Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Croatian Immortal: Meet Joža Manolić, Beating COVID-19 at 101!

May 12, 2021 -  The way things are going, eternal life might be a reality for this Croatian immortal: meet Joža Manolić, second Croatian Prime Minister and the Yugoslavian secret agent that defeated COVID-19 in his 102nd year of life.

With corona spreading through the world like butter on bread, everyone needs to be careful, but especially people who are old and/or have chronic diseases.

So when someone close to 100 survives the infection, it's a news story worthy of international attention.

And, a similar case most recently happened in Croatia. As reports, one man, who turned 101 two months ago was fighting with the virus for three weeks. He was never hospitalized but was under the doctor's close surveillance in his home until he finally recovered. And the story spread throughout Croatia as an amazing fight, but realistically, among Croatians, the winner of this epic battle of man vs. virus was known all along. Even when it seems the virus was taking the lead at one point, there was nothing to do but watch with a smug look and think, „He'll bounce back, that virus walked into Pfizer/AstraZeneca/Johnson&Johnson/Moderna cocktail embodied naturally". Despite being the priority for vaccination by all health standards, this corona patient didn't even took the vaccine because, as he said to the press „nobody invited him, and he was waiting for his turn“.

The victorious patient's name is Joža Manolić, and he is in Croatia what Rip Thorn is in the US (only Manolić is much cooler, sorry Rip).  

If you are a paranoid doomsday awaiter, watching the Doomsday clock in panic, which, at the time of writing this article, showed 100 seconds until midnight, Croatians would say you are crazy. As long as Joža Manolić is alive, the world will keep spinning. The ultimate proof corona is bad, but not the end of us. 


screenshot / NewsBar

Croatian James Bond but without replacement actors every few movies

Born on March 22, 1920, Joža Manolić isn't only the person that has seen it all; he has done it all! 

He served as the second Croatian Prime Minister from August 24, 1990, to July 17, 1991, and is one of the founders of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), but before that, he had an impressive carrier in the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia.

When he turned 18, he joined the League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ) and was accepted into the Croatian Communist Party when he was 19. From then, among other things, he was appointed Secretary of the Municipal Committee of SKOJ for Nova Gradiška and was named a member of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party in 1940. When WW2 broke out, he was arrested by Ustasha authorities (of the Independent State of Croatia, an ally of Hitler and Mussolini) for spreading communist propaganda in Nova Gradiška. When released from captivity, he moved to Zagreb, where he started cooperating with Yugoslav Partisans and later moved to the partisan-controlled territory. Moving up in the ranks of communist circles, Manolić broke through the very top of the Yugoslav intelligence service. Firstly in OZNA, notorious for eliminating political opponents, and later to UDBA, which was less drastic but still pretty nasty secret service you didn't want to mess with.

The go-to guy to make history, the Croatian James Bond portrayed by only one man, bright and cool. 

There is an expression for the fans of Hajduk Footbal Club that „Hajduk lives forever“ (Hajduk živi vječno). This may be true, but as their game performance shows, it's hard to be as successful in 110 years as Joža Manolić is in 101 years.  

What is even more interesting, Joža Manolić was born in 1920, three months before the conclusion of the Spanish Flu pandemic, and his 100th birthday he celebrated in Zagreb, believe it or not, happened the same day, Zagreb was hit with a powerful 5.5 Richter scale earthquake. With two wars, eight epidemics, and several financial crises survived, Manolić is really the guy you want to be next to regardless of what horrible, death-guaranteed menace is heading your way.

 Immortality recipe: healthy diet and… being a secret agent?

When famous Croatian satirist and editor of the hilarious Newsbar site, Borna Sor (who is not a stranger to TCN) interviewed Manolić in 2016, he asked „the then young 96-year-old Manolić“ how is it possible that he is still alive?

„Every secret agent either lives a long life or is killed ahead of schedule“, said Manolić in good humor.

As Jutarnji list reported, Manolić's DNA was even sequenced to scientifically research the secret of his long life in 2018. The Korean Biotechnology company doesn't really have a precise explanation of his long life, but Manolić has his entire genome on a memory stick, joining other famous people with such an honor, including Nobel prize winner James Watson, actress Glenn Close, TV host Larry King, rock star Ozzy Osbourn and several more. He is the oldest living owner of a driver's license (although he didn't extend it when he turned 100), an active driver, whose clean traffic record can put to shame much younger people causing havoc on the road, including controversial Croatian entrepreneur Tomo Horvatinčić. He was married twice, last time when he was 97 to a then-60year-old woman with whom he was a decade in a relationship. Today he is sadly a widow, outliving both of his wives.

Whether it's any famous Croatian personality or internationally recognized as Eddie Van Halen, Hugh Heffner, or Prince Phillip, there isn't a celebrity death in the country that isn't acknowledged with „Joža Manolić outlived him/her“. As you can imagine, there is an entire group on Facebook dedicated to jokes such as „We need to care for the environment to leave a nicer world to Joža Manolić“, or „Joža Manolić being in Eden before God“.


God explaining to Adam and Eve that he found Joža Manolić when he arrived © Joža Manolić je nadživio

Fascinating and publicly active, the author of this text really wanted to use the news of Manolić defeating corona to do an interview with him for TCN.

„Don't contact him for the love of god! He is over a hundred years old and just got over corona“, said my editor Iva Tatić pleading that I continue to bother diplomats and other people instead of one of the biggest living legends Croatia has ever known.

Well, maybe after he gets some rest from corona, there will be a chance for an interview.

Frankly, I don't worry Joža Manolić is going anywhere, but the question is will I live long enough to do the interview with this pristine gentleman that, while Zagreb has tons of fountains, kept the fountain of youth in his backyard.  

Learn more about history and politics in Croatia on our TC page.

For more about legends of Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Croatians on Titanic: A Look Back on the 109th Anniversary

April 15, 2021 - A look back at Croatians on Titanic following the 109th anniversary of the tragic event.

109 years ago, the Titanic sank, taking at least 1,500 lives to the bottom of the Atlantic. That was the very first voyage of the technological wonder of ship-building expertise of its time. The number of fatalities includes both the crew members and passengers. Approximately 1,317 passengers were on board, and the majority was assigned the third class, reserved for the poor, bottom social class. The Titanic was traveling to the USA from the UK, and many of the passengers climbed aboard, hoping to be greeted to a better life in the States. Given the historical circumstances and social and political turbulence which troubled the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which Croatia was part of in 1912, it's no wonder there were Croats on board as well. Thirty passengers were Croatian (actually thirty-one, but one is was registered in Hungary), and only three of them survived.

In honour of the fallen victims of the Titanic, the country has a Titanic Memorial House in the village of Bratina, around 45 minutes drive from Zagreb, towards Karlovac. This discrete historical memory which is also an unpromoted but potential huge tourist spot caught the attention of a journalist Petra Balija from Večernji List in 2018. She visited the house and got in touch with one of the founders of the memorial house as well as the Titanic 100 Association founded in Bartina in 2012 (on a 100th year anniversary no less) because of the historical connection the place shares with this iconic and tragic ship.

The surname Turčin is a well-renowned name in Bratine, and Stjepan Turčin one of the thirty passengers and sadly one of the casualties of the shipwreck.

„It was exactly him, a hundred years since the sinking, who inspired the residents of Bratina to come up with an exhibition in his honour. Until 2021, his fellow citizens were not introduced to the fact someone from their area died on a big ship“, says the article on Večernji.

One of the founders of the association Andrea Žunec was connected by accident while searching the Internet and coming across the passenger's name list. This lead to Žunec contacting perhaps the biggest expert on Titanic in Croatia and the author of several books on the subject who also joined the association, Slobodan Novković, and soon, the one-time exhibition became the regular feature of the village. The association, back in 2018, counted over 180 members from over 54 different countries, and the exhibition hosts replicas of various items from the Titanic-both from reality and from a movie by James Cameron.

„We have the original piece of coal from the Titanic that dropped from the ship when it sunk. I got it from a Swiss acquaintance“, told Novković to Večernji List.

This year, marking the upper mentioned 109 anniversary, Renata Rašović, again for Večernji List, tracked the experiences of the surviving Croats which they described to various world press shortly after the shipwreck.

One of them was Ivan Jalševac, who was 29 at the time, and he told the journalists that were interviewing him how he was awakened by the event.

„At first, I had no idea what happened. I dressed up peacefully and lit up a cigarette. I'm telling you honestly, I wasn't afraid. On the deck, I saw panic and chaos. I returned back to the cabin to grab my suitcase but it was too late. Everything was flooded with water. I saw this is not a joke and that the ship needs to be abandoned as soon as possible. I thought in the worst case, I will jump in the sea and swim to a boat“, quoted Večernji List.

Jalševac managed to get to the lifeboat and he saw the ship sinking and vertically rising up before he heard three explosions.

„ I saw bodies of people that didn't manage to rescue themselves flying in the air. We stayed in the boat, scared and tired. Women were quiet as if they are mute. Understandable, their husbands stayed on the Titanic, they encountered gruesome death“, said Jalševac.

