Thursday, 24 March 2022

Vukovar Bids Wartime Hospital Director Vesna Bosanac Farewell

ZAGREB, 24 March 2022 - Numerous Vukovar residents bid farewell to the wartime hospital director Dr Vesna Bosanac at the Homeland War Memorial Cemetery in Vukovar on Thursday.

Addressing those present at the burial ceremony, Dr Bosanac's long time deputy Siniša Maslovara bid her farewell.

"Most of us will remember her for caring for us all. She supported us and was there whenever we needed her, particularly when a serious misfortune or illness afflicted us. She loved her employees and fought for them to the limits of durability, even when everyone would leave them and when, sometimes, they would lose faith in themselves," Maslovara said.

He said that Bosanac seemed indestructible because she survived numerous misfortunes.

In the most difficult times for the hospital during the Homeland War, Dr Bosanac showed unimaginable courage, audacity and organisational skills, he underscored.

In addition to numerous Vukovar residents, also present at the funeral were the prime minister's envoy, Defence Minister Tomo Medved, Defence Minister Mario Banožić, Health Minister Vili Beroš, Vukovar-Srijem County Prefect Damir Dekanić and Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, who proclaimed today a day of mourning.

Vukovar Hospital staff paid their final respects to Dr Bosanac prior to her being taken to the cemetery. A commemorative ceremony will be held later this afternoon.

Vesna Bosanac died on Monday after a long and serious illness. She was 73.

 

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Wartime Vukovar Hospital Director Vesna Bosanac Passes Away

March the 21st, 2022 - Wartime Vukovar hospital director Vesna Bosanac has passed away following a long and difficult illness. She is widely considered to be one of the heroines of the Homeland War.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the exceptional Dr. Vesna Bosanac was the war and post-war director of the Vukovar hospital, a facility that became synonymous with the sheer tragedy that befell Vukovar at the hands of horrendous Serbian aggression.

Bosanac was appointed head of the Vukovar Medical Centre and the Vukovar War Hospital on July the 24th, 1991. The unspeakable events which happened in that Eastern Croatian town that autumn could barely have been expected by anyone, and Vesna Bosanac stepped up to the job, showing nothing but bravery and dealing with the responsibility of her position exceptionally well. During those terrible months, thousands of wounded people were treated and operated on in the shelled Vukovar hospital without food or available medicine.

Wartime Vukovar hospital director Vesna Bosanac and many other brave and selfless medical staff and other employees didn't leave the hospital until the fall of the Vukovar, and then ended up being captured by the Serb aggressors. She spent three weeks in the Sremska Mitrovica prison, two more days in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, before being exchanged and before arriving in Zagreb in December 1991.

She was awarded the Order of the Croatian Danica with the figure of Katarina Zrinski, she received the "Charter of the Republic of Croatia" on behalf of the Vukovar General County Hospital from Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, and the Association of Veterans of Podravka in cooperation with other associations from the Homeland War awarded her the Great Gold Plaque for all she did for the benefit of Croatia and the Croatian struggle for independence.

For more, make sure to check our news section.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Festivities in Eastern Slavonia: Things To Do in Spring

18 March 2022 - Spring is on the horizon! Ceremonies and events are slowly but surely moving outdoors and since TCN already covered “Five Places You Must Visit During Spring in Croatia”, this is a look into what festivities in Eastern Slavonia are happening during the new season. 

Firstly, we need to start with the biggest city of Eastern Slavonia - Osijek. As usual, the greenest city in Croatia has various events that can fulfill any person's preferences: from music, film, theater, and traditional events to sports and other activities that include all of citizens and guests. Since there is no shortage of events this spring season, we had to single out a few that will happen soon. It doesn't hurt to mention again that Osijek is going to host the 29th Porin Music Awards on the 25th of March. For more details, check the article here.

 

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Antiques Fair, (Photo:Okusi sreće by Pavica/Facebook)

 

Antiques Fair - 2nd of April 

The citizens of Osijek love their culture and heritage so it’s not surprising that the Antiques Fair is one the most popular events in the city. From old gramophone records to lost books and masterpieces from local unknown artists, this festivity is for everyone. Excitement as you pass by a sea of stalls that potentially contain a lost “treasure”? It is guaranteed only at the Osijek Antique Fair that is usually held on the first Saturday every month in the Old Town of the city - Tvrđa. However, the next Antique Fair will be held in King Držislav Park near the famous urban statue The Shell (Školjka) on the 2nd of April. The Park is located just across from Tvrđa, so it is not hard to find it. You can check for more here.

 

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Osijek Ferivi Half Marathon (Photo Osječki Ferivi Polumaraton/Facebook)

18th Osijek Ferivi Half marathon - 9th of April 2022 

This event, as the name suggests, will take place in Osijek, with four different races included: a half marathon (21.1 km), relay (3 x 7 km), citizens’ race (5 km), and a race for the youngest - children. These events will be accompanied by a music festival, instrumental, dance, and singing groups with a goal to entertain the visitors and competitors. Since its foundation, Osijek Ferivi Half Marathon has had an increase in the number of participants every single year and it’s becoming one of the biggest sporting events in Osijek and its surroundings. If you’re interested, the application is still open for everyone - it doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or casual, everyone is welcome!

