Friday, 24 June 2022

7-Year Itch or Continued Bliss? A Reflection on 7 Years in Split

June 24, 2022 - 7-year-itch or continued bliss? A reflection on 7 years in Split by TCN's Daniela Rogulj. 

June 24th marks my Croatia anniversary. It is officially the longest place I have lived outside the small town of Fallbrook, California - the so-called 'avocado capital of the world' and an agricultural oasis an hour north of San Diego, where I was born and raised. San Francisco took the cake before Split, where I spent six years attending university and launching myself as a fresh-faced 21-year-old into the fast-paced startup world. I had no idea then that I would end up in Croatia, let alone Europe, at 24. California was my home. The state that made me. But Croatia has transformed me into who I am today. 

I know I've said this many times, and anyone who knows me or has followed my journey here knows that I moved to Split accidentally. After spending six months in London, I was desperate to finalize my Croatian citizenship to either stay in London or move anywhere else in Europe (like Berlin). During that time, my parents moved to Split to retire, and one month later, I visited them to sort out citizenship paperwork and enjoy the same Croatian summer I had since I was a little girl. 

I arrived on June 24, 2015. It was the summer that changed my perception of Split. It was no longer the port city I had remembered. It had transformed from the transport hub we would visit as a family on the way to Hvar or a short stint for a Hajduk match. Split had come to life in a different light in 2015. There was a new renaissance. Bustling restaurants and bars. Expats. And locals that I still call friends. 

After the season's changed and my citizenship was approved, I was convinced to stay in Split a little longer. It wasn't easy to find work here at first, and it took almost a year after I arrived to find the gig that changed my course in Croatia. My professional work experience was in marketing and communications, first as a sales & marketing intern at a San Francisco startup before taking on a role as the community manager of a new photo/video app rivaling Instagram, then ultimately co-founding an app in e-commerce. What in the world could I do with that in Split? Was tech even a thing here? Did a startup environment even exist? 

I graduated from university with a degree in political science, which I completed to become a political journalist. Otherwise, I've always been right-brained, favoring creativity, imagination, and arts. I knew I was a good writer. I knew what I was capable of in terms of marketing. But I also knew my work in hospitality was limited to managing a cupcake shop while studying at university. I didn't want to work a seasonal hospitality job because it was the norm. I was motivated and hungry to start something but knew I needed to start somewhere first. 

My first 'job' in Split was working alongside a booking agent known for his roster of big bands like TBF and up-and-coming artists like Sara Renar. With my dad's background in the music industry as a travel agent for entertainment, this felt like a good fit. It was a good insight into how things worked in Croatia and how coffee meetings were king, but it was only the beginning. 

A few months later, my mom sent me a Facebook post about how Total Split of the Total Croatia News brand was looking for a new writer. Well, this seemed perfect, but I hadn't written blogs in a few years, nor did I know Split inside out yet. I applied, anyhow. I didn't hear anything for a few weeks and assumed that was the end. In the meantime, I had to take a last-minute trip back to the States, which would keep me in California for three weeks. I received an email from TCN the second I landed at LAX. The TCN team was still eager to continue with my application process, and I met with Paul Bradbury the day after I arrived back in Split. I started working with TCN the day after that and celebrated my 6th anniversary with the company last month, which is also officially the longest time I've spent employed at a single place. 

My role with TCN has evolved over the years, from writing for Total Split and Total Inland Dalmatia to covering travel news and lifestyle events. Though it really took form when I took over as Sports Editor in 2017, especially after a former colleague told me I would never see a press pass for Croatia national team games. As an avid football player for most of my life, a coach's daughter, and a FIFA referee's granddaughter, I wasn't going to let anyone get in the way of my love for Croatian football. Since then, I've been an accredited journalist at nearly all Croatia national team matches, Hajduk matches, and traveled around Europe for Europa League, UEFA Nations League, and EURO 2020. I recorded 20+ international radio interviews during the 2018 World Cup and even became the Croatian correspondent for the largest sports radio station in the world. Today I am not only the Sports Editor of Total Croatia News but the COO. Did this all stem from a local telling me, "I will never get X in Croatia"? It was certainly part of it. Do I think I would have achieved the same success in the US? I'm not sure. But this also shows that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it, and it feels even better when you do it in Croatia. 