Večernji goes on to remind that while Croatians were only passengers on the Titanic, the stunning number of 56 Croatians From Istria and the Croatian coast were crew members of Carpathia, which saved 716 shipwreckers.

All Croatian passengers on the Titanic were traveling third class. Just like Andrea Žunec, you can track them down as well on the Titanic passenger list. Keep in mind someone is more difficult to find given they were signed under other countries, such as Hungary, which was the case for Mara Osman Banski. You can learn more about Croatians' faith on the Titanic in one of our previous articles on TCN.

The full names of Croatians on Titanic, separated by survival status on the dreadful night of April 15, 1912, and place go as follows:


Topolovo: Ivan Jalševac

Vagovina: Mara Osman Banski


Brezik: Jego Grga Čačić, Luka Čačić, Marija Čačić, Jovo Čalić, Petar Čalić

Kričina: Bartol Cor, Ivan Cor, Liudevit (Ljudevit) Cor

Kula: Manda Čačić

Lipova Glavica: Jesa Ćulumović

Podgori: Mirko Dika

Ostrovica: Jovan Dimić

Hrastelnica: Jozef Draženovic

Vagovina: Ignjac Hendeković, Štefo Pavlović, Matilda Petranec

 Topolovac: Ivan Jalševac

 Bukovac: Mate Pocruic, Tome Pocruic

 Písac, Peru : Jakob Mile Smiljanović

Galdovo:  Ivan Stanković,

Široka Kula: Ivan Strilić

Bratina: Stjepan Turčin

Konjsko Brdo: Nikola Lulić, Luka Orešković, Marija Orešković, Jelka Orešković (from Konjsko Brdo),

Learn more about modern Croatian history on our TC page

For more about news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Should 0,5 Remain Alcohol Limit For Drivers in Croatia? Istrian Winemakers Worried of Wine Industry Hit

April 13, 2021 - This year or no later than 2023, the new National Road Safety Plan 2020 to 2030 should be implemented in practice. The plan is so far just a proposal, and one of the suggestions is to reduce the so far allowed 0.5 alcohol limit for drivers in Croatia to 0.0.

However, as Goran Rihelj reports for Hr.Turizam, Istrian winemakers think that 0.5 should remain the upper limit as they fear this will be another blow to winemakers and winegrowers.

„With a corona crisis that has no end in sight and an average drop in wine sales in Istrian wineries of 30 percent, this could be an additional blow to our sector. Istria has positioned itself as a top end-gastro destination with the quality of wine and offer, and we believe that our country should harmonize the National Road Safety Plan with European wine countries such as Italy and France, where 0,5 is allowed, while in Great Britain, for example, 0,8“, said Nikola Benvenuti, President of Vinistra.

Istrian winegrowers and winemakers point out they advocate responsible alcohol consumption but think 0.0 should be the law only for young drivers (defined by the current law of Traffic safety as a driver of 24 years of age) and professional drivers.

Prof. dr. sc. Mladen Boban from the Medical Faculty in Split, who has been researching the biological effects of wine on health for years, says this change would contradict other action plans and strategic documents with whom Croatia plans to increase awareness of the general population about the benefits of Mediterranian cuisine.

"It should not be forgotten that moderate drinking of wine with food is one of the pillars of this diet with the relatively largest contribution to the beneficial effects on health. In this context, it is important to note that in 2013, at the initiative of Croatia and six other Mediterranean countries, UNESCO inscribed the Mediterranean diet in the intangible cultural heritage of mankind. The World Health Organization accepts the Mediterranean diet as an effective strategy for the prevention of non-communicable chronic diseases as the leading causes of premature death globally", Concluded Professor Boban for Hr.turizam.



In an article in 2019 Croatian Automobile Club magazine Revija HAK  reported that in the eight of the top fatal car crashes from 2016-2018, the leading cause was driving in the opposite direction, which happens due to driving too fast. The article also states that in the said period, 12.989 traffic accidents were caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol. In that number of traffic accidents, 235 persons were killed, and 1,709 were heavily injured, while light injuries due to "drink & drive" are owned to a number of 5,524 incidents. Statistically, drunk drivers are responsible for every fourth death, according to the article in Revija Hak.

In total, Croatia saw 883 traffic accidents with fatal consequences, and 955 people died in the 2016-2018 time spawn.

While winemakers and professor Boban advocate moderate drinking, sadly, the issue of actually respecting the current limit and personal limits of intoxication before sitting behind the wheel remains questionable for Croatian drivers. However, is reducing the allowed alcohol limit enough to make a difference remains unclear.

Learn more about Driving in Croatia on our TC page

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


Friday, 19 March 2021

International Poetry Day Croatia: Non-Croatian Poets about Croatia

March 21, 2021 - In honour of International Poetry Day Croatia, TCN's Ivor Kruljac met with non-Croatia poets to share their views on Croatia through their art.

Since 1999 and the 30th General conference of UNESCO, March 21 is recognized as International Poetry Day. As said by the United Nations official website, the date was dedicated to poetry to celebrate „one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity“, which history remembers practiced in every culture on every continent. 

„Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings“, states the UN.

Supporting linguistic diversity and an opportunity of endangered languages to be heard within their communities along with encouragement to bring back the oral tradition of recitals, the promotion of poetry teachings and poetry in the media, as well as connecting this ancient art form with other art forms such as music, painting, and theatre, are all goals of the International Poetry Day. And here at TCN, we want to do our part and connect poetry with what we always struggle to report on: Showing all aspects of Croatia.

To the fans of contemporary poetry, it's no secret that poets today are very much alive, productive, and regularly present their work. If not in books then at poetry events, open-mics, and on social networks – either from their private accounts, blogs, or in groups dedicated to this wordy-art.

We asked non-Croatian poets through social networks and private group chats dedicated to poetry who either visited Croatia or know about Croatia to send us poems about Croatia with a promise that the top 5 will be published and authors presented. Now, to be fair, while the author of this article is a poet, that is far from being a legitimate poetry critic and the rest of the TCN's editorial team (at least to public knowledge) aren't even poets. The idea was to pick the poems based on how it resonates with us as individuals who gave the art a chance. The academic acknowledgment is nice, but resonating with the audience, the everyday people, should be the goal of any art publically displayed, right?

To be honest, there wasn't really any competition as, by the end of the deadline, we received only four poems. Nonetheless, the beauty of these poems and great resonation with TCN was there and we are happy to publish these poems and ranked them, from fourth place to the very best. You can decide for yourselves which poem you like best (and the messages you see in their work), but here the four poems that „knocked on the doors of our mailbox“ (metaphorically, quite poetically, speaking).

#4: „Croatia“ by Jesus McFridge 

Poets such as Charles Bukowski and Walt Whitman are very well known by their name, but just as in many other arts, poets are no exception in sometimes preferring to use pseudonyms to present their work while keeping their identity unknown and privacy secured. Such is the author that goes by the name of Jesus Mcfridge. Quite active in a Facebook group Poetry Criticism For Cool Cats, he revealed in his application that he is from California and described himself as a „24-year-old American that watches too much television“. He added that his knowledge of Croatia is limited to the country at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but he has fallen in love with the Croatia national football team's checkered uniforms. Despite never visiting Croatia, after „Croatia's tragic loss in the 2018 World Cup final“, he found himself also crying just as many Croatians did.

„In this poem, I have attempted to capture the feeling of this tragic loss that we have shared together, despite the vast seas that separate us“ concluded Mcfridge in his application.

His bittersweet poem simply titled „Croatia“ indeed brings some painful memories but presented in a short and funny way allows us to look at the past in a brighter way, bring back smiles, and give us the strength to cheer for our Croatia national team as they prepare for the next trophy hunt.




Almost won

The world cup


Mandzukic scored

An own goal.


Jesus Mcfridge © Jesus Mcfridge

#3 „Daniela's song“ by Christian Sinicco (English translation by Daniela Sartogo)

Christian Sinicco was born in Trieste, Italy, and his poetry is published in various anthologies and magazines and an editor of the magazine Argo with which he has dealt with the widest overview of poetry in the Italian dialect from 2000 to the present day. He published three books of poetry: „Passando per New York“ (Lietocolle, 2005), „Ballate di Lagosta“ (CFR, 2014) and „Città esplosa“ (Galerie Bordas, 2017). He won the first Italian Slam Poetry Championship and served as the president of the slam poetry association LIPS - Lega Italiana Poetry Slam (2013-2014) and is the current vice president of Poiéin. He is also active in a global initiative of slam poets organizing the world slam championship which early results can be followed on Twitch.   

He participated in numerous book festivals including four festivals in Croatia: Zagreb Contemporary Poetry Festival, Forum Tomizza (in Umag), Pula Book Fair, and Rijeka Book Fair.

His second book of poetry „Ballate di Lagosta“, translates as Lastovo Ballads and it's actually a preview while Sinicco plans to soon publish the full book dedicated to this beautiful Croatian island on the southern coast.