 

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Craft Beer Festival in Osijek (Photo: Osijek CRAFT BEER Festival/Facebook)

Craft Beer Festival - sometime in May (to be determined) 

How can Spring pass in Osijek without an event for beer lovers? In the last decades, Osijek has become a center for beer connoisseurs, not only in Eastern Slavonia but for beer enthusiasts all over Croatia. This fact is not surprising at all if we take into account that Osijek is also a center of multiple small breweries that produce various types of beers which have become iconic for this part of Croatia. Craft Beer Festival has been held last year during June but this year it’s probably coming back to its original date in May. We still don’t know the exact date. Nevertheless, the event will come back to the famous so-called “beer street” - Sun Street (Sunčana Ulica). For updates check their Facebook page.

If you’re interested in breweries in Osijek, check an article from our intern Toni.

After Osijek, we go further East and present cities of Vinkovci and Vukovar. Two historical Slavonian cities have a lot to offer with the support of surrounding small towns and their own events that enrich the lives of locals in Vukovar - Srijem County.

 

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Flower Festival in Vukovar (Photo: Miroslav Slafhauzer/Turistička zajednica grada Vukovara)

Flower Festival - end of the April 

Flower Festivals are a common event in Slavonia (we already had one in Osijek during Women’s Day). At the end of April every year, a Flower Festival is held in the center of Vukovar which brings together local and regional plant growers, florists, arrangers, related craftsmen, and lovers of flowers and ornamental plants. The Fair has sort of an exhibition and sales character which gives a completely different, colorful, and warmer look to the center of Vukovar. This event is also an overture for marking City Day.

 

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Svi zaJedno Hrvatsko Naj Festival in 2019 (Photo: svizajedno.eu/Galerija)

Svi zaJedno hrvatsko naj - cultural and tourist event - part of Vukovar City Day, 3rd of May 

This festival is fairly new - it was firstly held in 2018, as a part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the first Croatian festival to present protected Croatian intangible cultural heritage on the national and UNESCO list with the most attractive tourist events, attractions, and destinations from all over Croatia. During the event, visitors have a chance of exploring various manifestations held all over Croatia by tasting autochthonous Croatian dishes and enjoying the offer of the best Croatian wines. Of course, what would be a Slavonian event without traditional music and dance groups? For more details, you can check their website.

 

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"Motorijada" in 2021 (Moto Klub Županja/Facebook)

Motorijada by Moto Club Županja - 10th of April 

Motorijada (Moto Race) is an event that is organized by Moto Clubs all over Croatia. Motorcycle enthusiasts organize these events to promote, among other things, motorsports and use this opportunity to meet with their fellow motorcycle buddies. This April, Moto Club Županja is organizing the 16th Opening of Moto Season of Vukovar - Srijem County with the aim of drawing the attention of other road users to the presence and safety of motorcyclists in the traffic. They will start their tour in the village Rajevo Selo and go through multiple towns in Vukovar - Srijem County with the ending in the host city - Županja. Everyone is invited and if you’re a motorcycle enthusiast or just love looking at the motors, this is a great event to visit. For more information, check their Facebook page.

 

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Logo of the Festival (photo: Festival Glumca/Facebook)

Actor’s Festival - all cities of Vukovar - Srijem County, 13 - 22 May 

The festival was founded in 1994 by the Croatian Society of Dramatic Artists and Vukovar - Srijem County and it is the only festival in Croatia dedicated to the actor and their artistic work. Today, this event has grown into a festival that brings chamber and large ensemble performances to the audience. If you’re interested in the festival full of character, good acting, acting personality, talent, and originality, visit Vukovar - Srijem County from 13th to 22nd May this year. Every city will have its appropriate events surrounding this festival. For more, check their official website.

 

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 Petrovačko Zvono event few years ago (photo: savezrusina.hr)

Petrovačko Zvono - sometime in June, 49th edition 

Rusyns are a national minority in Croatia with most of the residents residing in the village of Petrovci, which is located near Vukovar. Tradition, heritage, and constant maintenance of their culture for more than 40 years made this event one the most important in Vukovar - Srijem County. Rusyns from all over Croatia and other countries, visit Petrovci to connect to their fellow Rusyn people. They have a strong connection to Ukraine and their people, so if you’re nearby, visit this event, learn about the traditions of the people who’ve chosen Croatia as their home, and enjoy Petrovačko Zvono and its celebration of their heritage. For more details, you can visit their website here.

This is it for now. There are a lot more events that need mentioning, however, this article won’t be enough. TCN will bring you stories from some of these events and part two of places to visit in Eastern Slavonia is already on the way. Stay tuned!

Make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life – PRONI Centre for Social Education

March 17, 2022 – Meet Goran, the director of the youth department at PRONI, Vukovar’s centre for social education. 

Though their name and title might seem a little ambiguous, a quick visit to their website has the word youth stand out more than anything else. This is quite indicative of what PRONI stands for and what they have been doing for over 20 years. With their primary focus on youth work, which includes working directly with teens and young adults aged 18-30, as well as working with trainers and educators who are involved in such work, the main goals of the centre are the improvement of quality of life of the youth and their social awareness and inclusion. Primarily through EU social programs, in PRONI they have partnered up with the relevant institutions to promote informal youth education, mobility, and volunteer work as the modern values and ways of achieving everyone’s full potential.