Always running into people that needed my native English flair for various tourism projects, I also launched a copywriting business in 2017, which has grown to more clients than I can handle by myself. It is a niche, but it is needed, and the increasing demand for storytelling in Croatian tourism has undoubtedly helped. I'm busier than ever, and my work doesn't stop when the seasons change. I am eternally grateful to everyone that has given me an opportunity here, told me I couldn't, or motivated me to do more. I work from home, have flexible hours (which, let's be honest, is 7 am to 11 pm every day), and can afford an apartment I love, on my own, without any help from the money I made in America (that was all spent in 2015). I am proud of what I have achieved here but am even more appreciative of what Croatia has taught me about myself. 

So, after 7 years in Croatia, what have I learned? 

Paul Bradbury is famous for saying, "don't expect to change Dalmatia but expect it to change you." And it has. 

To start - has it aged me? Tremendously, because I've never worked harder in my life. But I am thankful that my continued work ethic helped launch a career here that I love, that is my own, and that gave me a world of opportunities I never imagined, making the increasingly appearing frown lines a bit easier to look at every morning. 

I've learned to stop drawing comparisons between Croatia and the US because you can't. Croatia has what the US doesn't - both good and bad. While I likely work just as much as I would have in the States, er, maybe more, I'm happier. I am not following the rat race of the working world in America. I wake up to the Adriatic Sea every morning. And I feel at peace. The anxieties that come with living in America alone aren't worth the higher salaries. And I make sure to tell every Uber driver that questions why I would swap California for Split about how good we have it here and how the grass isn't always greener on the other side (political circus and bureaucracy aside). 

I remember being so worried about making new friends in Split when I arrived, but the truth is, it was easier than I thought - and much more genuine than some of the relationships I had in California. I quickly found my pack here, and while it has evolved over the years, the foundation has remained the same. It's not hard to surround yourself with equally driven people. Most of my friends are business owners, many foreigners, and incredible locals doing amazing things. I've learned that the community in Split is beyond special, but you must be careful who you choose to be a part of yours. With that said, I still maintain the importance of staying in your bubble and only letting those you trust in. You never know when someone's pride may get in the way. And you know how proud some Croatians can be. 

I've only recently learned that setting boundaries are essential. Once you put yourself out there as a yes woman, people expect that of you, and you hold those standards for yourself. Maybe part of me needed to do that for the last seven years to finally be in the place of comfort I am now and gain that respect, but people can also easily take advantage of your eagerness, and while they're getting what they want - you're the one suffering. Transparency and communication are key in all work here because miscommunication or misunderstandings often happen. It's important to work with people you wholly trust and build those relationships as they will ultimately bring more. 

And back to "don't expect to change Dalmatia but expect it to change you." Dalmatia - is a beast. The best of the best and the worst of the worst at times. Overall, you learn to adapt, become softer and tougher simultaneously, and learn how to navigate what works and what doesn't. You can push for something for years without seeing the light of day, or something can fall into your lap. You never really know what will take off and won't, which can be disheartening. But that doesn't mean you should give up if you believe in something. 

Also, it's okay to celebrate your success. I know that's sometimes 'taboo' in Croatia, but we should all pat ourselves on the back for what we have achieved here, as even the smallest victories can make the biggest impact. 

In the last year alone, my experiences in Split have shaken my core. I've had my heart broken, my world rattled, and I thought about leaving Croatia for good. But I always came back to the same thing - could I really leave this place? The place that has given me everything? I couldn't. And I wouldn't change the passion and pride of Split people (or the frustrations) for anything in the world. 

Seven years in Split and at least another seven more - here's to the place that changed me for the better. 

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

TCN Down Under: Interview with Goalkeeping Legend Mark Bosnich in Sydney

January 9, 2020 - Total Croatia News interviews former Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea & Socceroos goalkeeper, and current analyst for Fox Sports Football. An afternoon with Mark Bosnich at the Clovelly Hotel in Sydney.

