Saturday, 11 April 2020

Jelsa Za Krizen, Hrvatska Nije Wuhan i Osjecaj Kabinske Groznice

11. travanj 2020. - Odluka da se dopusti održavanje procesije Za Križen u Jelsi izazvala je mnoštvo rasprave. Detaljan izvještaj jedinog stranca koji je prisustvovao cijelom događaju na Hvaru.

(ENGLISH VERSION)

Ovo je članak koji zaista ne želim pisati, jer znam da će rezultirati dodatnim napadima i zlostavljanju s nekih strana, bez obzira što napisao, zbog povišenih emocija i osjećaja o ovoj temi. Ali, odlučio sam se ipak napisati ga, jer osjećam da imam moralnu obvezu to učiniti.  

Moralnu obvezu iz dva razloga. Prije svega prema stanovnicima Hvara, koji ove godine nisu mogli sudjelovati u petstogodišnjoj tradiciji koju štiti UNESCO, a koja je gotovo dio njihovog DNA - slučajan razvoj događaja doveo je do toga da sam bio jedan od šačice (manje od deset) ljudi bez službene pozicije koji je dobio priliku prisustvovati cijelom događaju i svih šest procesija. Osjećam obvezu podijeliti što više informacija, uključujući i videosnimke i fotografije. Ovdje već možete vidjeti prvi opširan izvještaj (na engleskom jeziku), kao i uređenu video posvetu svakome od šest nositelja križa ovdje


 

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TCN-ovo izvještavanje o procesiji Za Križen 2020 u Jelsi (a koje je pokrilo i preostalih pet procesija iz Vrboske, Vrbnja, Svirča, Vrisnika i Pitvi) do sada je prenešeno na portalima Bitno.net, Laudato TV, 24 Sata, Index, Tportal, Dalmacija Danas, Telegram, Dalmacija News, Šibenik In, Morski.hr, Maxportal.hr, a pojavilo se i u nacionalnim večernjim vijestima na RTL Danas. Laudato TV čak me nazvao Ircem, a tako su postali prvi portal koji je prihvatio moju post-Brexit stvarnost. 

Intenzivan interes medija za naš rad imao je manje veze s kvalitetom onoga što smo proizveli, a puno više, naravno, s činjenicom da sam zbog trenutačnih ograničenja kretanja bio jedan od malog broja novinara u zemlji koji su mogli prisustvovati događaju. 

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Bila je ovo po tom pitanju čudna godina za TCN, budući da smo kolega i ja bili jedini stranci na inauguraciji Predsjednika Milanovića prije par mjeseci. Više o dojmovima stranca s hrvatske predsjedničke inauguracije pročitajte ovdje

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A onda, još čudniji osjećaj: početak procesije Za Križen u Jelsi u četvrtak. Ne samo da sam bio jedini stranac na glavnom trgu, nego sam bio i jedina osoba. 

Meni se čini da postoje tri aspekta ove odluke koji su raspirili emocije. 

1) Društveno distanciranje

2) Ljutnja što su mnogi drugi događaji otkazani, a ljudi zatvoreni u svoje kuće, a istovremeno je procesija Za Križen dopuštena.

3) Kako se približava Uskrs, važno vrijeme za obitelji u Hrvatskoj, dopuštanje odvijanja ove procesije može poslati pogrešnu poruku. 

Neću se doticati posljednjih dviju točaka, jer moje mišljenje nije bitno, a i davno sam naučio da uskakivanje u polarizirane debate dovodi do otklizavanja u rasprave o ustašama i partizanima u par minuta. Ali, imam mnogo toga reći o prvoj temi, kao i dodati nešto vrijednosti u raspravu, budući da sam imao pristup cijeloj procesiji.  

Prije nego što krenem, mislim da je bitno napomenuti da ljudi imaju različita iskustva i perspektive, ovisno o tome koliko im je kretanje ograničeno i nalaze li se s nekim, i s kim točno, u izolaciji. I iako ne mogu zamisliti kako je biti zatvoren u Zagrebu s koronom vani a potresima unutra, brinem se i za prijatelja koji je na idiličnom karipskom otoku koji je upravo zabilježio prvu smrt od Covida-19. Nema nikakve šanse naći se na letu s otoka, a otok ima 10 bolničkih kreveta i 2 respiratora. Posve drukčiji zatvor, ako ga usporedimo sa Zagrebom, a možda čak i još više zastrašujući, bez obzira na sunce i mogućnost odlaska na plažu. 

Nijedno mjesto nije savršeno za biti dok sve ovo prođe i posve prihvaćam da su okolnosti u sunčanoj Jelsi mnogo bolje nego na mnogim drugim mjestima. Da smo ostali u našoj kući u Varaždinu, vjerujem da bismo se poubijali, a iako su zdravstveni resursi na otoku ograničeni, Split nije daleko a hrvatske hitne službe rade fantastičan posao iako su već desetljećima slabo financirane. 

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Dio naslova je da Hrvatska nije Wuhan. Postoji razlog za to, iako sam svjestan da će neki to vidjeti kao obični clickbait. Želim dodati jedan pasus o clickbaitu u ovu raspravu prije nego što nastavim, jer je to važan aspekt ove debate. Sada prolazimo kroz eru vrhunca clickbaita, a neki medijski članci o ovoj procesiji dobrano su se tome prepustili. 

Iako ne osuđujem portale koji provode politiku clickbaita (više o tome zašto malo kasnije), to je nešto čemu se urednički snažno protivim na TCN-u. Iako ne možemo to uvijek postizati, budući da imamo mnoštvo suradnika i opuštenu politiku objavljivanja, kvaliteta nam je značajno važnija od brze gotovine koju mogu pružiti klikovi vođeni histerijom. Po mom mišljenju, kratkotrajni financijski dobitak s druge bi strane doveo do gubitka kvalitetnih čitatelja, koji bi ispravno zaključili da smo clickbait stranica. 

Zašto onda ne osuđujem druge portale? Prihod od Adsensea je ključan prihod za medijske portale ovih dana, a prihod od Adsensea stvaraju klikovi. Što imate više klikova, to više zarađujete. Što imate više clickbait članaka, to imate više klikova i više novca. Trenutačna financijska situacija na TCN-u je takva da nam je doslovno svaki klijent zamrznuo suradnju - tijekom posljednjih tri mjeseca. Bolno ali razumljivo. I u međuvremenu nam se jedan klijent vratio i novi nam se klijent priključio jučer, ali to znači da je punih mjesec dana JEDINI izvor prihoda za TCN bio prihod od Adsensea. Dakle, da bih nahranio svoju djecu, u interesu mi je bilo privući klikove na našu stranicu. Pa je pitanje bilo, raditi kompromise po pitanju kvalitete ili zamoliti djecu da nešto manje jedu? To je dio rasprave o clickbaitima koji se rijetko spominje. 