We spoke to Goran, PRONI’s youth director, who told us all about what PRONI does and what the youth in Vukovar still need.

What is PRONI, how long has it been here, and what is it that you do daily?

PRONI was first officially registered in 1998, which means that we have been going strong for well over 20 years now. With our first office in Vukovar, we also opened offices in Osijek and in Sisak. The one in Sisak, unfortunately, had to be closed, but we did spend a good 15 or so years working there as well. Our focus is on direct work with the youth regardless of their status (students, unemployed, employed, etc.). This means that we also work with youth workers and institutions, including city councils, schools, and other organisations involved in social work. We are currently running 16 projects and our days are packed full of activities. We are hosting 2 Erasmus participants here in Vukovar, who spend their days volunteering, studying, and learning Croatian!

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What are your long-term goals?

Our mission is to improve the quality of life of the youth through opportunities to develop their skills, abilities, and competencies. We strive to achieve this through practical work in volunteering and social projects, as well as their inclusion in a so-called structured dialogue. More precisely, in cooperation with the city council of Vukovar and through the input we receive directly from the youth, we implement the city youth program. The program does not consider the cultural and entertainment aspect of life, but also employment opportunities, education, and public facilities to provide nurture hobbies and interests.

How do you reach the youth of Vukovar?

PRONI and its friends have a way of discovering each other. We have set up an info centre for them to easily reach us on social media or in our physical space where we always keep our doors open and the atmosphere warm and welcoming. We try to stay on top of social media and follow the trends and reach our audience across all the trending platforms. We have set up our little corners in schools as well and have engaged teachers to be our ambassadors. The students themselves also spread the word quite effectively, as they really enjoy many of our activities and are excited to come back with friends.

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What are the main projects of the Vukovar branch right now, what makes you proud?

The dialogue that we have successfully established between the youth in our city and the city council is something that we are quite proud of. The long-term results of our work are also starting to show, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. Our Youth Advisory Board serves for better information exchange and resource networking with all the relevant institutions. As I mentioned, this includes the city council, the national employment office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the local library and more. Possibly the best thing that has come out of our initiatives was the organic and spontaneous formation of School Volunteering Clubs where students are the managers and planners. They enjoy autonomy, and it keeps them motivated to keep learning, developing, and connecting.

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Which groups would you like to invite for better cooperation?

Firstly, I would like to say that we are very thankful for our partners and all the amazing work that we have done together so far. We do not lack institutional support in the physical sense, but we do think that the school curriculum should follow suit. Schools should work a lot more on encouraging critical thinking, activism, quality management of free time. Students do not have enough autonomy when it comes to extra-curricular activities where they are often offered what is available based on the teachers’ schedules and not on their interests. Schools should also be involved in, or at least promote informal education a lot more.

Is Vukovar a good place for the youth, how do your foreign volunteers perceive it?

Of course, Vukovar is excellent! It is quite small but practical. All the facilities are easily available and often within walking distance. The standard is still much cheaper than in a lot of other European cities and thanks to PRONI’s unique position in the city, there are a lot of things that we can provide for free. Our volunteers find it interesting, though different, usually coming from much bigger cities. The main things that they like about Vukovar include feeling safe, secure, and accepted. They also find that sometimes things here seem a lot simpler than in their home countries. They are excited to visit, and they leave fulfilled and happy. Another great thing for our foreign volunteers is that everything we do is integrated and we provide them with additional activities and free language courses.

What message would you like to send?

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Just that we are here and that what we provide should be used. Youth exchange is a wonderful thing and possibly one of the most enriching experiences in life. In our areas, it is still unknown and not promoted enough. Sometimes there is a fear of this unknown, but everyone should know that the process has become very smooth, and I would like to encourage young people to step forward and grab the opportunity to learn and travel.

For more, check out our lifestyle section 

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Meet Vukovar, 365 Full of Life – Humanitarian Organisation Duga Vukovar

March 9, 2022 – Meet Jasna, Tijana, Tamara, and Nevenka, the presidents, administrators, and employees of the Humanitarian Organisation Duga Vukovar, who spoke about those in need in Vukovar, how they provide it, and how we all can do the same.

Duga Vukovar was founded back in 2013 to provide help to those who need it the most. This includes people who were marginalised for various reasons, but in most cases due to unemployment which leads to poverty. The elderly who live alone and in poverty are in an especially unfavourable position. Duga Vukovar has had a long tradition of workshops, programs and projects that would engage the most vulnerable members of our society, be it through education, financial support or by providing a place to enjoy some much needed friendly company while expressing ones' creativity. While Vukovar is developing and attracting visitors thanks to its modern infrastructure, interesting locations, awesome food and genuinely the nicest people, organisations like Duga exist to remind us that there are still many who haven't been able to live their full potential.

Tell us about the organisation. What do you do, which groups do you help, what inspired you?

