatia and the current climate in this Zagreb Gay Pride 2021 Analysis by TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac.

Zagreb Pride is the oldest pride in Croatia. First held in 2002, it attracts more and more people every year, from LGBTQ members, straight people that support gay rights to NGOs, human rights activists, and even politicians from the left and liberal specter. Over the years, the event grew from a one-day pride to Pride month, full of educational and entertaining events regarding LGBTQ issues and a chance for people with the same preferences to meet and celebrate who they are.

Pride month is marked in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan.

„The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets, and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world“, reminds History.com.

When it comes to LGBTQ in Croatia, as you can expect with the ideological divide Croatians generally experience, there are mixed feelings on the issue.

From street violence to a family event  

Participating in the first Pride in 2002 required that if you are a man loving a man ready to openly admit it, you had to have balls.

The attacks by skinheads and other „morally concerned citizens were fierce and violent. Participants truly needed police protection which was provided but also needed to be careful to not get hit by the incoming rocks that were thrown among the participants.

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Police arresting violent skinhead at the first Zagreb Pride in 2002, screenshot / Zagreb pride

But, at least for Zagreb, the situation got better and more open. Today, pride is the forthcoming celebration of love and freedom, and entire families can be seen to join the picnic at Ribnjak park to teach their children tolerance and that people are not sick or different from others because of their sexual preference. Other larger cities in Croatia, such as Split, slowly but surely, do follow that path too, and Rijeka, the pinnacle of liberal Croatia, is also a very gay-friendly city.

Of course, a political counterstrike is expected and quite strong. The first most notable one was the 2013 referendum, where it was voted that the Croatian constitution declares marriage as a „community between a man and woman“. The goal was to deny LGBTQ couples the same rights as enjoyed by straight people.

However, the bill on life partnership outplayed that attempt.

In the meantime, LGBTQ couples can also adopt children in Croatia, as Constitutional Court concluded that gay couples fostering children is not against the Croatian Constitution.

That decision and along with the general openness of Croatia towards LGBTQ was followed by a controversial carnival in Imotski where an effigy of a gay couple was burned. President Zoran Milanović demanded an apology from the organizers, and SDP's MP Arsen Bauk filed charges against the organizers.

Counting pluses and minuses, the report on Croatia being the 39th best country for LGBTQ visitors still seems to uphold. No changes for the better, but at least Croatia is still in the top third for this category of tourists.

 Haters strike back

2020 and 2021 sadly saw the uprise of violence towards LGBTQ in the Croatian capital. Apart from the occasional tearing down or burning of the rainbow flag, Croatia was shocked with an attempt of burning a man in Maksimir Forest Park as well, with his sexual preference being the sole motive for the attack.

 On the other side, this year's pride felt to start stronger than ever. The newly elected mayor Tomislav Tomašević joined the parade, along with stating that Zagreb is a city that is open to everyone. This year arranged a bit differently to adhere to corona measures; around 2500 participated in the event.  

„Twenty of our prides made our city and our republic a better, more democratic, and joyous place for the life of all citizens“, was the main message of the 20th edition of Zagreb Pride.

As reported by Index.hr, the Zagreb Pride association representatives stated that the Croatian LGBTIQ community „became a powerful, responsible and self-aware part of the country, but that the fight isn't over“.

„Our constitution and our laws still do not include in a complete and fair way. Our streets and squares are still not free of hate. We didn't forget nor we will forget victims of homophobic and fascist rampage in this year and all previous years“, stated Zagreb Pride.  

Sadly, while Pride itself went without issues, participants of the pride who walked the streets of Zagreb after pride with rainbow flags faced a series of physical attacks on several locations in Zagreb.  

A week ahead of Pride, conservative MOST Party parliament member Nikola Grmoja complained that commercials displayed during EURO 2020 commercials were LGBTQ propaganda and that kids need to be protected from it and announced that he might include it in his anti-pedophile package. Grmoja's statement caused strong disagreements among the Croatian public, with several people (including celebrities) teasing him that if he wants to start battling pedophilia, he should start from church (as Grmoja is quite clerical). Božo Petrov, president of the MOST party, added more fuel to the fire when he supported Grmoja, stating that „minorities can't dictate what my children can learn in school“. He added that minorities need to be aware that they are minorities and that „we tolerate that," sparking more enrage from the public, with many comparing MOST to the controversial Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Zagreb Pride linked the post-Pride physical attacks with Petrov and Grmoja's public statements, and Petrov and Grmoja announced they would sue Zagreb Pride for slender.

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Nikola Grmoja, screenshot N1

The Law: "Gay is OK". Popular opinion: "Do it in your homes, not on the streets".

In this political escalation, what does the average Croatian think? Looking at the comments on social networks, it seems the majority of Croatians don't mind gays being gays and living how they like (even if they are not always happy with legal rights the LGBTQ community received). But, one sentiment in that „tolerance“ is particularly worrying.

„Live in your house however you want it. You don't have to wave around, like its a best thing ever“, said one of the online comments on Index.hr beneath the news on Petrov and Grmoja.

So it seems the public does not understand why Pride is important. First of all, as evident, the political climate is such that the battle for equality truly isn't over in Croatia, and Pride is the best way for the community to express what issues LGBTQ still face in Croatia. Additionally, pride month is also educational and supportive, and public presence show to other people who feel the same that they are not alone, as they might feel lonely and unable to find people who feel the same in everyday life.

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© Zagreb Pride

But, even if the law and constitution give the same rights and solves the problem of intolerance of LGBTQ people completely, does that mean that Pride should then be canceled? Well, Croatia won its independence and the war in the nineties. Does that mean we should stop commemorating the Homeland War? Or is it nice to honor and celebrate the victory and triumph over all obstacles Croatia had to face in its independence? Pride is a cultural, commemorative event honoring those who were or still are victims and oppressed for their sexual preference, either in Croatia or in the world. Croatia is a democratic country. Every group, national, ethnical, racial, religious, etc. should have the right to gather and honor its heroes. The right to gather and honor its tragedies and their dates and connect with other people who feel the same. If political elites are so concerned with keeping Croatians in Croatia, then they can't afford to discriminate or attack part of Croatian society solely based on their sexual preference. A preference that, unlike being violent or intolerable, can't be chosen.

Learn more about LGBT rights in Croatia and what LGBT tourists should know on our TC page.

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

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