Žao mi je, djeco, odlučio sam se za kvalitetu ALI dobra vijest je da se klijenti vraćaju i dolaze nam i novi, pa ćemo uskoro moći ponovo dobro jesti. I, da, šalim se o tome imaju li mi djeca što jesti - kada imate privilegiju pristupa kvalitetnih proizvoda svoga punca i legendarne Konobe Zorica koju vodi vaša punica, nitko neće umrijeti od gladi. 

Oprostite mi na dugom uvodu, ali mislim da je bio bitan kako biste shvatili ovu kompleksnu situaciju. 

Pa počnimo. Pa zašto Hrvatska (niti bilo koje drugo mjesto na svijetu) nije Wuhan? Pogledajte na grafiku koja pokazuje razinu restrikcija u nekim evropskim zemljama. Dok je Wuhan imao potpuni "lockdown", u svim ovim zemljama, uključujući i Hrvatsku, on je bio samo djelomičan.
 

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Ovo je Split krajem prošlog mjeseca, gdje su domaći ljudi uživali u tradicionalnoj igri picigina na proljetnome suncu. Zadržavali su prikladnu društvenu distancu, a i pravila igre čini se da ne dopuštaju da igrači budu unutar metra jedan od drugoga. Prenošenje virusa na lopti posve je drugi aspekt ove igre.  Ali, ovo je i izvrstan vizualni primjer onoga što se trenutačno događa u Hrvatskoj. Većina, ali ne i svi, se pridržavaju pravila i održavaju prikladan razmak. Pitao sam profesora Igora Rudana, jednog od vodećih globalnih eksperata za pitanja pandemije koje je njegovo mišljenje o toj fotografiji u članku Jurgen Klopp and Igor Rudan: the Only COVID-19 Opinions You Need. Njegov odgovor u jednoj rečenici bio je:

Mogu samo reći da, ako napustite svoj dom, niste više posve sigurni, jer i dalje ne znamo kako se ovaj virus tako lako širi. Dok to ne saznamo, ja bih radije ostao doma.

Njegovu mnogo dužu i iznimno informativnu analizu možete pronaći na engleskom jeziku ovdje: How to Maintain Good Results and Exit Quarantine as Soon as Possible.

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Je li tijekom procesije Za Križen bilo kršenja pravila društvenog distanciranja? Da.

Jesu li ta kršenja bila gora od trenutačne situacije diljem Hrvatske? GLASNO NE, DAPAČE, MISLIM DA JE STANJE BILO MNOGO, MNOGO BOLJE

Dajte mi kameru i pristup bilo kojem gradu u Hrvatskoj sa zadatkom da pokažem šokantna kršenja pravila društvenog distanciranja, i napravit ću vam svaki dan novi clickbait članak pa će me na kraju djeca moliti da im prestanem kupovati toliko čokolade. I ono što bih uspio uhvatiti možda će biti istina, ali neće biti reprezentativno za cijelu zemlju. 

Ili, recimo to na drugi način. Koliko ste često, ako ikad, prošetali susjedstvom u kojem živite u Hrvatskoj i primijetili da se 100% vaših susjeda pridržava propisanih pravila?

Nisam očekivao da će tijekom procesije Za Križen biti besprijekorno društveno distanciranje, ali mislim da to ni nitko drugi nije očekivao. Veliko je pitanje - barem se meni tako činilo - bilo koliko će se ostvariti bliskoga kontakta i koliko će ljudi kršiti pravila. I OVO je meni bila priča te večeri i razlog zašto moje poštovanje prema ljudima s Hvara nikad nije bilo veće. 

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Trenutačno u Jelsi ne smijemo napuštati svoju općinu, ali smijemo otići u šetnju, ako se držimo pravila o prikladnoj udaljenosti. Ovo znači da si svaki dan smijem priuštiti 30 minuta uz Jadran, što me održava koliko-toliko normalnim. Ali to također znači da su ljudi iz Jelse mogli legalno izaći na ulice i na neki način sudjelovati u procesiji. To bi neminovno dovelo do mnogo više kontakata i kršenja pravila, da se dogodilo. A budući da je Za Križen TOLIKO važan dio lokalnog genetskog koda, to se moglo očekivati. Pa što se zaista dogodilo, i kako su vlasti kontrolirale stvari?  Evo mog iskustva iz i oko Jelse, najvećeg naselja od šest koji sudjeluju u procesiji. Bio sam vani cijelu noć i imao priliku prisustvovati većini onoga što se dogodilo.  

Prvi pozitivan znak (a i iznenađenje) dogodilo se na vrhu stepenica (pogledajte fotografiju iznad) kojima se spuštam do rive. Stepenice je svojim autom blokirao Ivo Tomić, moj stomatolog, koji je ispunjavao svoju ulogu svjesnog građanina ograničavajući kretanje. Ivo je unaprijed znao da ja imam dozvolu sa sigurne udaljenosti prisustvovati procesiji, te mi je samo mahnuo da prođem. 

Trebao bih objasniti i ovo s dozvolom. Nazvao sam voditelja lokalnog Stožera, Igora, da mu kažem da planiram šetati se oko procesije, prema pravilima, ali da sam htio s njim provjeriti je li to u redu, s obzirom na osjetljivo vrijeme u kojem živimo. Igor me uputio da se javim Juri Tadiću, šefu policije Hvara, koji je to dopustio, ali i predložio da to potvrdi i načelnik općine Jelsa, Nikša Peronja. Načelnik Peronja potvrdio je to mailom. 

I onda me nekoliko sati prije procesije nazvao policijski šef Tadić. Protrnuo sam. Jedina misao kad sam vidio da me on zove bila je da mora da mi javlja da ipak moram ostati doma. No, upravo suprotno, zvao je pitati me gdje točno planiram biti i rekao mi je da se, ako budem imao bilo kakvih problema, slobodno njemu direktno javim. Hvala vam, gospodine, cijenim to. 

A onda dalje na glavni trg, gdje je glavna akcija uskoro trebala početi...

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Nije bilo moguće doći na trg ako niste imali dozvolu. Meni su samo mahnuli da prođem.

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Svaki ulazak bio je blokiran. 

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Moj pogled na trg u 22 sata, kada je procesija trebala krenuti. 

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Glavna crkva u Jelsi inače je prepuna hodočasnika koji gledaju a kasnije slijede početak procesije. Ne ovoga četvrtka. 

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I ta se kontrola nastavila kroz cijelu noć. 00:30, dok smo čekali na procesiju iz Vrbnja. 

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Šef policije Hvara Jure Tadić savršeno je vodio operaciju cijelu noć. 