„I was on Lastovo several times. I know a poet from there, Marijana Šutić and I spent a vacation there with other poets such as Ivan Šamija and Silvestar Vrljić“, said Sinicco in his application where he offered a poem from „Lastovo ballads“ which already seen its presentation on a prestigious literary site Versopolis.

„Daniela's Song“ may not bring out the most visual and most explicit Croatian motives, but the discrete and specific localization of Croatia is there all wrapped in a love poem to touch the heart and help us remember the summer sweethearts and romance in Croatia.

Daniela's song


She talks about how beautiful it is without knowing where to go

perhaps into the water of the sun like her cheek

simply necessary as the wet dream

in a wider galaxy if it can be understood,

she seduces you through valleys and dusty vineyards

with eyes towards the bay with the waterfall:

Za Barje the sign said, and so also barked the dog tied

under the cypress – his teethed mouth was the buried reason

the fishermen had left him there – near a house

covered with ivy and blackberries, in which had grown

an apple tree with sour fruits and roses

that only you will taste:

avoiding the asphalt and dirt road holes you followed Daniela

targeting yourself and the asphyxia of your life

that follows the path to erect the intelligence of the species

that on the concept of work has built its republic of theft,

then you saw her dancing on the beach between the warm rocks

and the boat pulled out of the lobster pot, the fishermen are back:

good and evil are triangles of waves that spread

on the sea towards the two islands where we swam

– the fish are not aware of it,

and so the man under the pine and his child

with the mask, another fisherman with the fishing line,

only you maybe on the petals you bite as the words



after quite a while we are outdoors and eat figs

at dusk time on this meadow

sliced on the wooden bowl,

we take the bread and tear it many times

because paradise is close to the fire

and the village to our left rises white in pink

made with scales like the barracuda

Korčula has no intention to leave our sight

I shouted as my usual self

you lit the candle and made me notice

we are not alone, but you can stay calm

slowly also the hut

and its fire have become attractive

calming the natural tension

of a darkening sky, not preventing us

from tasting the happiness

of a grilled fish, of tomato and capers

you are attractive when you smile

with a glass of water on the lips

too quietly they get up,

wanting to be born in the response they seek outside

the people at the tables next to us, and from the cottage

where they grill they come to clear up

a woman and the cook, as in a ceremonial

we ask for the check with the hands

they will be intertwined when we emerge from the field

toward the parking lot where we’ll get in the car

and head out to the highest point

of a series of bends, before descending to the valley

the vault of stars surprises us

we stop everything, propped on pillows of a land

that is still hot, we’re sure

that the star will fall, and it comes true


Christian Sinicco © Daniele Ferroni

#2 „The Lakes of Plitvice“ by Vanni Schiavoni (English translation by Graziella Sidoli)

Born in Manduria, Italy, but living in Bologna, Vanni Schiavoni published five poem collections: "Nocte" (1996), "The Suspended Balcony" (1998), "Of Humid and Days" (2004), "Salentitude" (2006), and  "Walnut Shell" (2012). He also published two novels "Like Elephants in Indonesia" (2001) and "Mavi" (2019) and edited the poetic anthology "Red - between eroticism and holiness" (2010). Most recently, he also published poetical plaquette „Croatian Notebook“ which features twelve poems dedicated to six Croatian sites: Plitvice Lakes, Kornati, Šibenik, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik. Schiavoni wrote the "Croatian Notebook" after a week-long journey in the summer of 2017. His birthplace Manduria is located in the region of Puglia which is 30 miles away from the Pelagosa (Palagruža), the most distant Croatian island, and his surname originates from the name of the Slavonia region in Eastern Croatia.

„For me, it was not just a holiday trip but a journey in and out of everything that I am, a travel diary through which to bring out the game of mirrors between me and that place, between what I am and where I come from and what I have encountered“, said Schiavoni. This journey impacted him with images of the signs of Italy engraved in stone, mournings of the war, communist history („most heretical Communist party in the east in front of the largest Communist Party in the west“, as Schiavoni puts it) and as he added, „the same Adriatic Sea which gives both of us fishes and earthquakes“.

His poem „The Lakes of Plitvice“ is a lovely description of the mixture, the game, and visual eye-candy of the waters in Croatia's oldest National Park, and it linked with a search for bravery and the encouraging point that good and beauty can defeat evil and change it to something better.  


The first day they always plunge down into the same spot

the river rapids that come to the encountering

of the white river with the black river

and the more we think ourselves ready with our shrewd eyes

the fewer the adjectives made available to us before that wonder:

the green rush pushes our pupils towards a wild frenzy

it pushes them inside the tearful torrents by our feet

in the shrouded darkness of the sequential caves

and in the vertical caverns sculpted

as if by a hand capable of it all.

Yet Judas must have passed by this place

and though perhaps not the one with burning lips

a simple Judas must have become lost

in this mysterious grid of remorse.

These lakes fall into lakes as lashings on yielding branches

they flow into other waters and so they rain


and perfectly untouched.


Vanni Schiavoni © Dino Igmani


#1  „Dubrovnik Rock“ by William Vastarella

After Schiavoni and Sinicco, our first-ranked poet is the conclusive evidence there is something so incredible about Croatia it really inspires poetically-inclined neighbors across the Adriatic. Born in Napoli in 1974, William Vastarella is a teacher of Italian Literature, geography, and History. He's has a Ph.D. in semiotics from the University of Bari and writes for several literary and cultural magazines in Italy. He also edited several poetry anthologies as well as semiotic essays. Vastarella visited Croatia several years ago and had a cultural and relaxing holiday on the seaside. „I found her so full of the Mediterranean spirit that I wrote a poem in Italian. I tried to translate it in other words, trying to leave intact the sounds of that memory“, said Vastarella about his poem on Dubrovnik.

The poem „Dubrovnik Rock“ is fantastic in the way, Vastarella visually invokes the images from the history of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) Republic and the relationship it had with Italians at that age with the waves of the Adriatic Sea as the link between Italy and Dubrovnik but also between past and present.


Dubrovnik Rock

Other singers claim to feel

singular vibes in the waves

Nearby this shore,

and so do I.

Ragusa, Dubrovnik

A name is not enough

To trap a soul.

I ask myself

Who’s the other side

Of the other side

As the seawater shuffles.

I touch with my finger

and now I know it’s real

the steel and the wood of the boat

powerful works of man

that wipe out weapons

and I ask no more.

I realize

we have been both

pirates and emperors

centurions and barbarians

through the centuries

each one to the other

a flurry flow

of slavers and Slavs,

slayers and saviors.

Sometimes when the north wind blows,

melting the white in waves,

painting clouds of amazing blues

mirroring the water in the sky,

space seems to become so narrow,

so easy the neighborhood,

then all

the voices of the ancient age

of an ancient game

of thousands lost

in that spot of time,

that spot of sea,

mutate in a mute roar singing

in which merge the rage of riot

and the call for help of a lot

castled in the rock

waiting for a drop of rain to drink

or friend sails on the horizon.


William Vastarella © Vito Signorile

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

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Sex-Ed in Croatia: How I Learned About Sex

March 11, 2021 - Zagreb-born-and-schooled TCN contributor Ivor Kruljac recalls how he first heard about sex, the reaction that followed, and issues with Sex-Ed in Croatia.

I was seven years old, first grade of my elementary school education and I remember it was an early evening. The year was 2004. I did my homework and I spent my time playing before going to sleep ahead of another school day. My mom returned home from a PTA meeting. All of sudden, my dad screamed from the living room to come there. I was getting a lot of A's at the time, I was surprised at this sudden anger. It wasn't my first time getting in trouble but I couldn't even imagine what my newest charges would involve. Keep in mind, this is a reenactment from memory.

"I don't even know where you found out about it, but what were you thinking telling other kids about that? The teacher was very upset, your father and I are very upset. I don't want you ever to hear you mention that again or tell anyone about it."

„About what?“ I asked puzzled as I didn't really talk too much with other kids and I was mostly drawing in my notebook.

„You know very well what I mean,“ replied mom.

„No I really don't, I swear!“

„I'm talking about that word.“

„What word?“

„You know“

„I don't!“

„Sex, Ivor! Don't talk to other kids about sex“

„What's sex?“

My parents paused and looked at each other confused.

„Don't act like you don't know what it is," mom said persistently. 

„But I swear I really don't“, I whined, since I legitimately had no idea what they were talking about.

Years later looking back at that „trial and conviction“, I can only think of one plausible theory of how it came to that situation. I was an only child, but other kids in my school had older siblings, some of them attending sixth or seventh grade at the time which would mean they were 12 or 13 years old. Obviously, that is the time when kids start talking or fantasizing about sex. And obviously, as they were talking about sex with their friends, one of my classmates must've heard them. Then, my classmates must've said it while playing on the playground or in the hallway during recess where our teacher heard them. I can imagine she was pissed and immediately wanted to know who was responsible and to punish the delinquent. Given my hard time socializing with others and the fact I mostly played on my own or was busy drawing stuff, as well as the fact I wasn't there, it was easy to shift the blame on me. Our teacher clearly wasn't „the sharpest tool in the shed“, and was unable to figure out that I had obviously been used as a scapegoat. My dad didn't have „the talk“ with me but since I often picked up things from TV or radio my parents found it likely that I could've heard about it and then spread the word of this revelation to my classmates.