Many demographic changes have happened in recent years, such as negative natural population movements, continuous emigration, unemployment of young adults, low pensions, increasing poverty rates. All this led to an increasing number of people whose incomes were insufficient for a decent life, especially in the elderly population. Often, they cannot even afford basic dietary and hygienic necessities, and unfortunately, some of them have no income whatsoever. In 2013, we decided to establish the Humanitarian Organisation Duga Vukovar to promote the quality of life and protect the human rights of the most vulnerable groups in our society, primarily those on the brink of poverty and the elderly. 

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In 2014, the so-called Vukovar Social Self-Service was founded through our organisation. It operates on the principle of collecting donations of food and hygiene items and their continuous distribution to the most vulnerable residents of the city of Vukovar. In accordance with the collected donations, we strive to continuously ensure the distribution of food on a daily basis every month of the year. This helped manage the organisation in a better way and ensured that we had more time to dedicate to each individual. It also helped build a better relationship and give people a sense of security, trust and belonging.

The self-service cares for about 600 families, which is roughly 1,500 people. Its clients are people living on the edge of poverty, elderly people with low pensions, users of social welfare, single mothers and fathers, people with zero or very low incomes. We noticed that in addition to the lack of financial resources, there is also a risk of social exclusion mostly for elderly people, as well as a lack of assistance in performing daily activities.

What is your mission, what are your main goals?

Our mission is to create a just and compassionate society of equal opportunities for every individual. Our goal is to improve the lives of the elderly and people at risk of social exclusion by having them actively participate in our projects and programs such as education and counselling programs on financial literacy, consumer rights, social and health rights which could help reduce health care costs. We also provide opportunities to learn about social care, health and disease prevention, entertainment, socio-cultural content and workshops, as well as excursions. We provide a space where people can actively spend their free time, increase their productivity and creativity, nurture their talents. We want them to feel a sense of belonging and empower them to develop a positive self-image. In addition to all that, we want to continue to network, develop and strengthen our partnerships, include new donors and continue working with our old associates, strengthen the capacity of the organisation and provide employment for the disadvantaged groups.

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Do you accept volunteers and which groups would you like to activate more?

We are especially grateful for our volunteers who enrich the work of our organisation. It is important to encourage all social groups to be actively involved in volunteer work because it is the responsibility of each of us to be active and responsible individual who participates and drives positive change in society. Of course, we would like the younger population of volunteers to be more involved. This would help shrink the growing generation gap with prejudice and stereotypes they might have towards the elderly, which can also lead to violent behaviour. Every stage of human life has its unique advantages and disadvantages. We can always learn from each other, pass on the knowledge and experience to future generations, create memories. We need to be more supportive of each other.

What is it like to run an organisation like this in Vukovar? Does the fact that you are in eastern Croatia affect your success?

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Once an industrial center, today the Vukovar-Srijem County is one of the least developed areas in Croatia, and Vukovar is one of the poorest cities. Still, if we look back at the starting days of our organisation, we do see significant progress. We keep growing and developing, and we want to expand our activities for the benefit of the wider community. As our organisation is a non-profit, we depend mostly on donations and projects. Unfortunately, such sources of funding are uncertain, with a limited duration. While the organisation is continuously making progress, the existing space has become too small and inadequate for quality implementation of our project activities and programs, hindering the work of our employees which should be a lot more pleasant. Yet, there are so many plans that we can and want to implement. Our biggest challenge at the moment is finding an adequate space. We are aware that any space that is unused and needs to be put into operation requires significant financial expenses, and as a non-profit, we are not able to cover that right now.

Would you like to participate in the Vukovar Card initiative? 

We would indeed like to participate in the Vukovar Card initiative. Vukovar has a lot to offer. Primary and secondary school students from different parts of Croatia visit us often, and they even help with donations for our social self-service. We would like their visits, as well as the visits of tourists to our city and our organisation to last longer for them to better experience all the beauty of the city. Unfortunately, most visits are only day trips.

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What are the ways organisations and individuals can help?

Our doors are always open to all who want to visit us and get to know us better.

Address:

Humanitarna udruga Duga Vukovar

OIB: 89493546468

Sajmište 23, 32000 Vukovar

Working hours:

MON - FRI - 07:00 - 15:00

Contact person: Tamara Mikulić 099 520 2211 / Tijana Prokić - 099 750 3734

Visit our website: www.duga-vukovar.hr

FB page: Humanitarna udruga Duga Vukovar

Instagram: Humanitarnaudrugaduga.vukovar

If you wish to financially support the work of our organisation, donations can be paid to the account:

IBAN: HR72 2340 0091 1105 9315 8

SWIFT: PBZGHR2X

Privredna banka Zagreb

Payment description: Financial support to the organisation (Financijska potpora Udruzi)

If you wish to help the work of our Social Self-Service, donations can be paid to the account:

IBAN: HR42 2340 0091 5106 3886 7

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Vukovar Ready to Take in Refugees from Ukraine

ZAGREB, 4 March (2022) - Vukovar City authorities are doing all they can to help the endangered people of Ukraine who are trying to save their lives from the dangers of war, the Vukovar mayor's office said on Friday.

A statement to the press after Mayor Ivan Penava met with the representative of the Ukrainian ethnic minority in Vukovar-Srijem County, Tetyana Kochnyeva, recalls that the city sent an initiative to the government and Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets regarding the possible accommodation of Ukrainian refugees at the Zagreb Hostel in the suburb of Borovo Naselje in Vukovar.

