The Croatian Diaspora

Diaspora Roots - Purger Nostalgia...

My dad being Scottish, my mum Croatian and me speaking with an American accent, I was torn as to what to wear to prom. A kilt, a tracksuit equipped with a bottle of rakija or the Declaration of Independence printed enough times to cover my private parts? For some reason, a tux never seemed to cross my mind...

It’s now been two years since prom. I’m now a second year film student, studying in Edinburgh, Scotland. Growing up in Zagreb, I always thought I wanted to move to somewhere else when I was older. Now, I don’t think I see it the same way.

The neighbourhood I lived in is called Tuškanac, an isolated neighbourhood settled north west from the town centre. The hilly suburb is mostly populated by footballers or politicians with the concentration of corrupt officials in Tuškanac so high, it might just be one of Juicy’s fruit juices.

It also bridges the gap between the city and Pantovčak, the neighbourhood in which the Croatian president resides. Home of the current president of Croatia - Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović; known locally for her multi-tasking abilities of soon to be double PhD graduate and known internationally for being mistaken for American model Coco Austin and an adult film star.

Not a lot went on in Tuškanac, well, maybe it did, but I didn’t fit into it. Unless you were planning to run for office or running a Yu-Gi-Oh! card cartel, living in Tuškanac wasn’t that fun as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, Tuškanac is great, but it’s better when you reach the time in your life when you’re planning for a retirement home, not so much in the period of trying to get laid.

Being part of ‘Gen Z’ also known as the internet generation, I was more present on the internet than the small neighbourhood of Tuškanac. I made videos speaking English with an American twang. This included starting every video with the obnoxious ‘Hey, guys!!’ and punctuating most sentences with the American buzzword ‘like’.

This habit only flourished when I enrolled into an International High School in which English was the language you spoke in every subject. Croatian would eventually become a subset of English, any word or phrase I could use I would twist into an Anglism, declension only when necessary. When I would speak Croatian, I would mentally translate English to Croatian.

Grammatical jargon that sound like the spells of a wizard; ‘sibilarizacija’ or ‘palatalizacija’, the declension of the seven deadly cases, gendered verbs and nouns - it made my head hurt. This lead me to believe that I wanted to leave Zagreb to live and study abroad. I was immersed in anglican culture, unintegrated in my own hometown and now even failing to speak the language properly... What was the point of staying in Croatia?

Fast forward to 2016. Cloudy, followed by rain. Beautiful Victorian architecture, people that are immeasurably polite. Buses and trains that run punctually. Jobs and opportunities galore. People are happy, or they’re polite enough to hide that they’re not.

That’s Edinburgh. It’s great. I’m privileged and grateful to have the opportunity and resources to study abroad. But, in my first year studying here, I found that l have a connection to home I didn’t think I had before. 

Zagreb. Café’s filled with five to seven hour shite talking sessions that are punctuated by coughs, exhaling the smoke of cheap cigarettes. The poetically harsh winters and scorching hot summers. On the streets of Zagreb, you don’t have to wait for the wee hours for someone to be an arsehole, you just have to walk around for about fifteen minutes and someone will tell you what they think of you. Drinking in parks and other public spaces.

Cynicism, piercing, horrible cynicism that can be disheartening but simultaneously totally hilarious. I miss it; the mentality, the streets, the atmosphere - everything.

I’m looking at Zagreb through an idealistic lens. The lens of someone that’s never had to make a living there, someone that only comes for the holidays, essentially through Dinamo blue tinted shades, but, nevertheless, I’ve realised that home is home. No matter how far removed I rationalise myself from it, I still miss it like nothing else.

Some circumstances surrounding my upbringing have, of course, been exaggerated for comedic purposes.