I booked my first trip to Australia back in October 2019, though the reality didn’t set in until I flew over Singapore. “Wait a minute, I’m making my way to the other side of the world!” And then the thick humidity at Changi Airport was the best reminder that I would be arriving in Sydney in just 8 hours, in the heart and heat of an Australian summer, two days before New Year’s Eve. 

While I was worried about sweating through 40 degree temperatures and the impact of the bushfires, I was also preparing to meet the closest friends and family members of my boyfriend, who have been only visions in my head for the past year and a half. Our itinerary was loaded, and we needed the stars to align to ensure we could achieve everything we set out to do in just 15 days. 

However, while this trip had quite a few different end goals, as a member of the diaspora and writer for Total Croatia News for the last three-and-a-half years, I knew that connecting with the Australian-Croatian community was also a crucial piece to getting the most I could out of this trip. 

The TCN boss and I had discussed potential interview candidates before I left, though I found it hard to believe we could set one up with THE Mark Bosnich. 

But there we were, sitting in the beer garden of the Clovelly Hotel on a Tuesday afternoon, talking about the fascinating life of this goalkeeping legend. 

Mark arrived with his precious daughter Allegra in tow, whose eyes lit up at the golden box of Bajadera I brought from Split to say, “thank you for meeting me in Sydney, at 4 pm, on a summer day”. Mark was cheerful from the start and greeted me as if we were old friends. 

I figured asking about his Croatian heritage was the perfect place to start. 

“Mum was born here. But her parents, whose maiden name is Padovan, originally come from Blato in Korcula. They came out here between the First and Second World War. Dad came out here from Blato in 1959 at an early age - he was only 15. After the Second World War, his father sat the three boys down, cut their hair, and said he could afford to send the oldest one to University, and he’d become a professor, as he was involved in politics then and lived in Split. The middle one could stay here and help on the farm, and my dad could either go with his uncle ‘stari Barba Donko’ to San Francisco, or with his sister in Australia. His sister had sent him a soccer ball from there once and he just loved soccer, so he decided to go to Australia. He worked on a farm out here, then went into the fibreglass business, and now has his own pool fibreglass business. 

My mum’s father and my dad’s brother-in-law had become good friends in Australia, and that’s basically how my parents met. Today, we have family all over -  in Split, Zagreb, and even in Kiseljak, which is just outside Sarajevo. 

I asked Mark if he visits the homeland often. 

“We do. We didn’t go the last two years because we just had another little one, little Cassius, and with him, we’d have no chance traveling haha. But before that, we used to go back every summer. We would always go two and a half weeks to Croatia, and we always have to visit the family in Blato. Sara, my fiancé, who is half Samoan and half Australian, really likes the Radisson Blu Hotel in Split, which is great for the kids. So we will usually spend a few weeks there then one week in England because I spent so much time in England.”

Mark turned around to ask his daughter Allegra how many times she’d been to Croatia - two or three?

“Three!” she said with a smile stretching from ear to ear. 

I was curious about Mark's exposure to the Croatian community growing up in Sydney.

“Growing up over here, there was a variety of Croatian communities. You would have the ones who were staunchly, staunchly Croatian, then you had the moderate ones, or families that didn’t want to get into anything, and then you had other ones who were scattered all around. We grew up in the west of Sydney, where everyone knew each other. I left in 1988 to go to Manchester United, but I had to come back because I couldn’t get a work permit in 1991 when the war was going on. To be honest, it was really good to see at that time that the vast majority put all issues aside and came together as one. 

I went back in February 1992 to Aston Villa and followed the war and helped as much as I possibly could from over there in England. In the beginning, it was tough. My mum, who liked to stay away from politics, said that my father, who was a moderate, would be in tears about what was going on. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy. But from England to witness how they not only held on eventually, but also built themselves up, and then basically retook their lands in that stunning operation… I was really proud. There are a lot of people on the other side who tried to besmirch what was a fantastic operation. 10,000 kilometres in 3-4 days was absolutely phenomenal. I am very, very proud of what they went through and how they fought and like I’ve said many times, we’ve won the war. There is no need to fight that again. We’ve won the war and we won it well, and now we have to win the peace - and that is more difficult. 