This week, Mayor Penava met with representatives of emergency services, Vukovar's civil protection organisation, the firefighting station, the city's Red Cross branch and the police and talked about providing aid to Ukrainian refugees.

According to Kochnyeva, Ukrainian refugees who have come to Slavonia so far are mostly accommodated in Osijek.

"However, quite a few want to come to Vukovar and that is why we asked Mayor Penava for his help. The situation is changing by the hour and we are working with City of Vukovar to secure accommodation for refugees from Ukraine," said Kochnyeva.

The city appealed to anyone who can provide accommodation or transport from the Ukrainian border to Croatia to contact the the local civil protection at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling +385 (0)99/529-50-40.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life – Lucija and Josip Salaić of Vu-Creator

March 3, 2022 – Meet Lucija and Josip of Vu-Creator, a young couple from Tovarnik near Vukovar who have devoted themselves to the sustainable production of some of the most wonderful furniture and toys for the young ones. 

Tovarnik, once a year the home of Croatia’s biggest pumpkins and an open-air fine dining experience of ox on the spit, paired with some outstanding local rakija. Dessert, of course, pumpkin, sometimes apples and walnuts in a roll. All part of the famous autumn festival. What does the place offer outside of this magnificent event? Plenty. For now, we’ll skip discussing nature, location, food, and we’ll move straight to people and their stories. 

Josip and Lucija Salaić are a young couple who decided to build their careers in something they truly enjoy and care about. Taking inspiration from their own little daughters and from the fact that woodworking was Josip’s true passion, they started designing and manufacturing wooden furniture and toys. Their goal was to create something sustainable, natural, and lasting that would keep the little ones happy. And so, Vu-Creator was born. They design all their pieces according to their client’s wishes, while all the shaping, painting, and assembling is done by hand. Their guiding principles are those of uniqueness and quality. We spoke to Lucija to find out about how it came to be, where it’s headed, and more. 

Tell us about your business, what do you do?

At Vu-Creator we design and manufacture solid wood children's furniture. Most times we use ash, and all our raw materials come from within Croatia. We produce our own designs, but we also work with our clients to create details that make our furniture unique and personalised. The entire range is made by hand or semi-mechanically and painted by hand with eco-friendly paint.

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Where did you get the idea and what makes your offer unique?

We discovered our talents over time and realised that we could make something for our children all on our own. Something that would be of excellent quality, long-lasting, and tailor-made just for them. The end result of our efforts really excited us, and we decided that we would not stop just at furniture for our children.

What was it like starting such a business in Vukovar? What were the main challenges?

The main challenges were prejudice and lack of information through verified sources. It took us a while to find the right suppliers or the right audience to introduce the quality that comes with a beautiful design.

Do you think that the fact that you are in eastern Croatia influenced your success?

Not in the least. We just didn’t think about it. We have adapted to the needs of the market, our products are sold online, and by the time the clients pick up their products they don’t even see the address where the furniture came from.

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Are you happy with how your business is developing? What is your perspective for the future?

We love what we do and we hope that this love will grow. We also hope that on days when it becomes too difficult to remember the goal, the smiles on the faces of children who receive the little furniture made just for them will keep us going. We are open to anything, the sky is the limit. Even if the doors of Vu-Creator have to close at some point, our hearts remain open to new challenges.

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What opportunities are there in our city and region? 

Depends on the ambitions of the individual. We think that the location of origin can stimulate or demotivate the start of a project but should certainly not be the reason to change one’s mind. Vukovar offers many possibilities if you want to discover them.

What is your view of other small businesses in Vukovar?

There is no competition, which is the one thing that scares most new businesses. We never come across anyone in a hostile mood. All our colleagues and friends jumped in, just like we did to help them. The atmosphere is truly one of healthy entrepreneurship. It is important to have money circulating and supporting the economy, and not just holding on to your own assets. Mutual support is paramount.

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Finally, tell us about life in Vukovar. What do you like most, what would you say to all potential visitors?

Vukovar offers perspective. Though many leave the east, many of us do stay here, and we are the ones who believe in the future of our city. Vukovar is all of us, and as long as that is the case it will be a beautiful and special city. We love this peace that many still seek, we love the togetherness. Always aware of the weight of the city's past and never forgetting what our fathers and grandfathers gave up for the homeland, we look ahead and use that gratitude as an incentive and motivation to keep going.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life – Krešimir Herceg of VukovART

February 22, 2022 - Meet Krešimir Herceg, the co-founder of VukovART, a movement that has helped place Vukovar on the street art map of the world and turned the city into an open-air art gallery.

From 2017 onwards, Vukovar has been getting richer and richer in street art, with murals adorning buildings in all Vukovar’s neighbourhoods and 3D art attracting the looks of many on and along the bridges of Vukovar. The art has become a big part of the city’s visual identity, inspiring visits, hashtags, even tours and events like marathons following the path of the murals. 