However, in the end, my parents believed me. They didn't quite apologise but I was off the hook.

„But what is sex?“ I asked.

My parents looked at each other.

„You'll learn when you are older, but in the meantime, don't talk about it or think about it“, said mom.


My first detective/ investigative journalist practice


The next day in school, the teacher briefly but angrily reflected on the scandal and told us not to use that word anymore.

Less talking and more listening to other pupils, I couldn't figure out who used the word first, but it became obvious that nobody really knew what that word meant. We only knew we couldn't use it but it made no sense. They warned us earlier about avoiding needles and pills if we were to ever stumble on them on the playground and we at least knew what pills and needles were, we understood that we could get sick or even die from them. We knew we should avoid it, but why did nobody want to explain what this 'sex' thing was, and why is it so bad? It only motivated us to think about it and pursue our little investigations like we were Sherlock Holmes or Woodward and Berstein. You could constantly hear kids whispering „what is sex? I want to know, it's not fair that nobody wants to say“. I guess they didn't want to explain sex to avoid controversy and discomfort, but they didn't think about kids being kids and not knowing a word makes them say it even in the most inappropriate times. I guess that would be one more argument that knowledge is always better than ignorance.

I don't know how (but possibly thanks to the older siblings of other pupils), kids started to learn a few things about sex, though they were never proven and could be false: it's an adult thing, it includes taking off clothes, and the most controversial part? It's how babies are made. Again, those three things were all the info we were able to find out but we didn't know for sure and the whole baby thing was seriously considered to be far-fetched or even down-right insane.

Finally, when I was eight, I was watching a random American movie with my parents. There was a scene of a blonde and guy driving in a truck and they were talking about having sex. I looked at my parents. They looked at each other rolling their eyes and with an expression of concern.

„OK, we will tell you but you have to keep it to yourself and not speak about it, “ said mom.

And so dad explained the whole thing. I learned the phrase „jebo ti pas mater“ (a dog fucks your mother) before I even went to school but I never wondered what jebo means and I was quite surprised that word was in fact a synonym for sex all along. At that time, I was already inclined to believe that sex is the way babies are made but I wasn't too sure of the concept. To be honest, I quite liked the concept when it was elaborated. It made perfect sense and it kinda sounded fun.

„So when I can start doing it?“ I asked.

„When you get married, “ said mom with a slightly raised voice.

„And when did you and dad get married?“

„When we were 26“.

And so I couldn't wait to turn 26 to give it a try. You can conclude whether I'm actually waiting for two more years or not yourself.

A few years later, I heard about condoms while watching „Mean Girls“ and about gay people when someone explained the meaning of the offensive word 'peder' (faggot), which we used to insult each other without really knowing what it meant. 

Shift from school to doctors

As for formal education, the first time we actually talked about sex was in 5th grade. It wasn't about sex but mating among animals with an image of a rooster humping a hen in a biology textbook. The first mention of procreation was in 6th grade during mandatory physical exams. The doctors examining us gave us a short but actually useful presentation on sex, contraception, STDs, and genital hygiene. Religious studies briefly mentioned sex as something that is a sin to do before marriage and finally, more detailed lessons on sexuality (for straight people only), contraception, STDs, as well as the characteristics of genitalia, arrived in biology in eighth grade. But by that time, we all knew everything apart from the details on physiology. love_couple.jpg


Blood and gore are alright but still no Sex-Ed in Croatia?

Looking back, I feel as if everyone made mistake after mistake. Obviously, you shouldn't mention sex to seven-year-olds, but if they have already heard the word and don't know what it means, shouldn't there be a less aggressive approach where you don't act as if the kids murdered someone for saying a word they know nothing about? If it has arrived at that anyway, couldn't the teacher call a PTA and tell the parents that this happened and ask them to explain what sex is? Or couldn't the teacher explain it briefly?

You might be thinking it's preposterous for a teacher to explain sex to her pupils at that age. But then again, neither the teacher nor the school had any problems talking about the war in the '90s which wasn't part of the curriculum. Is that appropriate more than sex? Not quite.  

It was also not remotely appropriate to talk to seven-year-olds about how Serbs came to Vukovar and destroyed the city with tanks. As Paul Bradbury recalls, that has a bad impact on kids. Nor is it OK for a religious studies teacher from Rijeka to use questionable terms to describe persons whose depth and background kids don't understand and even make them choose who they would and wouldn't share a train with (a gay man, young artist infected with AIDS, a Serbian soldier from Bosnia or a prostitute from Berlin, to name a few). 



Sex and violence are two things you need to be careful about when presenting them kids, but if the educational system already shows a willingness to present „mature things“ its hypocritical to say the least to put such an emphasis on violence while silencing any mention of the most basic human activity associated with love and positive emotions between consenting people. Given the fact that „my days“ of Sex-Ed started in 2004, I graduated from elementary school in 2011 and graduated high school in 2015, I do hope something has changed in the educational system and among a new generation of parents so their kids don't have to play Sherlock Holmes trying to figure out the meaning of new words they encounter.

Croatia still doesn't have Sex-Ed, let alone a form of it that would be appropriate for pupils based on scientific reasoning and findings and a legitimate psychological approach to be understandable to the new generations. As Nataša Bijelić found in her work in 2008, the issue of Sex-Ed is related to the clash of religious and secular discourses. The conservative association Grozd suggested Sex-Ed curriculum which, as Bijelić found presented one-sided discourse in favor of religious morals over the secular values of the Republic of Croatia. Grozd's program, among others, said that „contraceptives change the essence of sexual intercourse because they don’t respect the complete nature of the relation between a man and a woman“ and regarding LGBTQ, it was stated that ‘homosexual intercourse stands against the very nature of sexual intercourse“. Bijelić concludes in her work that such curriculum shows that „the Catholic church in an educational system can be repressive in relation to the sexual and reproductive health and rights of youth.“  

Meanwhile, Croats do call for change. Earlier this year, 13,000 people signed a petition demanding the introduction of Sex-Ed in Croatian schools after more and more public discussion and activism. People hope this curriculum will teach kids about safe, responsible sex based on science and with respect to sexual and reproductive health rights and sexual minorities. It remains to be seen whether or not some truly serious efforts will actually be put into place to realize this demand. 

How do you think sex-ed in Croatia should be taught? 

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

Monday, 28 September 2020

Meet Andrea Tintor, Young Entertainment Entrepreneur and Popular Culture Enthusiast

September 28, 2020 – A successful business career in the field of entertainment entrepreneurship and popular culture seems impossible for many Croatians, but not for Andrea Tintor, who, despite the pandemic, started her own business in those rare fields.

Andrea Tintor completed her undergraduate studies in Cultural Studies at the University of Rijeka, and her graduate studies in Journalism at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Zagreb. Today, she is a successful young entrepreneur who creates her business from popular culture – in Croatia.

In an interview with TCN, this graduate journalist, blogger, columnist, and entrepreneur explained how she turned popular culture into her career, what it means for her to be an entrepreneur in Croatia and the problems the entertainment industry in Croatia is facing.

Also, she shared with us her biggest dreams and plans for the future, which includes expanding to the global market, all the way to Los Angeles.

  1. What exactly is your job – entertainment entrepreneurship – and how do you combine it with popular culture content? How would you describe entertainment entrepreneurship in Croatia?

For two years, I have been actively thinking about how to define "that something" when I have absolutely no talent for singing, playing, acting, I am an introvert, and I can't stand being the center of attention, but I have editorial and agency experience. How to create a career from fragments of popular culture? That’s when I realized I was going to have to create my own business. There is an unsaturated market in Croatia and the need for small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the lifestyle industry for new approaches to marketing, advertising at the global level.

Entertainment entrepreneurship has its clientele, the entertainment industry has its audience, and I think it’s time to actively start talking about behind the scenes business segments. There are ingenious PR managers in Croatia who shape the communication of our biggest music stars, female singers finally talk about the business side of their careers and profile themselves as excellent entrepreneurs, event managers have been organizing world-class festivals for years that attract today's leading musicians… We need even better public education and quality projects that will build domestic showbusiness.


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Andrea Tintor / Copyright Petra Mikšik


  1. During your career, you've been a journalist, you've had a blog named "Razlivena tinta" ("Spilled ink"), and now you're writing weekly columns on a lifestyle Croatian portal. What motivated you to go into entrepreneurship, to start your own business in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?

The idea of owning a business and going into entrepreneurship has been brewing for several months. My biggest motivation was financial independence and the freedom to manage time and choose the clients I want to work with. I have always wanted to have the freedom to create my own business and I adore creating something recognizable out of nothing. At the moment when I was just starting, the WHO declared a pandemic and I could have given up, but today I am grateful for my persistence.




