The Croatian Diaspora

National Federation of Croatian Americans Announces “40 Under 40" Winners from USA

By 2 April 2019

Washington, D.C. -- The NFCA is proud to announce the second group of “40 Under 40” Croatian Americans chosen for an award which celebrates the success and commitment of this generation. These selections recognize their talent, the accomplishments, the potential and the pride in their Croatian heritage of these forty honorees and all under the age of forty.

“We have had so much fun hearing about so many younger Croatians all over this country making their mark in so many uniquely distinct professional ways and within our community," says Andrea Novak-Neumann, “40 Under 40” committee member and NFCA Executive Vice President from Minnesota. “We looked nationwide for forty Croatian Americans who have demonstrated leadership within our community or even nationwide, with career success and many so extraordinarily successful with their dedication to Croatian causes," she added.

This new group of winners includes lawyer Marija Krpan Kuren, who was the original winner we announced last September to kick off this "40 Under 40" campaign. Marija, is one exceptional Croatian American activist who was the Croatian Fraternal Union's Guest Conductor in Zagreb in 2018 with over 400 younger Croatian Americans performing and even at Lisinski Hall in Zagreb. Marija when she's not teaching Croatian music and dance, has a day job as a General Counsel in the Pennsylvania Governor's office.

Next, let us congratulate Annie Bosko (main photo), the singer, songwriter and performer from Nashville. Annie's father is a third generation Croatian American farmer from California and this young lady has been singing since she was in diapers. Annie wrote her first song at twelve and sang with Disney Productions when she was only 14. She has had the high honor of opening for or backing up vocals with Darius Rucker, Adele, Josh Groban, Dierks Bentley and Josh Turner. Annie is one talented Croatian American singer who's very proud of her Croatian heritage.

The NFCA has chosen three other exceptional lawyers from within the legal field. Andy Kvesic excelled in Arizona's Attorney General's offices and even won "Counsel of the Year" in his department there and now is the General Counsel for The Quantum Group in the Phoenix area! Dominik Cvitanovich, a proud Croatian within the Greater New Orleans Croatian American community, joined the Carver Darden law firm in 2014 and his legal expertise is now most focused on banking, commercial litigation and also, with labor and employment issues. Dominik has recently served as a Project Leader with Youth Leadership Council which teaches members the basics of running a non-profit organization. Barbara Bijelic, is another lawyer and legal expert now working within the Responsible Business Conduct Unit (RBC) of the Organization For Economic Cooperation now based in Paris. Barbara has field experience working on governance and private sector initiatives in Cambodia, Croatia, Ethiopia, India and the Republic of Croatia.

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Ana Ruzevic, firefighter and competing on the world stage too

Ana Ruzevic, another firefighter, wins this time as did Stipe Miocic two years ago. A Tulane graduate and All-American javelin thrower is a rising star, putting out fires, down in Alabama. Ana, after a stint in the insurance business and then volunteering as a firefighter, decided to make it a career and now even competes and wins at national "Firefighter Combat Challenges" competition taking 11th in the World.

Mara Oblak is a PhD expert and has studied and published about how to use "behavior analysis" to teach children with autism and behavior disorders. Mara is another Croatian American activist and in her spare time has been a longtime Board member with Seattle's CroatiaFest. Nikola Metes is another winner with many talents and a real Croatian passion and is a national officer with ACAP. Nikola has developed a marketing expertise and now works for the world renown marketing agency, Foote Cone and Belding in Chicago.

Alexander McArthy is making his mark down in Missouri and this St. Louis area resident has a joint interest in marketing and branding with a real focus on politics and digital interest group communications. Alexander has already run for the Missouri legislature and has been a nationwide advocate for the Americans For Prosperity organization.

The next winners noted are Croatian American activists. They have already made their mark in the community. First, Johnny Cvjetkovic stands out among Croatian activists of all ages in the Los Angeles area where he has excelled with St. Anthony's Kolo Club and with the Croatian Fraternal Union. He also created the St. Anthony's "Vatreni" Croatian soccer fan club. When Johnny is not busy with Croatian projects he's working as a technology professional in the entertainment industry with major Hollywood studios.