In 2022, the residents of Vukovar, along with its many guests, already know to anticipate a city centre full of life, laughter, and fun, with kids creating chalk artwork on the pavement, grown-ups painting walls, and other grown-ups discussing art and tourism. For a few weeks in May and June, the city becomes a colourful workshop of art. And when it’s all said and done, we are left with some beautiful art to love and cherish and proudly present to our visitors. We found out how it all came to be, why it’s there and where it’s going. We spoke to Krešimir, whom we know as the man behind the movement. He describes himself as a marketing enthusiast working on several tourism projects, and the results have been pretty awesome. Let’s find out all about the ideas that set it in motion.

Tell us about the organizers of VukovART.

Filip and Krešo are primarily two friends who work together on several ideas and projects. One is just a marketing enthusiast, and Filip is the only Croatian 3D street artist.

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What inspired VukovART?

Although VukovART started in 2017, the whole story began a year before, while the idea of ​​a street art festival had been brewing for a while. Filip Mrvelj, the only Croatian 3D street artist, and I had worked together on several projects. So it was not surprising when in 2016, he called and suggested a collaboration on the first 3D painting in Vukovar on a bridge over the river Vuka. During our time in Vukovar, it rained constantly, and we ended up only having one day to create the paintings. We spoke to the city council about all our ideas, including the festival. Filip managed to finish the painting, and after it gained significant media attention, we officially presented the concept of ​​a street art festival to the City of Vukovar. They loved it.

Can you tell us more about the project?

VukovART is a street art festival. During a few weeks in May and June, it attracts some of the biggest names of the international street art scene. So far, the Vukovar open-air gallery has adopted 33 pieces of street art created by top world artists. We have hosted names like Zabou, Wild Drawing, Vera Bugatti, Juandres Vera, Artez, BustArt, and many others. The work of top Croatian artists can also be found in Vukovar, including Eugen Varzić, OKO, Lonac, Tea Jurišić, and Šumski. When we create our invitation lists, we are guided by the rule of excellence. There is no classic "open call", instead we try to get the best artists of the moment following the set criteria.

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VukovART is a new concept in the cultural life of Vukovar. It promotes Vukovar as a place that accepts all artists as creators of new values. Also, this concept changes the city's visual identity and makes it a more beautiful, urban, and modern place to live. The painted areas are also a tourist attraction. Vukovar, a port on the Danube, is now becoming a harbour of art – an open-air gallery accessible to all. In addition to this artistic part as the basis of VukovART, we have been organizing an accompanying programme of children’s workshops, concerts, panel discussions, lectures and gatherings, and exhibitions in recent years. For example, during the last VukovART, we enjoyed concerts by Mia Dimšić, Vatra, and Akvarel, a band from Osijek. Many visited, including Robert Knjaz, Dušan Bućan, Davor Gobac, and other familiar faces of the Croatian creative scene. There was a painting workshop and chalk drawing one in the main square for the little ones; we organised bike rides and more.

It is important to note that the City of Vukovar largely stood behind the festival, and so did our sponsor PPD Vukovar, who keeps investing in Vukovar’s community.

What is the significance of such a project for Vukovar and Slavonia?

From the beginning, we believed that VukovART would be of great importance for all of Slavonia, and this was confirmed. Many still perceive Croatia’s east as a very rural region, not to say that we shouldn’t be proud of our traditions and customs. Yet Slavonia is much more than that. The nature is extraordinary, its cultural and gastronomic offer yet to be discovered. VukovART is the only project of this type in Slavonia that has practically become a tourist product and is one of few in this part of Europe.

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The artists themselves are delighted with the culture, the city's cleanliness, the kindness of the people, the energy of the festival, and filled with emotions about Vukovar's past. When they go home, they keep telling the story of Vukovar and Slavonia, a Croatian region still unknown to many.

What were the main goals, did you meet them?

The main goal was to create a success story for locals and tourists. We believe that we have managed to meet all the goals in creating a different urban tourist product. As a result, Vukovar has been placed on the map of street art cities of the world and has become recognized for top art of top world artists. People's reactions on social media and their posts from touring the open-air gallery are proof that we are on the right track.

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Another goal was education. The gallery showcases different styles and techniques. Our many workshops help educate the younger population primarily, while through seminars, we all learn from the best Croatian creatives (Dušan Bućan, Robert Knjaz, Domagoj Jakopović - Ribafish, Dubravko Mataković). In our panel discussions, we show the best examples in practice. With all of this, we believe that the goals we set have not only been achieved but exceeded.

Will there be a VukovART in 2022?

VukovART is coming this year, but we are still preparing the program, and it should come out sometime in May. As it all stands, the world's top street art names are coming back, and the program will be dense and exciting.

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Apart from the art that now adorns our city, why is Vukovar worth visiting?

Firstly, Vukovar is a place that evokes pride and respect for all the sacrifices it has gone through. However, people need to be aware that Vukovar is a beautiful city that lives, where you can enjoy some amazing things. The Vučedol Culture Museum is the best example. It is one of the most important cultural points of Western Europe. The Eltz Castle is magnificent. Many do not even know that Lavoslav Ružička, the first Croatian Nobel Prize winner came from Vukovar. The Danube, its promenade, the park forest Adica, the baroque city centre, and the newly opened Vukovar Water Tower. Besides, the gastronomic offer is getting better and better… Vukovar more than deserves a visit!

Have you done any similar projects in other cities in Slavonia? Are there more coming?