Winning the peace will take time. Just remember, we had close to 600,000 refugees, or nearly 10% of the population, so that would be like 35 million people coming to America,” Mark estimated. 

We moved on from his Croatian upbringing to his early football days. 

“Our club here was Hajduk; the other was King Tom. There was a really good Australian goalkeeping coach named Ron Cory, who was at the Italian club Marconi and he wanted me to come there. He used to take me training with the first team as well. Then he went to King Tom, so I went to King Tom as well. That was around ’86/’87. Then I was at King Tom until I went to Manchester United when I was 16. Liverpool originally wanted to sign me at 15 but my dad wanted me to finish school, so I finished the basic schooling and went to Manchester when I was 16. And basically, Sir Alex Ferguson turned around and said, ‘you’re coming here’. 

I remember getting him to ring up my parents saying, ‘he’s coming and that’s it’. And my dad was going ‘listen, you’ve woken us up’, so he put my mum on and Ferguson said ‘he’s coming here, and he’s going to have a 2,000 GBP signing on fee, and we will put it straight into your account.’ Mum said, ‘signed!’

I was there for three years and I played three games. I was a young kid and they had a really good apprenticeship and all that, and I couldn’t stay because of the work permit thing. So I came back here for those six months, and January/February 1992 I went to Aston Villa. I had seven great years at Aston Villa, which was really good.”

I couldn’t forget to mention that TCN’s Paul Bradbury is a massive Villa fan - and my job could be on the line if Mark didn’t share his favorite moments at the club. 

“The two trophies, definitely. It was two League Cups. We won in ’94 against my old team Manchester United and we beat them as massive underdogs. And then against Leeds United in ’95/’96. There is nothing better than when you win at Wembley - that is a very special thing that no one can take away from you.

The first year of the Premier League was good too. We were going for the title against United and Norwich, funny enough. We came second, but it was still great. 

Mark Bosnich was also lucky enough to work with Sir Alex Ferguson… twice. 

“Haha yeah, the second time around. It was great, and I got to fulfil my real big dream, which was to win the Premier League title - and by a record amount until two years ago when Man City beat it. And we won the World Club Championship, which was fantastic. I would have loved to have stayed there, but I had a big falling out with him. As my dad used to say, rule number one, the boss is always right. And rule number two is that if the boss is wrong, refer to rule number one. Looking back now, I probably was a little bit too bulletproof at that age. I’m willing to compromise a little bit, although, that whole situation was really his doing and it was really that rule in a nutshell. I should have just bit my tongue and been smart, but I couldn’t. So, after one year, we won two trophies, and the writing was on the wall. He basically said 'we will see who will win this battle' and signed another goalkeeper even though the poor thing didn’t do great, but whatever, I was on the way out, and I left probably halfway through the following year and went to Chelsea.

Mark then spoke about his turbulent Chelsea days. 

“I had a great time at Chelsea on the pitch. Off the pitch, I divorced, and I met somebody who wasn’t as fortunate as me, didn’t grow up in a loving family like I did, and was a drug addict. I took it upon myself to try to help somebody who was less fortunate than myself, and I was injured at the time - but her habit became my habit. I was found guilty of having cocaine in my system even though at the time, I had 18 tests before, which never showed anything. But anyway, I was found guilty, and I was banned for nine months, and that’s where I let myself down. I said fine, if you think I am on drugs, I will show you about taking drugs. I had the money and the time on my hands to do what I wanted and I did. Was it the right thing to do? No. If I had the chance to do it over again, would I have? Yes, I would have done things differently. But I was devastated, because I had what I lived for, which was playing football, taken away from me, and I kept thinking to myself something is being taken away from me only because I was trying to help someone else. It would have been good to have a brother or somebody to come and knock me around the head. Dad tried to, but I just wasn’t in the mood. 