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Ali, glavno iznenađenje bilo mi je to koliko je malo ljudi uopće bilo na ulicama. Neki su odabrali svoje mjesto na ruti procesije i kako se procesija kretala po ulici koja vodi iz grada, bilo ih je možda dvanaestak, međusobno udaljenih više metara. Kako je procesija prolazila, tako su se niz lice jedne domaće žene slijevale suze. Da sam ja clickbait novinar, to bi bila glavna fotografija uz ovogodišnju procesiju. Nisam pitao radi li se o suzama radosnicama što se procesija ipak odvija, suzama frustracije što ne može sudjelovati, ili suzama zbog cjelokupne situacije u kojoj se nalazimo. Kako god bilo, meni je iskristaliziralo što točno procesija Za Križen znači ljudima Jelse, Pitvi, Vrisnika, Svirča, Vrbnja i Vrboske.

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A onda je bilo očito da se ne može proći pokraj policije na kopnu...  

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... ili na moru.  

Ali što će se dogoditi kad se procesija vrati u Jelsu ujutro? Sigurno će se tad ljudi okupiti? Da biste dobili osjećaj, evo kako je završila procesija Za Križen u Jelsi 2019. godine. 

Meni je to najsretnije doba godine u Jelsi, jer su energija i veselje u kafićima koje se pruža hodočasnicima nakon njihovog 9-satnog iskustva tijekom noći nešto zaista čarobno.  

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Dođimo brzo do 2020., kada prikladno međusobno udaljeni Jelsani očekuju povratak njihove procesije. Bio sam potpuno šokiran. I potpuno ponosan.  

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Čekali su samo Don Stanko i šačica drugih ljudi.

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Još jedna od snažnih fotografija procesije 2020. 

Možete vidjeti dolazak križa u ovoj video-montaži koju je priredila Miranda Miličić Bradbury, a koja uključuje neke fantastične snimke prolaska procesije prema crkvi Sv. Ivana. Ovo je neprikosnoveni vrhunac te noći.  

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I najgore kršenje pravila međusobne udaljenosti tijekom cijele procesije, ali i dalje nešto što se događa u svakom uglu Hrvatske. Iz perspektive društvene distance, Za Križen nije bila ništa gora - a vjerojatno i nešto bolja - od onoga što se trenutačno događa diljem Hrvatske.  Druge dvije teme debate koje sam gore spomenuo svaka su zasebna rasprava, ali po mom mišljenju, nema ni jednog razloga da se u Hrvatskoj uopće debatira o kršenju društvene distance tijekom procesije Za Križen. Bi li bilo bolje da se Za Križen ove godine nije dogodila, jednako kao što su otkazani mnogi drugi događaji u Hrvatskoj tijekom kojih dolazi do ozbiljnih kršenja pravila?  Uz naklon bih se složio s profesorom Rudanom i rekao da da. 

Ali, Hrvatska nije Wuhan i to je odluka koju su donijele hrvatske vlasti, jednako kao i neki ljudi u Hrvatskoj, koji osobno čine postupke koji dovode do kršenja pravila društvene distance. 

 

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Moja se priča završava. Trg Sv. Ivana. 

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Glavni trg u Jelsi, pet minuta nakon dolaska procesije.  

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I pogled s rive.  

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Samo jedan ranojutarnji razgovor, uz prikladan razmak, koji prekida tišinu.  

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Mir i tišina praznog ranog jutra, koje sam naučio cijeniti tijekom svog boravka ovdje.  

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I posljednja fotografija posljednjeg policijskog postupanja u ovoj izvanredno provedenoj operaciji: dezinficiranje svoga plovila. 

Moja zahvala i poštovanje svima onima koji su ostvarili da Za Križen 2020 bude uspješna u iznimno zahtjevnim okolnostima. 

Nadam se da će ovaj izvještaj donijeti nešto jasnoće u raspravu, kao i nešto više informacija i fotografija onima kojima je procesija Za Križen draga. 

Možete vidjeti više izvještaja o procesiji Za Križen 2020, uključujući i video snimke prethodnih procesija, na posebnoj stranici TCN je posvetio toj temi

 

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Jelsa Za Krizen, Croatia Not Wuhan & Cabin Fever Perspectives

April 11, 2020 - The decision to allow the Jelsa Za Krizen procession to proceed has caused plenty of debate. A detailed account from the only foreigner to witness the whole event on Hvar. 

(CROATIAN VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE)

This is an article I really do not want to write, since I know it will lead to more attacks and abuse from some quarters, no matter what I write, due to the high emotions and feelings about the subject. But I have decided to write it because I feel I have a moral obligation to do so. 

A moral obligation for two reasons. Firstly to the people of Hvar, who were unable to take part in this 500-year-old UNESCO tradition which is almost part of their DNA - a chance turn of events meant that I was only a handful (less than ten) of people outside officialdom who got to witness the whole event and all six processions. I feel a duty to share as much information, including videos and photos as I can. You can already see the first comprehensive report here, as well as an edited video tribute to each of the six cross bearers here

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TCN's coverage and videos of the Jelsa Za Krizen 2020 (which also covered the other five processions from Vrboska, Vrbanj, Svirce, Vrisnik and Pitve) has already been featured in Bitno.net, Laudato TV, 24 Sata, Index, Tportal, Dalmacija Danas, Telegram, Dalmacija News, Sibenik In, Morski.hr, Maxportal.hr, as well as appearing on the national evening news on RTL Danas. Laudato TV even referred to me as Irish, the first portal to note my post-Brexit reality. 

This intense media interest in our work had less to do with the quality of what we produced and more, of course, with the fact the current travel restrictions meant that I was one of the only journalists in the country who could attend the event. 

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It has certainly been a strange year for TCN in that regard, as my colleague and I were the only foreigners at the inauguration of President Milanovic a couple of months ago. You can read more about a foreign perspective on a Croatian presidential inauguration here

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And then, an even stranger feeling. at the start of the Jelsa Za Krizen procession on Thursday. Not only the only foreigner on the main square but also the only person. 

As far as I can see, there are three aspects of the decision which have flared emotions. 

1) Social distancing.

2) Anger that while other events are cancelled and people are confined to homes, Za Krizen went ahead.

3) With Easter approaching, such an important family time for Croatians, allowing the procession to proceed sent out the wrong message. 

I am not going to touch the last two topics, since my opinion does not matter, and I learned a long ago about jumping into polarised debates that will descend to Ustasa v Partizani in minutes. But I do have a lot to say on the first topic, as well as value to add to the discussion due to my close access to the entire procession.  

Before I do so, I think it is also important to mention that everyone is having a different experience and perspective based on how confined they are and who they are (or are not) locked down with. While I can't imagine what I must be like caged in Zagreb with corona on the outside and earthquakes on the inside, I worry too about a friend on an idyllic Caribbean island which just registered its first corona death. With no chance of flights out, the island only had 10 hospital beds and two respirators. A different kind of prison compared to Zagreb, and perhaps even more terrifying despite the sun and access to the beach. 