We have done cultural and tourist projects, mainly in Slavonski Brod. From the one in memory of Ivana Brlić – Mažuranić to the legendary bicycle race Mali Pariz – Klakar. Our biggest recent project was CoolTour Lab, funded by the EU. We organized workshops for young people throughout the year. There is also the Bikademy project, an innovative cycling tourism project in Slavonia, which is developing beyond Croatian borders. We keep planning, always coming up with new ideas, but we will see where it takes us. Right now, we are focusing on a few things that are already in motion, like VukovART and Bikademy.

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Bikademy

What does the future hold for tourism in eastern Croatia?

We hope for a promising future, and we hope to contribute to it. Indeed, it will take a lot of work, learning, and marketing to build a community. Slavonia and Baranja are a destination with all that a tourist destination should have. It makes us happy that it is slowly becoming recognized as an excellent and unexplored destination, and the potential is huge. The east of Croatia is also attractive for active tourism, and I am sure that the tourist offer will rise to a very high level in just a few years.

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Home is where the heart is.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Viktorija Matin of Vukovarski Leptirići

February 15, 2022 – Meet Viktorija Matin, the founder of the Vukovarski Leptirići parents’ association for children with developmental disabilities.

The butterfly – a symbol of beauty, change, fragility, yet such resilience. The Vukovarski Leptirići (Vukovar Butterflies) parents’ association cares for children who are just as fragile and just as resilient – those with developmental disabilities. Founded in 2011, the association has been providing psychological and social care for this vulnerable group. They employ over 35 people, caring for more than 228 members. One hundred thirty-three people currently volunteer with them, but they are always looking for more. They have been successful in delivering more than 60 projects. Their mission and vision revolve around inclusion, ensuring that children with disabilities participate in daily life, sports activities, cultural programs, and more. 

I was fortunate to pay them a visit on a day when the little ones got to meet their therapy dog, Black. After a delicious and nutritious breakfast of sandwiches, fruit, and veggies, we shared some candy and got ready for a new friend to come in. The kids were just the happiest, most well-behaved, considerate little bunch. Their carers and teachers were just as lovely and warm, radiating positivity and love that they feel for their jobs and all the children they work with. They did seem worried, though. The projects through which the association draws funding are irregular, sometimes suspended after approval, and simply not enough. The butterflies are faced with new challenges on the daily. 

Viktorija, their founder, emphasizes that while their space and equipment are among the best in Croatia, the butterflies could use all the donations to keep their carers and teachers and ensure that they’ve had adequate training and education. Viktorija told us all about their work, achievements, and struggle. So we invite you to have a read, think of the butterflies, and maybe donate that morning coffee towards a better future for the ones whose future depends on you.

Tell us about the association. 

Firstly, let me present us through the symbolic name of the association. The butterfly represents metamorphosis, complete transformation, and ultimate freedom. It is the only creature capable of completely changing its genetic structure during its dramatic transformation process. Thus, it represents rebirth and transition to a magnificent new life. Because of its fragility, on the other hand, the butterfly also symbolizes courage, which is needed to make changes in its growth and development. It is also a symbol of hope. When we first established the association, at the end of 2011, children with disabilities needed help with their transformation; they needed courage and hope. We supported parents who didn’t know where to begin. We had courage and hope, and it brought us this far. Starting from a fight against discrimination that children with disabilities face in every aspect of their lives, we have become a place to receive all the necessary therapy and support.

We have achieved the basic goals of the association, improving their quality of life through medical and social care for children with disabilities and their families. We can continually improve the situation, though, always do more and work harder. It is all worth it for the children to feel less lonely, to make progress through laughter and play, for our families to live better lives.

What are your main goals?

In 2017, the association became a provider of social services in the field of psychosocial support. We signed an agreement with the Ministry of Labor, Pension System, Family and Social Policy on the implementation of psychosocial support through the following services:

- Psychological support through Neurofeedback training provided by three educated neurofeedback practitioners (advanced level)

- Psychological support provided by a psychologist

- Exercises of everyday skills with a psychologist and an occupational therapist

- Sensory integration conducted by physiotherapists and sensory integration therapists

- Kinesitherapy and sports and recreational activities conducted by two physiotherapists

- Speech therapy conducted by a speech therapist

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One of our projects is a daycare for children with disabilities, those of lower financial status, and adopted children to ensure better socialization for all of them. The kids are more than happy to spend those 4 hours per day with us, enjoy the company of their friends, and the individual work with education and development specialists who care for them. Eventually, they become ready to start kindergarten or school.

For several years now, we have been sourcing funding through projects from the Ministry of Science and Education to implement methods like Tomatis and Soundsory. Valuable, sophisticated equipment and education were financed to provide therapy through music. There are only 8 Tomatis practitioners in all of Croatia. The method revolves around children listening to filtered Mozart music and Gregorian chants while playing, affecting the middle ear, their balance, and their brain. This helps them learn and acquire social, language, and motor skills much faster than they usually would. Our other projects include sports activities and various workshops such as art, creativity, music, dance, and play.