  1. What is it like to be a young entrepreneur in Croatia?

Challenging and exciting! Every day is different and I have completely unlimited time, creative ideas, project realizations, and choosing clients. I believe that anyone who has a business idea should embark on its realization to see if they will be persistent enough to succeed. We need to start somewhere, and if we are waiting for a move to a "better-organized state" or "for things to change in our country", I don't think we will get anything but to miss the time to create positive stories.

  1. You work from home and tailor your working hours. Therefore, you are a digital nomad. What would you single out as the biggest advantages of this way of working? How do you see the future of digital nomads in Croatia?

As I have already stated, the advantage is freedom in all segments of the business. What I would list as a special challenge is that a person has to work on organization, focus, and daily discipline. I work from home, from cafes or with clients at their place, and I have unlimited time to work. However, my clients usually have fixed working hours and I try to adapt to their needs as much as possible. I believe that more and more individuals will become digital nomads, so I hope that the executive authority will recognize and encourage this, both domestic digital nomads and foreign ones.


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Andrea Tintor / Copyright Petra Mikšik


  1. You believe that popular culture's contents can be of quality, too, which is what you write about in your columns. What do you think is the perception of popular culture in Croatia?

Primarily, I think this is a very complex topic because I think the quality of the content is quite variable. For example, there are great musicians, creatives who write blogs, record vlogs and podcasts, niche media with positive topics, and everyone can find content for themselves. But the quality of content on television, starting with reality shows, is very superficial. It is clear to me who the target audience is, but for television as a medium to survive, it must also affect a younger audience. I believe that the audience must be educated and think about the content they consume, which I write about on my page.

  1. What advice would you give to young people, creatives, and talents thinking about entrepreneurship?

Simply – go for it! The world is big enough and full of possibilities for anyone who dares to think outside your comfort zone. I believe that in the age of digitalization and global connectivity, the impossible does not exist. Every goal takes time, so the sooner you start – the sooner it will be achieved.

  1. How do you comment on the negative Croatian mindset? Do you believe that there are any positive changes in this regard?

I think it was imposed on us by spreading panic, misinformation, and political scandals through the general media. Young people and everyone who is fed up with such propaganda turn to other channels of information, follow the content that interests them, and gradually exclude themselves from that cacophony. Such an approach will, I believe, bring us positive changes in the long run.


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Andrea Tintor / Copyright Petra Mikšik


  1. One of your desires for the future is to expand globally and collaborate with the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Can you explain your vision and what would it look like? What would this mean for the Croatian entertainment industry?

I don't like to talk about long-term plans in detail, because sometimes there are points that I have to agree on myself, and on the other hand I allow life to surprise me. What I can say is that in a month, the plan is to launch an education program for small entrepreneurs and creatives who need PR support to expand their brand. Next year will be a year of growth, new projects, returning to conferences, travel… There is a big project planned that will be realized from Zagreb, and then global domination will gradually start (laughs).

  1. Also, in the future, you want to establish a foundation and academy for the education of young creatives. What are your other plans?

Establishing a foundation and academy to educate young creatives and talents is definitely on my list of life plans that should be realized in my fifties when I make one round from what I started, to what I accomplish. I believe that each individual must return to the community what has been given to them and invest in the younger generations who need support, be it educational, financial, or both.

I have many plans on paper and in my head, primarily to continue to act creatively, to try myself in some new media forms, to write and publish a book… But, all in good time.


You can follow Andrea Tintor on her page for more.

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Saturday, 19 September 2020

Lifestyle Check IN Presented to Public for First Time

September 19, 2020 - On Friday, Lifestyle Check IN was presented to the local public for the first time on the terrace of the Radisson Blu Resort in Split.  It is a series of business events whose previous two editions were held in Austria.

Lifestyle Check IN is an event whose goal is to connect Croatian companies with European ones, whose products and services nurture the philosophy of comfortable living, such as fashion, cosmetics, home decoration, and the nautical industry.

"Lifestyle Check IN will be held in Split because this beautiful city embodies the philosophy of comfortable and beautiful living. Split is an ideal place for living, but also for business, so on October 15, in addition to Croatian lifestyle brands, their colleagues from Austria will present their products to the domestic business and the general public.", said Monica Ioanitescu, the conceptual originator and project director.

Although most brands are aimed at women, the offer won't neglect men or children - men will have a cigar area, while children will enjoy a dedicated playroom organized with entertainment and educational programs for all ages. 

President of the Split County Chamber - CCC, Joze Tomaš, gave his full support to the organization of this business event.  

The event was also joined by a famous Austrian entrepreneur and fashion designer, Dali Oleschko, and local entrepreneurs were introduced by Marko Bilić from Cigar Club Mareva. Jan de Jong, entrepreneur and currently the most prominent member of the Split expat community, pointed out that "people here complain a lot and do nothing, and it is these holes that are ideal for those who have an idea and are enterprising".


At the first event to take place on October 15, the partner country is Austria, and three more events are planned in the first half of 2021, when Split will be hosted by entrepreneurs from Romania, Italy and Slovenia.

"The event is open to all, we invite domestic business, but also the general public, provided that the number of available tickets will be defined later and in accordance with the recommendations of experts. Health is our number one priority, but entrepreneurship must not stop, we just need to invest a little more creativity to continue to connect and do business together in new circumstances", Monica concluded.

This event supports the association "Dancer with Cancer"and the organization is carried out with the support of the sponsor "Juelstox international", with a collection of jewelry from Sri Lanka and the Romanian brand "VeroSlim"


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Friday, 24 July 2020

Art Corner: Follow Your Heart, Act with Humility and Gratitude… Words and Interview from Broken Isn’t Bad.

24th July 2020, The world is a crazy place to be right now, let’s pause for art, beauty and truth – an interview with ‘Broken isn’t bad’.

Let’s face it, there is a lot going on in the world, so I wanted to write something a little different and promise not to mention Corona (Covid 19) too much but it is where this story starts so bear with me for a second.

Lockdown was a very personal experience for everyone, my time was relatively pain-free (you can read my impressions here) and led me to re-evaluate every area of my life, particularly how I spend my time and where I spend my money. With so much extra time on my hands and social media being a vice (for many, I’m sure) – I decided to ‘clean out’ my social media so it provides more value.

I started following more thought leaders, writers, poets and artists. I have always loved art but once I started following more artists, I realised just how much joy (and inspiration) art brings me. I stumbled across an artist that I loved on first sight, made better by the fact that all of the illustrations are accompanied by a wide range of deep, thought-provoking or spiritual poems and texts (all the things I love in one place). In line with reassessing my other value – ‘where I spend my money’, I decided to buy a piece of art. Only upon looking further at the Instagram account did I see that this artist was in fact, from Croatia and then after messaging, I discovered that Sanda (the artist behind Broken isn’t Bad) lives in the city of Čakovec (90 km North of Zagreb).

The account is called Broken_isnt_bad and has an impressive 525,000 followers, how could I not reach out for an interview? In these crazy times, where so many are struggling, particularly artists, I wanted to share a success story and hopefully some words of inspiration.


How long have you been an artist and where did you study?

I studied graphic design at the Faculty of Graphic Arts, University of Zagreb from which I graduated in 2012 and, in 2016, I opened my Instagram account and started posting my drawings under the pseudonym Broken isn’t bad, while simultaneously working in a big corporation as a graphic designer. It was a period of my life when I felt quite depressed and unmotivated. I was really unhappy with how everything works in those big companies where you cannot express your creativity as you’d like to, and where you must obey those above you who don’t have a bit of creative talent but think they know better than you. Also, my long-term relationship ended in quite a bad way and I felt really broken in a psychological sense, so it’s amazing how my artistic profile actually showed me how to move forward and regain happiness and peace in my life.

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"Bloom", Broken isn't bad

Did you always know this is what you wanted to do or did you try your hand at other careers first?

Not at all. I never thought I would make a career as an artist nor had I planned it. I had been searching for my passion for quite a long time and since I’ve always loved creatives stuff, handcrafting and drawing, graphic design seemed like the best choice to study at the time. During my student years, I started to be more interested in art in general; especially illustration, tattoo and street art and I started learning to draw in creative software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I found a job as a graphic designer soon after I had graduated, but had never been able to fit in, so I started drawing as a hobby, just for myself, in order to find a way out of that uptight place that suffocated me, but have never expected it would lead me to the place I am right now.

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Cat girl, Broken isn't bad

I see you have a strong social media following; how long have you had your Instagram page and when did you first start seeing movement on your page and reactions to your art? That must have felt so rewarding?

I opened my Instagram account in January 2016 at the urging of a friend who was among the first ones I showed my drawings to. As I can recall, it was only a few months after opening it that I started receiving positive comments, tattoo, and commission requests and started seeing a linear growth in following. Since then, everything has been surreal and happened so fast. I’m not sure how exactly I’ve built my loyal fan page, it somehow happened by itself, maybe because I wasn’t expecting anything and was true and honest with myself, so people found something familiar in my work, something to relate to. It has been definitely rewarding!

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"Happiness, Broken isn't bad"

Being an artist or creative is never an easy path in regards to making a living, and Croatia is a country which can be tough in general. How has your journey been and can you make a living just doing what you love?