No place is perfect to sit this one out, and I fully acknowledge that my circumstances in sunny Jelsa are much better than many others. Had we stayed in the house in Varazdin, we would have ended up killing each other for sure, and while health facilities on the island are limited, Split is not far away, and Croatia's emergency services do an outstanding job despite decades of underfunding. 

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Part of the title is 'Croatia not Wuhan.' There is a reason for that, although I am aware that some may see this as clickbait. I want to add a paragraph on clickbait to the discussion before I proceed because it is an important aspect of the debate. There has never been a greater era of clickbait than today, and some media articles on this procession have indulged in that. 

While I do not judge portals which do engage in a policy of clickbait (more on why in a minute), it is something I strongly oppose on TCN editorially. Although we don't always achieve it, given the number of contributors we have and the relaxed publishing policy, quality is of much more importance than quick cash from hysteria-driven clicks. In my opinion, the short-term financial gain would be offset by the loss of quality readers who would rightly conclude that we were a clickbait site. 

So why don't I judge other portals? Adsense revenue is an essential revenue stream for media portals these days, and Adsense revenue is generated by clicks. The more clicks, the more cash you make. The more clickbaity articles, the more clicks, the more cash. TCN's current financial status is that every single client we had put our cooperation on hold, every single one - over a period of three days last month. Painful but understandable. While one has now come back and we picked up a new client yesterday, this has meant that for a month, the ONLY revenue stream for TCN has been Adsense revenue. So in order to feed my kids, it is in my interest to attract clicks to the site. So do I compromise on quality, or ask the kids to eat less? That is a part of the clickbait debate that rarely gets discussed. 

Sorry kids, I went for quality BUT the good news is that clients are coming back and new ones committing, so we will be able to eat well again real soon. And yes, I am joking about not having food for the kids - when you have access to the quality produce of your punac and the legendary Konoba Zorica run by your punica, nobody will starve. 

Sorry for the long intro, but I think it is necessary to have a better understanding of this complex situation. 

Let's begin. So why is Croatia (or anywhere else in the world) not Wuhan? Look at the chart above on the level of restrictions in some European countries. While Wuhan had total lockdown, these countries and Croatia have partial lockdown. 

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This is Split late last month, where locals were enjoying a traditional game called picigin in the Spring sunshine. They were appropriately socially distanced, and the rules of the game apparently mean you can not be within one metre of another player. Passing the virus on via the ball is another aspect to the game, however. But this is also a great visual example of what is currently happening in Croatia. MOST but not ALL are adhering to the rules and appropriate distancing. I asked Professor Igor Rudan, one of the leading global experts on pandemics what was his opinion of the above photo in Jurgen Klopp and Igor Rudan: the Only COVID-19 Opinions You Need. His one-line answer was:

I can only say that, if you leave home, you are no longer safe, because we still have no idea how this virus can spread so easily. Until we do, I would rather stay in.

His much longer, and highly informative analysis can be found in How to Maintain Good Results and Exit Quarantine as Soon as Possible.

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Were there social distancing violations at Za Krizen? Yes

Were they worse than the current situation all over Croatia? An EMPHATIC NO, INDEED MUCH, MUCH BETTER

Give me a camera and access to any city in Croatia with a brief to show the shocking abuse of social distancing rules, and I will have a daily clickbait article which will have my kids begging me to stop buying them so much chocolate. While what I capture might be true, it would not be representative. 

Or let's put is another way. How often, if ever, have you been out in the neighbourhood where you live in Croatia and seen 100% adherence to the social distancing rules?

I never expected Za Krizen to have total social distancing, and I don't think anyone else did. The big question - to me at least - was how much close contact there would be, and how many people would violate. And THIS to me was the story of the night and the reason why my respect for the people of Hvar has never been higher. 

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Currently in Jelsa, we are not allowed to leave the area, but we are free to go for a walk, if we are appropriately socially distanced. This means that I can get my 30 minutes a day by the Adriatic which is keeping me sane. But it also meant that all the locals could legally come out and take part in the procession in some way. That would necessarily lead to a lot more contact and violations if it were to happen. And with Za Krizen SUCH an important part of the local genetic makeup, it was to be expected. So what actually happened, and how did the authorities control things? Here is my experience in and around Jelsa, the biggest of the six settlements. I was out all night so had the chance to observe the most.  

The first reassurance (and surprise) came at the top of the steps (see above) I use to go to the riva. It was blocked by the car of my dentist, Ivo Tomic, who was doing his bit as a good citizen to limit movement. Ivo had been informed that I had been given permission to attend the procession from distance and waved me through. 

I should mention at this point about the permission. I called the head of the local Stozer, Igor, to say that I planned to wander around, as per the rules, but just wanted to check if that was ok, as I knew it was a sensitive time. Igor referred me to check with Jure Tadic, the Hvar Police Chief, who gave his blessing but suggested I get confirmation from Jelsa Mayor, Niksa Peronja. Mayor Peronja confirmed by email. 

And then a few hours before the procession Police Chief Tadic called me. My heart sank. The only reason for the call must be to tell me to stay home, I thought as his number flashed up. But quite the contrary, he wanted to know exactly where I planned to be, and to let me know that if I had any problems, to call him directly. Thank you, Sir, that was much appreciated. 

And so to the main square, where the main action would soon begin...

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No chance to get to the square unless you had permission. I was waved through.

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Every entrance was blocked. 

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My view of the square at 22:00, when the procession was due to start. 

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The main church in Jelsa is normally packed with pilgrims watching, and then following, the start of the procession. Not on Thursday. 

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And that control continued through the night. 00:30 as we waited for the Vrbanj procession. 

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Hvar Police Chief Jure Tadic ran a perfect operation all night. 

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But the main surprise was how few people there were on the streets at all. Some had chosen their own spot along the route, and as the procession went along the road out of the town, there were perhaps a dozen, each several metres apart. As the procession passed, tears poured out of one local woman. Had I been that clickbait journalist, it would have been the photo of the procession. I did not enquire if they were tears of joy at seeing the procession happen, frustration at not being able to take part, or tears for the current situation. Whichever, this crystallised for me just what Za Krizen means for the people of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska. 

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And there was going to be no getting past the police on land...  

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... or by sea.  

But what would happen when the Jelsa procession came back in the morning? Surely the crowds would gather then? To give some perspective, this is how Jelsa Za Krizen 2019 finished. 

The most joyful time of the year in Jelsa for me, and the energy and joy in the cafes afterwards among the pilgrims after their 9-hour experience through the night is truly magical.  

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Fast forward to 2020, and the socially distanced Jelsani awaiting the return of their procession. I was absolutely stunned. And absolutely proud.  

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Don Stanko and just a handful of others awaited.  

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Another powerful photo memory of the 2020 procession. 

You can see the arrival of the cross in this video of my footage which has been edited by Miranda Milicic Bradbury, and includes some quite stunning footage as the procession then proceeded to St John's Church. This was the undoubted highlight of the night.  