After three years of doing nothing I realised that was pretty much it, and then in 2007/2008, some people from Australia came over and asked if I fancied coming back. I said ‘are you sure? I’ve got more luggage than the queen.’ But they wanted me to come back and try it. The funny thing is, I took half the fee - the fee was 300,000 USD, and I had taken 150,000 to go on this celebrity rehab. That blond-headed guy from Lethal Weapon, and the girl from Rocky 4, Brigitte Nielsen, were going to be there. I had to come back to Sydney to do some stuff, and I told everyone I was going. Mum and Dad said, ‘you can’t go and do this’, and I didn’t get why. I said I’m clean anyway now, and I’ve never been a drinker. I told them I’ll be fine, that I’ll kill it on the show, and they begged me not to put them through it. I told them I had already taken half the money, I had an American visa, and I was going. 

Anyway, my cousin on my dad’s side is a dentist and asked me to see him before I went. We called him ‘Mali Peter’. He then turned around and said, ‘buddy, I don’t want to sound funny, but you’ve got an abscess, you can’t fly. If you fly, you could die.’

I asked him if he was serious and he said he was. I had to ring up the people and give the money back and apologise. Anyway, a week later, I went back to the dentist and my cousin said, ‘I know you’re going to think this is odd, but the abscess is not as bad as I first thought.’ I thought my parents maybe had a word with him haha. 

Since then, I played maybe six games for the Central Coast Mariners and I hadn’t played in six years. Then they asked me to take the Premier League and the local league working for Fox Sports, and it’s been lovely. The last three years they gave me and this other chap Bill Woods, who has been around for 30-40 years, our own sports show. It’s four nights a week and it's been great. 

And Mark’s love life? 

“I’ve been married twice, this is going to be number three now, and I have two great young kids. If I don’t get this one right, I’m out of the will apparently, haha. That’s what Mum and Dad joke.”

Mark only had 17 caps for the Australia national team.

“The Australian national team was never a priority for me. I don’t want people to think that is unpatriotic - it wasn’t. The main reason was that there was no international calendar back then. In other words, when Australia played, I’d have to miss a game in the Premier League. There was not one coach that I had over there who did not say ‘all the best, go, but don’t expect to get your place back.’ That's why I was very, very limited with the times that I could play. I remember we had a World Cup qualifier against Canada and it was on the opening day of the Premier League. And I just said to the coach, please, I’ll play the second league, and they suspended me - and I didn’t get my place back for 13 games. So I said I am going to retire now, that’s it. Things got better, but in the end, my club career was a priority for me.” 

Most Australian football fans remember the day Australia and Croatia drew in the 2006 World Cup. The draw pushed Australia into the round of 16, while Croatia was eliminated from the competition. How have these two football nations progressed since then?

“I’m trying to help Australian football as much as I can, but I’ve always been seen as more of an outsider, because I spent so much time in England. Even growing up in Australia at that time, the vast majority of people saw you as Croatian. They didn’t see you as Australian. And that was just a fact. But it was funny, when I went to England at 16, they started calling me an Aussie haha. 

So, I am always very wary when I give advice because you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If they ask me, I tell them. 

The team Australia beat to qualify was Uruguay in 2005. The next World Cup, Australia got knocked out in the next round, but you know where Uruguay finished? Third. 

Australia drew with Croatia 2:2. Great result, they got through. Croatia didn’t. Croatia since has been in the final. Australia again has not progressed past the first round. 

We are supposed to have the most participated people in the country of Australia playing football - over one million. But you know what, that would be lucky if we had that in Croatia. The country is only 4 million people itself. Their average crowd in Croatia is about 3,000 in the 10-team league. Not last summer, but the summer before, they sold talent worth 74 million EUR. So that goes to show, in my opinion, something has either gone wrong or was wrong before. I always say to them ‘look, no, football is not the number one sport here, but neither is it in the States.’ But some things can be done that we are not doing and there are places to learn from that do it on a shoestring. And you guys have got more money in this sport here than you’ve ever had.

Do you realise how much it costs to play football over here? Here’s an example. There is a program for talented youngsters called SAP- Skills Acquisition Program. It costs 2,500 AUD a year for that. One guy wrote to me on Twitter saying he has two sons playing and has to tell the third one he isn’t good enough because he can’t afford to pay that fee. That’s extortion. 