The first year (2016) was the most difficult because I needed to balance my day job and my hobby (I mostly drew in the late evenings and nights), but at the same time, it was most enjoyable because I was working just for myself and didn’t worry about how many people liked my work or were buying from me. But the most challenging was quitting my full-time and well-paid job in 2017. If you're going to dedicate yourself to starting your own creative business, it's impossible to manage another career/job. In other words, you have to quit your day job and walk away from a steady long-term opportunity for something unpredictable and scary. You never know how profitable your business will be in the future, will you be able to give yourself a pay-check every month or whether customers will like your products. That was the greatest challenge I’ve experienced so far, but I’m so happy I followed my heart.

In 2018 I opened a legal small business here in Croatia, and I am now able to make a decent living by selling my prints and working on customised artworks. It’s the most rewarding and enjoyable job ever. Being my own boss, I love that I have flexibility in schedule. Having that work-life balance keeps me engaged and excited.

Coming from NZ which, in general, has a very optimistic attitude and moving to Croatia, one of the biggest differences I noticed was the mentality. I dont know how many times I have heard the phrase “ne može to” or “that wont work” – did you find the same in regards to pursuing a life in the arts?

Being born in the northern part of Croatia - Međimurje, I am lucky enough to be raised with a different mentality than it is in the south. To be honest, I have never heard the phrase “ne može to” here where I live, and I didn’t have any difficulties in regards to pursuing a life in the arts – especially not coming from other people telling me that it won’t work. My family and my friends have never discouraged me, just the opposite - they have been there on my side from the first day. When I told them that I was planning on quitting my job before I found a new one - they were nothing but reassuring, believing in me, my talent, and abilities.

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I trust you, Broken isn't bad

Social media is a powerful platform (its how I found you on Insta!) has this been one of your strongest tools or how else have you marketed yourself and your art?

Instagram has definitely been my strongest promotional tool since I opened it in 2016 and it keeps being such. I made Facebook page a year later, but it’s not that powerful and I don’t spend as much time there as on IG. I get most inquiries for commissions, tattoos, and prints, as well as nice words of support from my followers, via Instagram and it’s the easiest way to communicate with them.

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Love is Love, Broken isn't Bad

You have some beautiful, thought-provoking and powerful pieces; I loved seeing the same-sex option for your artwork in regards to love. In a very conservative country, this is a bold (and beautiful) move, what are your thoughts on this?

Sexuality for me means revealing the inner self and showing your vulnerability but at the same time, embracing it as your greatest strength. Most of my illustrations depict naked women and I try to mix eroticism with familiarity and surrealism – to show we are so much more than just skin and bone. With my illustrations I try to help individuals feel good about themselves, to find that invincible power which connects them with their inner selves in order to create a positive relationship both with themselves and with their partners – and I don’t want it to be exclusive to heterosexual people/couples – we are all human being and deserve the right to express our own sexuality.

Fortunately, majority of my following is from the US, Australia, Canada or Western Europe where those “controversial” pieces aren’t an issue. Growing up in Croatia where everyone who does not look or behave in accordance with general social norms provokes negative glances and cannot feel safe in their own neighbourhood, definitely plays a role in what people find offensive, provocative or controversial. I understand my work can be seen as a direct insult to peoples’ religious beliefs, but I try to ignore the negative comments and reactions and focus on an audience that values freedom of expression.

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"Lotus Man", Broken isn't bad

I saw on your page that you are inspired by your own thoughts, experiences but also by a lot of poetry are these your main inspirations and who are you favourite poets?

For me drawing is a form of meditation. I mostly create for myself (at least that was in the beginning) in order to express what I see and feel for my own self-healing purposes. Ever since I was little (and used to read a lot more than nowadays), I have been writing all those wise words from books, articles, songs, movies in my diaries. It was the quotes that led me to drawing and made me discover my true passion, so for me, it isn't just about quoting somebody else's words, it's about creating something out of it and healing myself at the same time.

My greatest source of inspiration has been words from poets and writers, like Rumi, F. Pessoa, P. Neruda, M. Angelou, E.E. Cummings, R.M. Rilke, O. Wilde, R. Payne, H. Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few, but I am also interested in yoga philosophy, astrology and spirituality, therefore, the quotes from motivational and spiritual speakers/teachers have also influenced my work quite a lot.

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"Meditation", Broken isn't Bad

Which Croatian artists or authors do you admire or have been the greatest inspiration for you?

My greatest inspirations have been tattoo artists across the world who I have been admiring on Instagram and other social media for years. I’ve been always a big fan of tattoos and would say that tattoo art actually drew me to my style. Unfortunately, not many Croatian tattoo artists are there that would inspire me, since the scene is still quite small in our country. But I’d love to mention a few other artists who I admire very much; Korovles, Maja Tomljanović, Lara Zigic, Kvar illustration, Klarxy, 3Oko, Hana Tintor…

In these crazy times of the coronavirus pandemic, many are losing their jobs but I see it could be an opportunity for some especially in regards to online work or using social media to our advantage. If you were to give one piece of advice to the youth of Croatia in regards to the opportunities that exist (if you believe they do), what would that be?

I would say go for it! Go for your dreams and follow your passion - there’s nothing to lose! Honestly, I don’t think I would have an art career without Instagram. It has definitely been vital for turning my hobby into career, and I’m always happy to see and be able to follow new young illustrators/painters/DIY workers/musicians/hand-makers etc., especially from Croatia.

Permanent Internet access and use of social media have played a big role in artistic world and have opened up the opportunities for many people to curate their own personal gallery on social networks, build their own client base and spread their artistic message into the world. Even artists who use traditional techniques increasingly use digital technology to expose their work making it more approachable to a wider audience. Art is becoming more popular and we are starting to see a wider array of artist and their vision that otherwise would be overlooked.

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"Escape the Ordinary", Broken isn't bad

What would you say to anyone else who has an artists heart but doubts they can make it?

Do not compare yourself to others, you are neither better nor worse than those next to you – we all have our place in this world. Pave your own way and most importantly – be honest with what you create, stay humble, grateful and aware of your mistakes as well as your achievements. It always shows new potentials and ways to evolve and grow your craft. Magic happens when you step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid.

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"I don't owe you", Broken isn't bad

Closing comments

The world is undoubtedly an uncertain and scary place at the moment but words (and art) like this remind me that there is still beauty in the world. This is by far one of my most favourite interviews, a breath of fresh air with honest and inspiring responses – follow your heart, stay true to yourself, take the risk, act with humility and gratitude… timeless messages that we all need to be reminded of from time-to-time. If you want to see more from Sanda, you can find her works on Instagram under broken_isnt_bad or check out her website for prints and more information.



All images were provided by broken_isnt_bad and are subject to copyright.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Croatian Lessons via Skype, It’s Better than you Think

4th April 2020, thanks to the Coronavirus we are all on lockdown; I decided to use this time to pick up Croatian lessons again and am studying with a teacher via Skype. While this may not work for everyone because I understand that everyone is facing different challenges and stresses right now; I still wanted to share my experience of studying Croatian via Skype and why it works for me.

Just over a year ago, I’d finally had enough of my own excuses; I had been living in Croatia for five years, it was time to learn Croatian. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I spoke zero Croatian, my comprehension was ok and I could get by with basic, superficial conversations but that was it. I wanted to be able to have more meaningful conversations with locals but to do that, I was going to need to study with a teacher because the Croatian language and grammar is a minefield, I needed someone to help me navigate it better.

Before I found my teacher, I actually wrote this piece on TCN “The 5 Stages Before You Learn”, which is about the emotional stages we go through BEFORE we even get to the learning part. I likened this process to the stages of grief: frustration, depression, anger, bargaining and finally we reach acceptance. I had finally reached the stage where I had overcome the self-defeating emotions and was ready to take responsibility for doing something about improving my Croatian.

I was on the hunt for a Croatian teacher.

As life and fate would have it, I met someone for a coffee who recommended a Croatian teacher to me, “She is fantastic”. This person went on to describe her lessons and I had never seen someone talk so enthusiastically about learning a language; I was interested. The only downfall? She did her lessons via Skype. This teacher lives in Split but chooses to do her lessons via Skype because she considers it more efficient than having a classroom and people travelling to make a lesson. I wasn’t convinced.

Being the empathetic social butterfly that I am, I was hesitant because I felt that the ‘in-person’ human interaction in the exchange was a necessary element so I wasn’t convinced that doing Croatian lessons via Skype would be for me. However, I had been thinking about starting Croatian lessons and by chance met someone who was raving about a Croatian teacher – no such thing as coincidences, right?

I reached out to Zrinka and we chatted; I let her know my hesitation in doing Croatian lessons via Skype because I mean, could it really be as effective? Zrinka was very sincere and said “I understand your doubts and many people feel the same way. I honestly think it is the same as sitting together and having a coffee but everyone is different; so, I always say – ‘let’s try one lesson together and then you can see for yourself?”

This seemed fair.