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The biggest social distancing violation of the entire procession, but something happening in every corner of Croatia. From a social distancing point of view, Za Krizen was no worse - and actually better - than what is currently happening all over Croatia. The other two points of debate mentioned above are a separate discussion, but there is absolutely no reason in my opinion why Za Krizen social distancing violations are even a discussion in Croatia at the moment. Would it be better if Za Krizen did not happen alongside all the other things going on at the moment in Croatia which are generating more serious violations? I bow to Professor Rudan and say yes. 

But Croatia is not Wuhan, and that is a decision that the Croatian authorities, but also some Croatian people, have taken through their own individual acts of social distancing violation.  

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My story is coming to an end. St John's Square. 

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Jelsa's main square five minutes after the procession had arrived.  

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And a view from the riva.  

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Just one early morning, socially distanced conversation to break the silence.  

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Early morning empty tranquillity that I have come to cherish during my time here.  

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And the final photo for the final police action in this outstandingly conducted operation - disinfecting their boat. 

My thanks and respect to all those who made Za Krizen 2020 a success in very challenging circumstances. 

I hope that this account brings more clarity to the discussion, as well as more information and photos for the many who hold Za Krizen so dear. 

You can see more of TCN's Za Krizen coverage, including videos of previous procession, in our dedicated section

 

Friday, 10 April 2020

Za Krizen 2020: Video Tribute to Each of 6 Hvar Cross Bearers

April 10, 2020 - A Za Krizen 2020 video tribute and their names for the 6 cross bearers carrying the cross for their community on Hvar overnight.  

Jelsa is once more quiet after a night of prayer, emotion and reflection, with the annual UNESCO Za Krizen (Behind the Cross) taking place as it has done each year for more than 500 years, albeit in a drastically different format this year, due to the coronavirus reality. 

As I have been self-isolating in our home in Jelsa and unable to move elsewhere, I found myself being one of the only journalists who was able to cover this year's procession live, which I did from distance through the night. You can see the timeline of how Za Krizen 2020 unfolded in this video and photo report published this morning.

I plan to write a much bigger piece on various details of what was an unforgettable night, as I know how much Za Krizen means to so many people, and how heartbreaking it must have been not to be able to participate, as each procession was reduced to just 15 people, as opposed to the hundreds or thousands that follow the various six processions in an ordinary year. 

Having been up all night reporting, I went to bed about 10 am, but my wife, Miranda Milicic Bradbury, was busy sorting all the footage I had taken. She thought it would be nice to have a video for each cross bearer, and so she set about doing just that. 

What will not be clear to those not familiar with Za Krizen is how Miranda managed to combine the music sung by each village in the Jelsa church (this was available live through a webcam for the first time - 10/10, Jean and Tomi!) and added to the video footage where possible and appropriate. You can see the six videos below, in order that they came to Jelsa, and with the name of each cross bearer in the title of the video. 

Vrboska

Vrbanj

Svirce

Vrisnik

Pitve

Jelsa

To learn more about Za Krizen, follow the dedicated TCN section.  

Friday, 10 April 2020

Za Krizen 2020: All 6 Hvar Processions in Jelsa (VIDEOS)

April 10, 2020 - Za Krizen 2020 took place in very unusual circumstances overnight. TCN was there the whole night. In the first of a series of reports, a timeline with video coverage of each of the six processions.  

16:00 - There has been a lot of controversy about whether or not Za Krizen 2020 should go ahead in the corona era. A little background and overview of the procession route from the TCN terrace in Jelsa, which overlooks five of the six villages taking part in this 500-year-old tradition. 

21:20 - Preparing myself mentally for a lonely all-nighter from the TCN terrace.

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22:00 - Jelsa main square at the official start time of Za Krizen 2020. Totally empty. 

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22:03 -  Apart from one Irishman. I am extremely grateful to Niksa Peronja, Mayor of Jelsa, Jure Tadic, Hvar Police Chief, and Igor from the Jelsa Civilian Protection Headquarters for allowing me to document certain parts of Za Krizen 2020 at distance. With all the restrictions, on the ground media cover was light - indeed I only saw the fabulous Hvar TV duo, Maja and Jure (reporting for national television), and Hvar photographer extraordinaire, Jaksa Kuzmicic. But it certainly felt VERY strange to be the only person on the square as the procession started.

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This is how it looked last year. How would it look this year?

22:10 - Za Krizen 2020 is underway. 

I was out all night and have a LOT to say about the last few hours, and I want to document it as fully as possible for the many people for whom Za Krizen is a part of their identity, but who could not take part due to the current situation. To do that properly, I need to get some sleep and formulate my thoughts, so for now, please find a series of videos and timelines through the night, which include all six processions which took part in Za Krizen 2020. 

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23:30 - There were many things that were unusual for Za Krizen 2020, among them the arrival of supporting singers from Vrboska to Jelsa by boat - social distancing has now spread to the Adriatic. 

23:30 - The Vrboska boats arriving in Jelsa.

23:35 - Vrboska arriving in Jelsa.

00:00 -  Midnight. The church bells are now silent until Saturday night. The only sounds, the lapping of waves and barking of a lone dog in the distance.

00:15 - Vrboska support boats leave Jelsa harbour to return home, appropriately socially distanced. 

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00:30 -  As we await Vrbanj, a big shout out to the Hvar police and local authorities. Seriously impressive. It almost feels like King Vili himself organised all.

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I will have MUCH more to say on the policing of the procession and social distancing in my article later. 

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00:40 - Vrbanj arrives in Jelsa.

01:55 - Svirce arrives in Jelsa.

03:00 - Vrisnik arrives in Jelsa.

04:05 - Pitve arrives in Jelsa.

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05:50 - And so begins another day on Hvar. This is how they will start on your holiday here when all this madness is over.

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06:00 - Don Stanko awaits the return of the Jelsa procession on the main square in Jelsa.

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06:00 - The Jelsa procession returns to Jelsa. 

By way of comparison, this is how Za Krizen 2019 finished. 

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And one year later.

06:05 - Just. Beautiful.  

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06:10 - St John's Square

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And that concludes this initial report on Za Krizen 2020. I have much more to write, but sleep has to come first. But I would like to finish with my thanks to the authorities for an outstanding display of organisation and control. 

And my very deep respect for the people of Hvar for respecting the rules, allowing the evening to pass without incident. I know what Za Krizen means to many of you, and I was expecting people to follow the processions or huddle together as they arrived in Jelsa. That simply did not happen. Much more on that when I wake up. 

If any media would like to use the material in this report, please do so. I ask only that you cite Total Croatia News as the author, link back to this article, and send me a link.  

 

 

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Socially Distanced Za Krizen 2020 WILL Happen: Livestream on TCN

April 8, 2020 - 500 years of UNESCO tradition WILL continue on Hvar tomorrow night but Za Krizen 2020 will be a socially distanced procession in the corona era - and partially available on livestream on TCN from 21:30 tomorrow night.  