We use every chance to apply for new projects and provide vocational education, equipment, and activities for our members. From the very beginning, we have implemented different forms of therapy, including therapeutic riding and swimming. We also employ several new teaching assistants every year. Currently, the biggest challenge we are facing is funding for the project 'Let’s grow, play and learn together!' for about 40 children who need additional help and support through individual therapy, assisted learning, and quality leisure time. Unfortunately, it ends in three months, and the children will be left without the needed support. We launched a crowdfunding campaign on Čini pravu stvar where we can hopefully collect donations to carry on with the project.

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Do you accept volunteers, and which groups would you invite to join you?

It is possible to volunteer short-term or long-term through specific projects or regular activities. It all depends on the skills and interests of our volunteers and the current needs and capabilities of the association. Volunteers have always been an essential part of our work. We would certainly like to see more people with a background in education, psychologists, counselors, and therapists.

What is it like to run such an association in Vukovar? Does the fact that you are in the east of Croatia affect your success?

Nowadays, children with disabilities in Vukovar are not taboo like a few years ago. Professional therapy with the help of sophisticated equipment is available, along with adequately equipped spaces for sensory integration and kinesitherapy. We would say that it is slowly becoming easier to live here as a child with disabilities. We are still working on it; we are constantly reminding people that we are here, that diversity needs to be accepted, that tolerance and equal opportunities must become the norm. There was a time when we were alone, and life was very hard. These days it is easier with all the institutional support, and we take this as proof that together we can achieve a lot in any aspect of life. We were able to renovate our space of 579 m2 and install quality equipment for numerous activities through national and EU projects. There is still a lot to be fixed, primarily the roof of our sports hall. We struggle with funding our projects, and our advances are often late. On top of that, currently, there are no tenders for big projects and our competition is quite challenging in other cities. We are still hopeful that we will receive the necessary donations to continue our programs.

What would the butterflies of Vukovar say to the world?

Our guiding thought is: "If you respect all our rights, we will change the world!"

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I want to invite all parents with the same issues to accept the new situation or any difficulties their children might be facing and to live life fully. Include your children in all the programs, travel with them, socialize and integrate, do not allow them to remain on the margins. They are different, not less. Their disability is not shameful. It can happen to anyone, and that is why we need to be united in selflessly helping those who desperately need our help. We are not worth less just because we have children with disabilities.

What makes Vukovarski Leptirići unique in Croatia?

The association operates in the space of ​​579 m2, obtained for use from the City of Vukovar. Although the space was in bad condition, we are completing the renovation, and we will have a beautiful, ample, and tidy space equipped with the best equipment and sophisticated devices. We invest a lot in the education of our staff. We use assistive technology, including simple communicators and even a Tobii device for eye tracking. We have managed to connect vertically and horizontally with the support of the state and local governments and incredibly hardworking and persistent parents who have elevated this association to an incredible level. It’s simple – the secret of success lies in the community! 

How can we help?

You can donate money for our ongoing campaign on Čini pravu stvar. To get to know us a little better, you can visit our Facebook page or our official website

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Vukovar Rock Climbing: Biggest Climbing Wall Coming to Town

February the 8th, 2022 - Fancy trying out your skills on the up and coming Vukovar rock climbing wall? The biggest rock climbing wall in all of the Republic of Croatia and in this part of the region is set to find its home in this often overlooked Eastern Croatian city which is still synonymous with the Homeland War.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, ongoing inflation and rising costs across all fields have contributed to slowing down and throwing spanners into the works of the Adica forest park project in Vukovar, which is currently without any accommodation units, but in the middle of next year, Vukovar will get a brand new fun tourist attraction, an adrenaline park with the largest rock for climbing in this part of the region.

The "Magic Forest" project, which encompasses the Vukovar rock climbing wall is worth 30 million kuna in total and is part of the Intervention Plan of the City of Vukovar. It is all being co-financed by EU funds, and in addition to enriching the lives of local people, it will give tourists a new reason to visit this Eastern Croatian city. In addition to being aimed at families, tourists eager for an adrenaline rush or two are also expected. Professional competitions will also be able to be held there.

"Vukovar has a lot to offer tourists, and now we're starting to incorporate what we lacked, entertainment that is an important motive for tourists and added value in the valorisation of the city's tourism offer," said Marina Sekulic, the director of the Vukovar Tourist Board.

In addition to these facilities, Adica should have had accommodation facilities, bungalows and a campsite, but this was abandoned at this stage due to unpredictable construction costs as a result of the current situation with inflation. Sekulic noted that it is a pity that these segments haven't yet been implemented, but the projects are ready and implementation is possible in the future through some other funding models.

Last week, the mayor of Vukovar, Ivan Penava, signed a contract with the contractor for the Magic Forest with the Presoflex gradnja (construction) company from Pozega.

"With this project worth 30 million kuna, we'll get two new facilities, one is a wooden promenade along the river Vuka spanning the length of almost one kilometre, while the other is a new sport and entertainment adrenaline park which will consist of high and low static polygons, climbing rocks which will be 20 metres high and a 470-metre-long zip line that will cross the Vuka River,'' Penava explained.

According to him, the Adica project and the new Vukovar rock climbing wall will contribute to the creation of new jobs in the City of Vukovar, and with all of its new entertainment offers and recreational facilities, it will have a positive impact on the entire tourist and catering and hospitality offer.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

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