Australia truly is a lucky country in that it hasn’t been through war, even though right now we are experiencing natural disasters. We are a very wealthy nation, we are in the G20, and this sport is very, very popular. And for whatever reason, it never has filled its potential. It came close in 2006, but I really can’t see that happening again for quite some time.

And the question needs to be asked - and I’m sure it’s asked all the time - as to why.”

We moved on from the Australian national team to the key to Croatia’s success at the 2018 World Cup. 

“I think the spirit played the biggest part, but let’s forget about the two main things, which was that we had two of the best players in the world - Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric. And that is a massive, massive thing to have. When you have two players playing for the two biggest clubs in the world, whom you know have done well, it just works. That is, for me, the two hugest factors. But then you have Mandzukic as well, Subasic, Vida, Perisic, Lovren… all of them can lay claim to playing their part and they did. It wasn’t like we had players on Real Madrid and then it went down to some lower club. 

Let’s not forget that the new manager came in, installed a lovely environment for everyone, and of course, we had that amazing will and fighting spirit. I was there working for RT Today. I had a fantastic time and actually learned Russian before I went and I was just so proud. I can never forget the night of that semifinal. I remember texting Gareth Southgate, my ex-teammate and told him who I was going to support, and he was lovely about it. 

Mark pulled out his mobile phone and scrolled through his messages to read his conversation with Southgate that night.

July 13, 2018

Thinking so much how best to say this. You remember back in the day at Aston Villa my pride in having Croatian ancestry. But from that day at my place, when we there the baseball at each other, until now, I don’t think I ever really told you how proud I was to have you as a friend. At this tournament, not only have you shown the world how good a manager you are, but you’ve shown through the team how good England is. You’ve done a fantastic job in this tournament and do not let any of the jealous bitters tell you any different. How many of them have been to the semi-final of a major tournament as a player and a manager like you? Zero. Go and win tomorrow in the 3rd and 4th playoff. All the very best. Say hi to Alison. And most importantly, I am very proud of you, my friend.”

Southgate replied:

“Thank you so much, mate. Your message means a lot to me. I think we virtually got everything out of this group. Progress for sure. Plenty of things to get better at. Also, we have made a difference in people’s lives and that will stay with me forever. I  loved our playing time together. Special team, special friendship.”

Bosnich was emotional reading the messages back.

“Look, if Croatia, England, or Australia were invaded, I’d be there on the front line. England has done so well for me. But that night was one of the best nights ever. That will live with me forever. That whole trip.”

Croatia and England will meet again, this time in the group stage of the 2020 Euros in London. 

“If it were the other way around, I’d be happy - you know, time for revenge. But now I’m a little bit concerned. I think both teams have done well since the World Cup, but if you had to maybe lean towards one that was looking a little bit more dangerous right now, it would probably be England. But from a psychological perspective, we’ve got nothing to fear. That first half we played against England in the semis, to be fair, I thought if England had scored that second goal, the game might have been different. But with the spirit that we’ve shown, in the second half, Croatia just took over. Brilliant football. We really deserved to win in normal time, but then it went to extra time and I was happy we didn’t have to win on penalties again. 

At the Euros, I think they should both get out of the group. But that also depends on who the last team in the group is.”

I told him it could be Serbia.

“I think that would be really good.”

Croatia is a team of many young talents, and I was curious to know who Mark considered the team’s best prospects.

“Kovacic at Chelsea. Dinamo’s Bruno Petkovic is magnificent. He has really stood out for me. The young goalkeeper Livakovic is looking okay as well. 

Unfortunately, there will never be another Modric or Rakitic, that’s understandable, just like there will never be another Maradona, but you’re going to have to find people who are willing to step up. They put their foot on the accelerator through these qualifiers, and I think they have that confidence from doing so well at the World Cup. 

Due to Bosnich’s excitement about Petkovic, I wondered if he followed the Croatian Championship.