This is an incredibly hard article to write, as I need to get every word right or I could get in trouble. There is a LOT unsaid behind this article, which perhaps will be left unsaid. My understanding is that the final decision on the religious procession Za Krizen 2020 reached the desk of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. And a decision has been taken - Za Krizen 2020 WILL go ahead tomorrow night at 22:00 - as it has every year for about 500 years on Maundy Thursday - albeit with a radically different look in this socially-distanced corona era.  

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The main square of Jelsa tonight, which traditionally was the focal point of the procession, which has survived occupation by the Italian fascists in 1943, took place in the Sinai Desert in a refugee camp in Egypt in 1944, and took place in the godless Socialist years of Tito. You can learn more about that, and the procession in a previous article on TCN - 'Za Krizen' on Hvar Overcame Fascists, Tito, Sinai Desert, But Will It Beat Corona? 

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This is how Za Krizen looks in a normal year - the start of the Jelsa procession, one of six simultaneous processions which leave from Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska. 

Clearly such a procession is NOT possible in the current climate. And this is NOT what Za Krizen 2020 will look like. 

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Jelsa tonight, as beautiful - and as empty - as I have ever seen it. 

The sound of the church bells. They will fall silent tomorrow night until Sunday, as per the Holy Week tradition in Jelsa. 

The discussion on whether or not to allow the procession to take place in some format has reached the very top echelons of the Croatian government. Health Minister Vili Beros, himself from Jelsa, stated that he was in favour of delaying the procession until September last week

Clearly the idea of hundreds of people taking part was out of the question. Discussions ensued, and one suggestion was that each procession would be reduced to just five people - the crossbearer and four acolytes, a far cry from the 20 or so acolytes and the hundreds or thousands of pilgrims who walk through the night.  

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(A cross burns brightly outside the home of the Jelsa crossbearer, as per tradition)

My understanding is that the crossbearers asked for more acolytes to help them through the long night, and a decision was taken which involved PM Plenkovic (himself a Hvar man, who took part in Za Krizen back in 2017, as reported by TCN).

The final decision is that each procession will be allowed 15 participants (slightly more than the 12 allowed by the Italians in 1943), with five more singers following by car. Social distancing rules will be enforced. 

And - and this will be VERY important to the millions of devout self-isolating Croatian Catholics here and in the diaspora - parts of Za Krizen 2020 will be available live from Jelsa, on the TCN Facebook page from 21:30 tomorrow night. At an incredibly important time of year for Croatians - Easter - the chance to see this religious tradition live from Hvar will no doubt give fortitude to many. 

If all goes well, TCN will have a live feed from both the Jelsa church and the Jelsa main square from 21:30 tomorrow night until 08:00 on the morning of Good Friday. You can like the TCN Facebook page here, where the feed will appear. 

I called the head of the Jelsa Civil Protection Headquarters today, and thereafter the head of Hvar police. Very productive discussions, in which I explained my socially distanced media coverage plans for tomorrow night. Both seemed fine but suggested that I request clearance from Jelsa Mayor Niksa Peronja. Mayor Peronja has just replied that I have clearance to report, so I will do the best I can to capture as much as I can of this tradition which means so much to the people of Hvar. 

Last year, I managed to capture all six processions through the night

I don't expect that level of access this year, but I will report back with the best I can do from a safe distance. 

We will post the livestream link on TCN FB tomorrow night at 21:00

And if you are wondering why Za Krizen 2020 is such a big deal, this is one of my favourite videos ever about Hvar traditions, which explains it all from the point of view of a crossbearer. 

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Restarting Croatian Tourism from the UK After the Homeland War: a Travel Agent's Tale

March 28, 2020 - How do you restart tourism when it comes to a crashing halt? Former travel agent Martin Gannon, on how tourism from London to Croatia got going again after the Homeland War, and the experience and reception those first guests received.

One of the strangest things about this VERY period of world history is how dated things get so very quickly. Something that seemed like a new revelation yesterday already belongs to a previous era a day later. Three days ago I wrote an article called Hope v Reality: Will There Be a 2020 Tourist Season in Croatia? is order to share some insights with people making decisions on strategy for this tourist season.  By the time the article appeared in Croatia on Index last night, it was already a little dated. 

So with tourism coming to an abrupt halt, how will it get started again when all this madness is over? As I wrote yesterday, 25 years ago, the Jelsa hotels were full all year, but there were no tourists. There were used to house refugees from other parts of Croatia and Bosnia. 

But what happened after the war, and how did tourism restart? I asked Martin Gannon, the original crazy Englishman who fell in love with Jelsa back in 1980, how his travel business got back on its feet after the war. 

Here is his very heartwarming account, with some things to think about and take encouragement from, perhaps. 

My travels to visit Croatia and Jelsa during and at the end of the Homeland War brought me to this incredible place that I had known since 1980. I had started work at the end of 1980 for Saga in Porec in Istria looking after slighty more senior guests in Hotels as a holiday rep, then moving on to being a coach tour guide to British and American guests covering the whole of Former Yugoslavia. I saw tourism then as a mass enterprise, low-value, lots of people, simple hotels and very little private input. I continued with different organistations ending up as a senior manager with Pilgrim Holidays owned by Yugoslav Airlines (JAT) and brought in business travel and smaller hotels for British tourists a more quality product. And it sold unbelievably well.

Then tourism stopped with the Homeland war and the majority of hotels along the coast were needed to house refugees.

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(Martin Gannon with his father in Jelsa)

I was with the Croatian community in London, helping with Caritas, so was still in contact with people I used to work with. One Croatian who owned a travel agency found there was a lot of interest still in people wanting to get to Medjurgorje from the UK and Ireland. Croatia Airlines had just taken delivery of its first Airbus A319. This was chartered every Saturday from May until October flying from London Gatwick to Split. At first the majority of tickets sold were for pilgrimages, but slowly we began developing more bookings for holidaymakers. One of the first contracts was with a small private hotel in Trogir called Hotel Concorde.

Slowly more apartments small private hotels began to make themselves known, and we advertised them as best as we could with very limited resources.

One of the larger hotels I contracted was the Mina Hotel in Jelsa, which I was delighted to bring back into tourism to get work back into the village.

Unfortunately, the number of British tourists was still low, but the Italians and Germans were returning in greater numbers.

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So what did these holidaymakers find when they came back? Pure Heaven, and I'm not exaggerating. Local people were delighted to see visitors again, from the friendly and kind help they would find in their apartments, from free wine, fruit and kind and caring advice, to a wonderful atmosphere of being appreciated. The amount of letters we received in the office from people who had been on holiday to Croatia saying it was the best holiday ever, was truly incredible.