Before our first lesson, Zrinka sent through some materials and the two Croatian language books I would need for the lessons. I got everything together and we had our first Croatian lesson via skype, that was all it took to convince me. It turns out, Zrinka was right; doing Croatian lessons via Skype was just like sitting opposite her, having a cup of coffee. It was even more convenient because I could roll out of bed, make my cup of coffee and not worry about getting dressed up and getting into Split. I tried Croatian lessons with a tutor a few years ago but it was only for a month, the lessons themselves were ok but I wasn’t inspired (possibly my own headspace) and I lost half a day travelling to and from Split. Needless to say, I gave up easily.

I not only survived my Croatian lessons via Skype with Zrinka but I also enjoyed and even began to look forward to them. I saw immense progress in my comprehension and confidence to speak. Unfortunately, summer came so I stopped with lessons and didn’t pick them up again – until now. Turns out this whole isolation thing is positive in some respects; isolation has forced me to drop many excuses around some of my goals - time being the usual culprit. Improving Croatian has still been on my mind (it’s always there), so I started lessons again last week. Right now, we are revising everything I learned last year because I forgot a lot and slipped back into old habits and mistakes but it is slowly coming back and I can see improvement already.

Before I go any further, I want to say a little disclaimer: this definitely isn’t the moment where I say that everyone should be learning Croatian because I know that everyone’s isolation looks different. I am in a space physically and mentally where I have the capacity to learn: I don’t have kids, we own our apartment and for now – our income isn’t affected. So, I have none of the stress and pressures that many people are facing; hence, I have the mental capacity and energy to use this time productively. We each need to do what is right for us – now more than ever. So, if you want to learn or improve your Croatian but you just don’t feel you have the mental energy to do so, that’s fine. Now is not the time for putting undue pressure on ourselves.

However, if there is anyone else in a similar position to me, who feels that they have the energy to learn, this may be a good opportunity and I am here to tell you that Skype lessons work just as effectively; I did them before isolation and they obviously make even more sense now with the whole social-distancing thing we have going on.

What are some of the benefits of doing Croatian Lessons via Skype?

Saving time: as I mentioned, I was previously travelling in and out of Split to attend Croatian lessons (from Omiš) which meant I lost half a day for a 1.5-hour lesson. Hardly efficient. Not so with Skype lessons – we set our schedule at the beginning of the week and I am always on time because there is no faffing with transport and traffic. I also save time by being able to rock up to lessons dressed in trackpants and a comfy hoodie rather than needing to ‘dress up’ (which one always feels a need to do in Split).

Flexibility: an obvious benefit to Croatian lessons via Skype is their flexibility. You aren't limited to needing to be in a classroom which means that if your job or lifestyle demands travel, you can still keep up with lessons if you wish. After this isolation period is over, I imagine more people will start to use and appreciate the benefits of video calls in many aspects of life.

Emotional buffer: this is one aspect that many wouldn’t think about but learning another language is difficult and can be confronting as we come up against our own limitations and frustrations. A few times in the lessons I was doing in-person, I felt my cheeks redden and frustrations rise – which, being the emotional creature that I am, made me feel super-embarrassed (will I cry?) The beauty of Skype lessons is that by not being in-person, there is almost an emotional buffer. Frustrations can still arise but it feels less confronting because the teacher isn’t standing directly in front of me; the physical distance allows me a chance to regain my composure (aka not lose my shit and breakdown).

Lessons are the same: I can not see any difference or limitation with Skype vs in-person. We work through physical books together, Zrinka can even send notes and materials in a screen-shot through Skype in that moment. The only thing we don’t use, which we had in the classroom was a whiteboard but there is no real loss there. We practice comprehension on many levels; reading, listening, speaking and I email homework through to Zrinka so she can check that my written Croatian is also correct.

Proper Croatian versus dialect: This note isn’t specific to Skype but I think it is important to add. While we should all learn the correct way to speak Croatian, because I live on the Dalmatian coast, I want to understand and speak the local dialect. To me, it makes no sense to only learn a formal way of speaking if most people don’t speak that way where I live. This is what I love about Zrinka, she always teaches the ‘proper’ way to say something but she will also tell me the most common phrases, words, expressions etc in Dalmatian.

Important attributes of a Croatian teacher, especially via Skype.

They need to know how to teach: This seems obvious but not all teachers are great at teaching; being a great teacher is not a given, it’s a skill.  When we are learning something, especially grammar, if I don’t understand something one way, Zrinka has numerous ways to explain it. She never makes me feel stupid but will adjust and adapt until she finds a method or explanation that works for me no matter how long it takes – eventually, we get there and I learn various tactics for myself in the process.

A big personality: For Croatian lessons via Skype to be successful, I believe the teacher needs to have a big personality to help ‘break down’ the physical distance. We have all had Skype or video calls with people who are a bit awkward or cold, which can make the conversation feel stilted or lack flow – this isn’t what you want when learning a language. I say this because I realised that Zrinka has such a natural, light-hearted way, her personality shines through the screen and it helps put me at ease and set a fun, relaxed tone for our lessons. I don’t imagine I would stick with it otherwise.

Empathy: This could possibly fall under ‘knowing how to teach’ but I think empathy deserves a mention on its own. Empathy is essential in teachers, to be able to read and adjust to their learners and this takes exceptional skill to be able to do it via Skype. There were many instances in our lessons where I started to hit a brick wall and come against frustrations in myself; somehow Zrinka noticed and was able to give me ‘space’, reassure or give me just enough of a push to get me past my block. Again, the emotional buffer helps here but the teacher needs to be adept at reading people and finding ways to bring out their best.

All in all, I am thrilled to be learning Croatian again; if we weren’t in isolation I never would have started because we should be sailing right now. However, life (and the Coronavirus) clearly have other plans, which means I have no excuses because I finally have uninterrupted time. Again, please don’t consider this an article to pressure you into studying or make you feel bad if you aren’t; as I said, we all need to do what is right for us right now. But, if you do have the energy and some expendable income, I truly recommend learning Croatian via Skype - I wouldn't have it any other way now!

If you are interested in learning more or talking to my teacher Zrinka Madunic Spiljak, you can contact her on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I obviously recommend her but I need to state that this is not a sponsored post; in fact, this is going to come as a bit of a surprise to Zrinka as she has no idea I am writing this. I believe in recommending people who are great at what they do, especially right now with so many jobs affected, we should support our communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

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Zrinka Madunic Spiljak

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Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Similarities Between Croatians and Māori: From a Māori Living in Dalmatia

27th November 2019, similarities between Croatians and Māori as told by a Māori living in Dalmatia, married to a Croatian.

27th November 2019 marks 127 years since the first recorded marriage between a Croatian and Māori in 1892 Croatian-born Andrija Kleskovic married Erina Kaaka at St. Saviour’s Church in Kaitaia. 127 years later and I find myself married to a Croatian living in Dalmatia (maybe the only Māori married to a Croatian without roots here?), so it seemed fitting to write about the similarities between the two cultures from my perspective and experience.

When I first arrived in Split, I felt home. It sounds dramatic and I can’t quite explain it but the second I stepped off the bus and looked out over Split, my soul smiled and something felt familiar… Considering I had never been here before and knew nothing about Croatia, that was a strange feeling, to say the least.

I came to Croatia to work on a boat as a tour guide, ended up falling in love with a Croatian captain and the rest, they say, is history. Five years married and I find myself living and loving my life here in Dalmatia.

“What are you doing living in Croatia, don’t you miss home?”

Deeply. I miss my friends and whanau (family) immensely but after five years living here, my mind has come to understand what my soul first recognised – something about this place feels like home. There are many similarities between the Māori and Croatian/Dalmatian culture, so it is no wonder that when Croatians began to arrive on the shores of Aotearoa (New Zealand), they were embraced by Māori. Croatians in New Zealand were even given a name in the Māori language – “Tarara” – this name came from when Croatians first arrived speaking very fast in their native tongue, to the Māori it sounded like they were just saying “tarararararara”. This makes me laugh because Croatians and particularly Dalmatians are known to speak incredibly fast and chew their words, so this name seems perfect.

When I first met my husband’s grandmother, she couldn’t comprehend how it was that I came to be with her grandson because “you come from the end of the world” and while this is true, little did we know how similar our cultures are.

So, what are the similarities between the Dalmatian and Māori culture?

 1. Whānau – Family

In Māori, the word “whānau” is translated as family but its meaning runs much deeper than that, it can include the physical, emotional and spiritual world and “… it is through the whanau that values, histories, and traditions from the ancestors are adapted for the contemporary world.” (Definition of whanau). Family is extremely important to Māori, it tells a story of who we are, where we come from and where we are going.

In Croatia, family is of utmost importance, and just like Māori, the meaning of the word family extends beyond the nuclear family to include Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins... One of the first questions you will be asked here, is – “what is your family name?” People like to know this because then they can ‘place’ you, by knowing the family, they know where you come from. 

The strength of the family unit was something that first stood out to me and something I admire. While whānau is important in Māori culture, as New Zealand becomes more modernised and westernised, I feel like the family unit is not what it once was. In Croatia, it is not uncommon for families to live together in the same house or apartments above each other, and while this can have its pros and cons (privacy is a foreign word), in general, I see it as a beautiful thing.