“Look, I am a Hajduk supporter, but there has been a long time since we’ve won. Even though Dinamo is not my team, they should have qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League. That game against Shakhtar was unbelievable. With the coefficient rating, it looks as though now, a second team will have a chance to get into the Champions League. 

I know there was a time in the old Yugoslavia where Tito had that law where you couldn’t leave the country until you were 27 or 28, but now, the world has changed. For me, in the big four European leagues, maybe five if you want to count France, the job is to keep developing these players and selling them and building up the funds to hopefully invest in infrastructure. There is no shame in that.”

To conclude, I asked Mark about his favorite team-mates and rivals. 

“Paul McGrath and Marcel Desailly are the best defenders I’ve played with. The most dangerous striker I’ve played against? That’s a toss-up between Gabriel Batistuta and Robby Fowler at his best. 

But the best player I’ve ever played with is Ryan Giggs.”

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

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

It's Not a Joke – I Moved to Croatia and Started My Own Business

April 3, 2019 - It's not an April Fools’ joke – the 1st Business Café International event was held on Monday evening in Zagreb, gathering more than 50 experienced Croatian and foreign entrepreneurs. 

Business Café International was established to highlight the opposite of migration trends, i.e., showing examples of entrepreneurs who moved here and started their businesses in Croatia. It is a joint effort to make Croatia a country that is not just great to live in, but also an attractive place for doing business. 

Kristina Ercegović, Business Café founder, promoted her vision of Croatia as one of the best places to live and work. 

Paul Bradbury, a Brit who used to live on Hvar and now lives in Varaždin and the owner of Total Croatia News, and Natalia Zielinska, a Polish entrepreneur and the author of Natalia u zemlji čudesa/Natalia in Wonderland from Ogulin, shared their entrepreneurial stories. They also talked about the reasons why they moved to Croatia and how they do business here. 


Paul owns several portals, while Natalia is an EU consultant who also runs Entrepreneur Academy in Ogulin. 

The conclusions were that we should all STOP complaining, accept the term UHLJEB for the moment as some kind of a TAX which we all need to pay for living here, and do what we can. 

Nepotism and injustice were identified as the biggest problems and the reason why people emigrate. Additionally, many things don’t move forward because the problem starts at the lowest political level. Also, although Croatians complain a lot, it seems that they are too passive. 

Paul finished his talk by saying: “Don’t expect to change Dalmatia/Croatia, rather expect Croatia to change you.” 


He said we all go through three phases, especially foreigners upon their arrival. First, there is joy and you are happy to be here and you enjoy the beauty and quality of life here. Then there is sorrow – you can’t believe this is happening. And finally, you accept reality and you do something to change at least one thing in your bubble or area of influence. 

He said he has seen many initiatives - holding Business Cafés being one of them – and that there is a need to connect them all to show that there definitely is a better and more positive Croatia. 

We all agreed there were many initiatives and entrepreneurial stories which should be shared and presented daily because that is the way mindset is changed, and that children should be shown that success is possible here as well. 


After their talks, the audience had a chance to talk to Paul and Natalia. Attendees also used the opportunity to present themselves, connect with others and network. 

Besides entrepreneurs, representatives of the US and Swedish Embassy were present at the event as well. 

Sponsors are Diglossia Translations Company, Lisak Catering, as well as Domelly. Media coverage is provided by Total Croatia News, Croatia2go, Samo pozitivno, Media Marketing, and WIA. 

Business Café events have been organised for the past nine years, in 7 countries and 25 cities. There have been more than 20,000 visitors, 300 guest speakers/entrepreneurs sharing their stories, more than 30 million euro deals have been made, countless friendships have started up, as well as some partnerships and investments. 


For more info, please visit: 

Next scheduled events: June 3rd, August 26th, and October 14th, 2019. 

For more information, please contact 

Kristina Ercegović, EMBA 

+385 91 1555228 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

To read more about Croatia's foreign entrepreneurs, follow TCN's dedicated page. And if you'd like to be featured, send us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Monday, 14 March 2016

Spaladium Arena will be Auctioned Off - Until Then it's Business as Usual

If it's not sold after 3 auction rounds, Spaladium Arena will be offered for 1 kuna