In Jelsa the few restaurants that reopened served beautiful fresh fish literally caught in the bay. Fish was abundant as it had been subject to barely any fishing for years. Fresh vegetables grown in the owners' gardens, as they had had to start growing their own food to survive.

Café bars and restaurants would not rush you through, if you only spent a few Kuna it did not matter, you were there at least as a customer. People had survived on barely nothing, so now even as a small amount of money appeared they were grateful for it, not greedy for it.

It is difficult to exactly put in words the atmosphere, it was one of pure happiness, of contentment, we had got through the difficult times now there was a future, look after the guests and they will return.

When the war came to Kosovo in 1998-9 the British tourists almost disappeared, and it was a real struggle to get them to come to Croatia. But again Croatians stayed strong. It was a frustration, but by treating the tourists who came in a kind and generous way they never forgot, and they told others of their experience and slowly the numbers began to increase.

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(Martin Gannon's mother on Hvar in the 1990s)

These visitors at this time, had true relaxing holidays, no enormous crowds, fresh local food, excellent wine, food in restaurants was homemade, not imported frozen fish.

I think now its an opportunity to reflect, and realise it's far better to enjoy a little, rather than be overcrowded and stressed. Croatia is a stunningly beautiful place, I have travelled the world, and know no other place like it,.My heart leaps when I get back there, I feel rejuvenated, and the wonderful kindness and caring of my Croatian friends is truly moving.

I know this year will be very difficult, but if tourism can return in style and delivery like those years in the late 90s and early 2000s , so it can after corona, and it will reap the benefits, in more ways than one.

You can learn more about Martin Gannon's tourism career from 1980 onwards in this lovely article on Eco Hvar.  

Friday, 27 March 2020

25 Years Ago, Jelsa Hotels Were Full But There Were No Tourists

March 27, 2020 - It is 25 years since Jelsa hotels had no tourists, but back in 1995, there were very full, as a local resident recalls. 

It is going to be a very strange summer for everyone. Having lived in a tourist destination (Jelsa on Hvar) and finding myself self-isolating here, the prospect of empty hotels and no tourism is hard to imagine, even before one imagines the pain that will cause the local economy. As I wrote recently in Hope v Reality: Will There Be a 2020 Tourist Season in Croatia?, while we all hope this will be over soon, a look at the realities of the situation and how the world will look on the other side make for some sober reading. 

But Jelsa, and many other destinations in Croatia, are no strangers to the tourism season being ravaged. The Homeland War in the 1990s killed tourism, but that did not mean that Jelsa hotels were empty, far from it. 

Instead of tourists, the hotels slowly filled with internally displaced people from Vukovar and other parts of Slavonia, followed by refugees from Bosnia. Jelsa schools accommodated the kids, and the new arrivals from war-ravaged areas began a prolonged stay. 

I am very grateful to erstwhile TCN contributor and unpaid typo-controller-in-chief in the early days of Total Hvar, Vivian Grisogono, for this fascinating account of her recollections of the war years in Jelsa:

"I came over to Hvar as soon as the blockade was pushed back, possibly during my visit (bringing various bits of aid to Zagreb and Split) in June 1992, certainly for my Fact-Finding Mission on behalf of UNDP / UNHCR which I did between 9th & 21st August 1992. Whichever it was, my friends were delighted to joke that the aggressors had heard I was coming and taken their gunships away! as that happened just a few days before I got to the island.

Apart from the blockade, the island's little air strip was bombed more than once, and had not been repaired at the time of my visit.This left the island totally isolated and vulnerable: no Canadairs to deal with the frequent forest fires, and no emergency medical airlift service. 

My itinerary was through Slovenia and Croatia, looking at the report I did, it was quite hectic! Was supposed to go to Serbia & Montenegro as well, but UN couldn't guarantee my safety, as technically I was still a Yugo citizen at the time. On Hvar Kruni Peronja was President of the Island (a post which is now defunct). The organization of facilities for the refugees was extremely impressive. I visited the Hotel Jadran, inspecting the (spotless) kitchen and living facilities. People making the best of it, but of course a hotel is not a true living space for families. Even less comfortable was the former children's holiday camp (Grebišće) where again the kitchen was spotless, but the living accommodation was sparse - rooms generally had 3 beds which took up almost all the available space, and the building was already in a state of disrepair (though not as bad as now)

My record shows that as at 17th August there were 624 displaced persons (many from the Vukovar region) and 3727 refugees on the island. 1323 were housed in private lodgings, the rest in hotels or former holiday camps. Refugees were provided with a special id card which entitled them to benefits such as food & lodging. Displaced people also received small amounts of money. At the time, electricity was severely limited in Dalmatia because of the occupation of the Peruća dam - there was a point when electricity was only available for a few hours at night. Food was in short supply, firstly while the blockade lasted, and then because of the transport difficulties across the country - remember that Knin was blockaded, and the road detour from the north to the south of Croatia along the coast was complicated, not to say fairly dangerous (I did it later on towards the end of the war, when the dangers were minimal, but just going over the pontoon bridge put up in place of the Maslenica Bridge was a hairy experience at night, even without people firing at you!). On Hvar, heating for the refugees and displaced persons had been a problem during the winter, and was set to be a problem again after the summer.

There was of course a lot of unemployment on the island as tourism was reduced to zero, and a lot of people had optimistically invested in their private tourist facilities when Croatia declared independence in 1991. Locals had priority for such jobs as were available, so refugees / displaced persons had little or no chance. The lack of meaningful activity and income created severe psychological hardship.

Disabled refugees could not be accommodated on the island, but there were plans to receive groups of convalescents for rest, recreation and rehabilitation. Some of the facilities which were mooted for the purpose could have been adapted for wheelchairs users. The programme would have provided employment, and would have been a long-term benefit for the island, but it didn't happen, and indeed facilities for disabled wheelchair users are still extremely limited.

The other thing of note was that the local authorities had taken great trouble to protect property belonging to absent Serbs at that time, being aware that one day the war would end and they would be coming back. The feeling was that those who had not participated in the war should be made welcome at that later time, and should not be given cause for resentment. Quite a lot of those properties were offered for sale at knock-down prices. (As you know, after the war a few Serb-owned properties were commandeered by various incomers, which was sad, but probably inevitable, given the level of anger and frustration which was engendered by five years of misery.)

On the positive side, a lot of Hvar residents went out of their way to help the refugees and displaced people feel comfortable, even though they themselves were suffering their own hardships among all the uncertainties of the war. Friendships were forged which lasted way beyond the end of the aggression. Some of the refugees / displaced persons remained on the island and carved out new lives for themselves. Hvar's exquisite environment is a great bonus, but it wasn't easy for anyone in those long years of the war and its aftermath."

You can learn more about Vivian's environmental initiatives for the island and wider world on her Eco Hvar website

 

Saturday, 21 March 2020

'Za Krizen' on Hvar Overcame Fascists, Tito, Sinai Desert, But Will It Beat Corona?