I also love that the grandparents are so involved in their grandchildren’s lives and upbringing. In the traditional Māori community, it was not uncommon for grandchildren to be raised by their grandparents – a way of passing on family traditions and history, and just like here, there was a village approach to raising children. One other fact which made me laugh and feel at home is that in Croatia, just like with Māori, most older women are referred to as Aunt “Teta” (whaea in Māori), further proof of family as a notion that encompasses community, which I adore.

2. Respect for Elders/Kaumātua

The intense love, adoration and connection that Croatians have to their grandparents just make my heart melt. The first time I saw my husband with his grandparents, I knew that he was a man I could marry. Yes, this ties into family but it’s more than this. My husband’s grandmother ‘baba’ was widely respected in her village and many people would stop in just to get her advice, they valued her wisdom and it went beyond the practical, into the spiritual (not just in a church sense either).

In Māori culture, she would be called a Kuia – a wise, female elder, someone we turn to for knowledge and wisdom, especially about the deeper matters of life. The word for elders in Māori is Kaumātua – who are respected not just for their age but their knowledge on familial history, tribal history and traditions.

Croatians have an ingrained respect for their elders, as do Māori. Respect is built into the Croatian language, with one of the declensions being a more polite form of speaking to people, in particular – elders. But it’s more than simple niceties, like giving up your seat on the bus for an elder, it feels genuine. In Croatia, I say “dobar dan” (good day) to every elder I see and young children walking down the street do the same to me. I’ve watched my husband carry groceries for elder neighbours, or pick them up and drive them where they need to go if they are walking – including strangers on the street! Both cultures have this respect and connection to the whole rather than separation of the individual.

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My husband with his late Baba.

3. Tight-knit Communities

I grew up in a small town where the community was strong; it’s one of those things that you don’t understand or appreciate until you leave. Not until I came to Croatia, was I able to reflect through the eyes of an adult and realise how important a strong community is. When we went through difficulties in our family growing up, our community was there to support, feed, love and help take care of us, we truly were raised by a village! I can see this same support here.

While everyone knowing your business might not be everyone’s cup of tea (the negative side of tight communities); to feel safe and part of something larger than yourself is a strong foundation for healthy development. Both cultures have this.

4. A strong sense of Cultural Identity

I strongly identify with being Māori just as much as being from New Zealand. I am proud of my culture and where I am come from, just as all Croatians I have met are proud to be Croatian, and Dalmatians take further pride in being from the Dalmatian coast or islands. Our traditions, culture, music, food, history, family, tribe/community – these are all aspects that create an overall cultural identity and that both Māori and Croatians are very proud of.

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5. Faith

Almost 90% of the Croatian population is Catholic (according to the 2011 census), and while I don’t necessarily want to talk about religion, it is impossible not to mention that the Croatian culture is founded very heavily on religion.

Before colonisation, Māori held their own set of beliefs which included the natural and living world, and an overall message of connectedness. From the 19th Century onwards, many Māori converted to Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church. Without entering into a theological debate, I think I can safely say that faith is a large part of both cultures, whether in a religious sense or the more spiritual approach of belief in something larger than one’s self.

6. Music

In the Māori culture, music is a huge part of our cultural identity, upbringing and sense of belonging. Music was a way that our history, traditions and beliefs were passed on and many of our songs (waiata) are about nature and particularly the sea – which is where our similarities with Dalmatians grow stronger.

Māori have groups called “kapa haka” which perform traditional songs, dance and haka (I’m sure everyone has seen the All Blacks perform the haka). A few years ago, a Māori kapa haka group was touring Croatia with the Kralj Tomislav Ensemble and I was fortunate enough to see them in Korčula and burst into tears – my two worlds collided!

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All smiles meeting with the Kapa Haka group in Korcula

 Croatia also has groups called “Klapa”, an ensemble (typically male) which performs traditional songs in acapella. While they may be different in style, they are both beautiful and powerful in their own way. The first time I saw Klapa, it resonated with my Māori side and it seems I am not the only one – it also resonated with a Samoan group from New Zealand, so much so that they started their own Klapa group called ‘Klapa Samoana’ and even toured Croatia – talk about uniting cultures.

For both cultures, if there is a celebration or gathering, you can guarantee there will be singing! When I first arrived this simultaneously made me feel at home and disconnected – being surrounded by music but not being able to join in made me realise how important music is to my culture and sense of belonging. I’ve finally learned a few songs which helps me feel less homesick but maybe I should take a leaf from Klapa Samoana’s page and start the first kapa haka group in Dalmatia?...

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7. Connected to Nature

Māori have always held a system of beliefs based around our connectedness to nature. The term “Kaitiakitanga” defines our relationship to nature as one of guardianship and management; that we are the caretakers of nature. Going back years, Māori lived in a natural rhythm and relationship with nature, respecting the natural resources available.

Talk to older Croatians and this was also their natural practice – they lived from and respected the land, nothing was wasted, everything had a purpose. My husband’s grandparents lived in the same village all of their life, they grew all of their food and lived a ‘sustainable life’; though it wasn’t because sustainability was on-trend, this was the standard practice. As the world becomes more westernised and dominated by consumerism, we are all drifting away from these principles and could do with returning to them.

Naturally, living by the sea, the weather plays a central role in life on the coast – and dalmatians, in particular, are known to always be grumbling about the weather one way or another, cursing ‘Jugo’ for the lethargy or thankful to ‘Bura’ for clearing the air (and mind). Both cultures have myths and superstitions related to the weather.

8. Connected to the Sea

Both Māori and Dalmatian cultures are heavily intertwined with the sea. It is said that Māori first arrived in Aotearoa after navigating in their waka (canoes) from Hawaiki (Polynesia) more than 1,000 years ago – making them exceptional seamen and explorers. While Dalmatians are born with the Adriatic in their blood; this region churns out world-class sailors, rowers, water-polo players and any other sport related to the water. Both cultures love fishing and their kaimoana – seafood. Even though I have always loved the ocean, I had nothing to do with sailing until I moved to Croatia and married my Dalmatian skipper. Now we work on a yacht together and sailing to New Zealand as part of a round-the-world adventure is on the cards in the next few years!

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9. Food, Glorious Food

In both Māori and Croatian culture, food is almost its own religion. In the Māori culture, at the heart of every gathering or celebration is food. Not only this but the hospitality and culture around food is one of generosity – ‘whatever we have, we will share it’ and there is real pride and joy in being able to provide food for others.

This is the same in the Croatian culture, and maybe even more so since most Croatian families make their own olive oil, pršut, vino or grow vegetables and raise stock; if this is the case, they are even more proud to offer you what they have. Just like in Māori culture, I have never walked into a Croatian’s house and not been offered food and drink, in fact, always be prepared to eat! 

We even have some similar dishes, which many may not be aware of. A famous dish in Croatia is called “peka”, which is typically lamb or veal in a cast iron dish, which has been buried beneath embers and allowed to slow-cook for 2 – 3 hours.

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traditional peka, image credit:

In Māori, we have something similar, though far more arduous – our traditional meal is called a “hāngī”. A deep hole is dug in the earth, and river stones that have been heating in a fire are placed at the bottom, then meat and vegetables are placed in cloth/hessian sacks (traditionally flax leaves) over the stones, then covered with a wet cloth and earth – which traps the heat and allows the food to cook for 3 – 4 hours. 

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traditional Hangi, image credit CultureTrip

I love both of these dishes and while the food is excellent, it is also just as much about the process – prepping the meal, getting together, sitting around the fire with close friends and family, laughing, singing, drinking… both of these dishes hold some of my favourite memories.

In Māori, we also do something called a ‘boil-up’, which, as the name suggests is boiling meat (typically pork), potatoes and vegetables. Croatians also do this, but would call it “lešo”. Come to think about it, just a love of meat, in general, is shared by both cultures – roast/spit lamb, pork… And, as with Dalmatians, Māori also love seafood! Basically,a food is important and lies at the heart of both cultures.

10. Heart

This might be harder to explain but I find both Māori and Croatians to be “hearty people”; there is a strength in soul and in character that I find hard to put in words. When I was first tour guiding, my groups always used to ask me why Croatians were so serious or looked so angry and I would tell them all – ‘once you get past that, Croatians have some of the biggest hearts you’ll ever meet’. This sometimes gets lost in daily frustrations or stories of corruption but it’s undoubtedly there. Croatia showed its heart and spirit when half a million people gathered to welcome the Croatian National team home after the World Cup and then when beloved Dalmatian singer Oliver Dragojević passed away the coast mourned; hundreds of boats took to sea in his honour and thousands celebrated his life and music. When their hearts are in the right place, Croatians can move mountains (if only we could get this reaction to all pressing matters but that's a topic for another day).

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Boats honouring Oliver from Split Harbour, image: screenshot.

I miss my family, friends and roots but here it is, here I am; a Māori in Dalmatia, with no Croatian roots. 

I came from the end of the world and find myself 'home' in Dalmatia.

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