March 21, 2020 - It is a UNESCO tradition which has taken place each year for 500 years despite the challenges of fascism, socialism and the Egyptian desert. But will Za Krizen 2020 beat the coronavirus? 

When the coronavirus spread throughout Europe, there was much talk about banning events and social gatherings. Most were focused on rock concerts or Premier League matches, but my mind turned to something a little closer to my heart. If this event were cancelled due to COVID-19, what a statement for history! For this event has been challenged many times before, in different trying historical circumstances. But it has always taken place each year at 22:00 on Maundy Thursday on a beautiful Dalmatian island. 

Every year. For 500 years. Without exception. 

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'Za Križen' (literally 'Behind the Cross') is a religious procession which is one of the most important events in the annual calendar of the people of central Hvar. At 22:00 on Maundy Thursday, a barefoot crossbearer, each from the six communities of Jelsa, Pitive, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj, and Vrboska, lead their acolytes and pilgrims on a 22-km procession of chanting, prayer and reflection through the other communities, before returning to their starting point around 07:00 on Good Friday. Several thousand people attend the event and walk through the night for this traditional procession, which was awarded the status of intangible UNESCO heritage back in 2009.  

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It is a procession which is steeped in history, heritage and pride. It is a great honour to carry the cross, and it is said that parents put their new-born babies on the waiting list for the honour. One of the best videos I have ever seen about the traditions of Hvar was Maja Zrnić's piece for Hvar TV following a Pitve crossbearer, Ivo Mileta, behind the scenes.

A really fascinating snapshot of a unique tradition which spans five centuries. The Italian fascists tried to ban it in 1943, but Za Krizen took place, albeit on a reduced scale. 

In 1944, Za Križen took place in the Sinai Desert in Egypt, in a refugee camp in El Shatt. as refugees from Hvar insisted on honouring their traditions - you can read more about the incredible story of Dalmatian refugees in the Sinai Desert here

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And, as the Pitve crossbearer in the video above shows, religious processions during the Tito socialist era were hardly encouraged.

Za Križen has overcome all these obstacles over its 500-year history. I managed to capture all six processions at various times on the night last year here

But will Za Križen be able to overcome perhaps its biggest challenge yet - COVID-19?

With the ban on public gatherings and ferry transportation restricted to those with island IDs, it is clear that the many Hvar people living on the mainland will not return, and that there will be few to no pilgrims following the cross. But will the event take place? 

Perhaps. And if it does take place, it will be one of the few events to actually be happy in these crazy times. 

My understanding is that the current thinking is that the six crossbearers will definitely go, with perhaps a couple of assistants each, but nothing more. The mass gathering at the start and finish will not happen, and so it will be a rather curious affair for those who traditionally take part. The Vrboska crossbearer has apparently arrived from Canada, where he now resides, while the Pitve crossbearer Roman Radonić is the nephew of the youngest ever crossbearer, Sveto Marijan back in 1953, aged just 13. 

It will undoubtedly still be a very special night, although - like everything else in the world right now - different. 

I will bring you as much coverage as a responsible socially distanced journalist can. To learn more about the Za Krizen UNESCO tradition, check out the official UNESCO video below.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Life on Europe's Number 1 Island with All Bars, Restaurants Closed (VIDEO)

March 20, 2020 - So how does the Hvar lockdown look like? A wander around Jelsa the day after much of Croatia closed down. 

It is just over 5 months since Hvar was voted the best island in Europe (it is!) by readers of Conde Nast in the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards, the latest international endorsement of Croatia's premier island. 

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FIve months later, as Hvar and the rest of Croatia should be gearing up to another bumper tourist season, the country, like most of the rest of Europe, finds itself battling the coronavirus, with strict measures enforced to prevent its spread. 

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From the TCN terrace, life looks perfect. And from the TCN terrace, life really IS perfect. Rather than lose too much sleep over the lost tourist bookings of our holiday rental, we decided to relocate and self-isolate there. That endless sunshine and gorgeous terrace never fail to lift the mood. 

But look a little further than the terrace, and life has changed drastically since the introduction of the new measures, as well as the growing awareness of the crisis. 

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Island intellectual life has been suspended, with the collection wisdom of the wise old men of The Bench - whose knowledge has suggestions that there were the original prototype for Google - are nowhere to be seen.  

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With so few people around, social distancing is not that difficult, and the further one gets from people, the closer one gets to nature.  

It will be swimming season very soon, and the gorgeous Adriatic will still be there for you when all this is over.  

As will the bars, cafes and restaurants of Jelsa. There is no denying that tourism is taking a hammering, and those in Croatia's tourism industry are suffering as much as anyone. A video tour of the Jelsa waterfront yesterday, with absolutely everything shut. Beautiful, no doubt, but heartbreaking. 

The good news is that the virus will pass, the gorgeous island of Hvar will remain gorgeous and be waiting for your visit. 

In the meantime, stay safe. 

For the latest on the coronavirus crisis in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.  

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Hvar Island and Jelsa Presented Before WTO in Switzerland

As Morski writes on the 11th of March, 2020, a Jelsa delegation from Hvar island recently visited Switzerland following the official invitation of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations Office in Geneva and the Croatian Ambassador to the Mission, Vesna Batistić Kos, as well as the official invitation of the Croatian Embassy in Bern and Ambassador Andreja Bekić.

The Municipality of Jelsa and the Tourist Board, headed by Mayor Niksa Peronja and the Director of the Tourist Board Marija Marjan, together with Hvar island winemakers, oilmen and those in the hospitality industry presented their products. Along with wines and oils, the main theme was the Mediterranean diet. The main objective of this event was to promote the Municipality of Jelsa and Hvar island in terms of tourism and culture.

The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Gordan Grlic Radman, ambassadors and many diplomatic representatives also attended the presentation at the WTO (World Trade Organisation).

In addition to excellent wines mostly of original Croatian varieties, guests were also able to taste the typical dishes of Hvar island prepared by local chefs.

''This is only the first step when it comes to the joint performances with which we want to open the doors to new markets, both for the export of wine and other products, as well as for winning over new tourists who will come to visit our country.

Wine is a product that binds closely to a certain territory, it can be a great invitation to discover the place where it came from. Since tourism is a good way of generating new demand, cooperation with the Tourist Board of the Jelsa Municipality in the area of ​​the most important wineries of Hvar island is especially important for us,'' said the president of the Association of Croatian Winemakers, Ivana Krstulovic Caric.

In order to maximise the visibility of Dalmatian wines, especially the original varieties - wineries from other areas of Dalmatia have also been included as today's tourists are exploring more destinations and will also visit other Dalmatian cities, such as Zadar, Sibenik, Split, Imotski and nearby vineyards on their way to (or from) Hvar island.

Make sure to follow our lifestyle page for more.

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