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Ben Anderson, a multi-award winning executive and producer in Los Angeles

This next group includes three very talented individuals in the entertainment business including a television producer, professional dancer and a world class pianist. First, Ben Anderson is a multi-award winning executive and producer for feature film, television and virtual reality. Ben is the Executive Vice President of Phoenix Pictures where he oversaw the development of the films "Black Swan", "Shutter Island" and "The Promise." Anderson co-produced the Warner Bros, feature film "The 33" with Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche.

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Maja Keres, world class dancer touring the world

Maja Keres is living her dream as a professional dancer touring with Justin Timberlake that included a Super Bowl performance and the Grammys in 2017. Keres is one of the dancers taking part in Justin's "The Man of the Woods" tour. Frane Rusinovic is a concert pianist who trained at the Levine School of Music in Washington, DC and then at the world renown Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Frane, originally from Split, has performed globally showcasing his world class skills at Carnegie Hall in New York City and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. and really enjoys performing for Croatian audiences.

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Anthony Piplica, CEO in the aerospace industry

The next group of winners includes seven successful rising stars from our community excelling in the business world. Anthony Piplica is an entrepreneur and engineer within the aerospace industry and the CEO and founder of Hermeus Corporation. He is focused on technology to build the fastest airplanes in the world known as the Mach 5 aircraft project. A.J., as he is known, has collaborated with the NASA Johnson Space Center and was previously CEO of Orbit Launch Services.

Next, let me highlight two talented females in uniquely different careers making their mark globally. Bernarda Pera, is a world class tennis player, currently ranked 82nd in the world, originally from Zadar.

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Ottessa Moshfegh, award winning author of the book ''Eileen''

Ottessa Moshfegh, raised in the Boston area and a daughter of two musicians, an Iranian father and a Croatian mother has become a nationally recognized author. Ottessa's debut novel, Eileen won the Hemingway Foundation-Pen Award. Moshfegh has published six stories in the prestigious "Paris Review" too. Her latest novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation was published in 2018 by the Penguin Press.

From the medical world is Dr. Matt Anderson, a physician in New Hampshire working for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He completed his training in anesthesiology at Loma Linda University Medical Center and his critical care fellowship at Dartmouth. Dr. Anderson has made several humanitarian trips globally. Melina Butuci is a scientist with a focus on immuno-oncology and leukemia research. Melina's busy finishing her PH.D at the USC's Molecular Biology department but still finds time to be active with the Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP).

Alan Latkovic is currently serving as Vice President, Service and Retention for the Madison Square Garden Company. Specifically, he's in charge of all customer service initiatives and season ticket retention for the NY York Rangers and NY Knicks. He developed and executed the first ever Croatian Heritage Night for the New York Knicks on January 11, 2019 with 600 Croatian Americans there. Vedran Solaja, another New Yorker, now owns his own marketing firm. After attending college in Iowa, Vedran ended up in Los Angeles and has been active with the NYCLA-New York Croatian Los Angeles group before moving East

Nikola Matic is a commercial hop farmer with the biggest hop farm in Ohio. He is driven by the belief that his "Matic Farms" should lead the way in the East developing a hop farm to support the growing craft beer industry. Nick and his brother are partners in this venture and are both active with the ACAP chapter in Cleveland.

Davor Anic is making his mark in the New York City fashion world with his men's neckwear line called the DAVOR ANIC brand. Davor moved to the USA years ago after his training at the University of Zagreb College for Textile and Technology and has completed a master's degree in fashion design and has embraced some notable design collaboration with companies like Kenneth Cole. Tena Bugarin is an incredibly successful real estate broker with Sotheby's International Realty. Tena fell in love with New York City years ago and stayed and is active with the Croatian ACAP group.

Marino Patrk is a financial advisor and partner at the O'Rourke Group at the Oppenheimer & Company. Marino manages both private and institutional wealth for clients and still finds time to to be very active in the New York City Croatian Catholic community.

The Washington, DC area has three winners. First, Adam Radman is a digital advocacy and communications expert with the Americans for Tax Reform organization and is active locally with the Croatian community and serves on the National Federation of Croatian Americans Board of Directors. Leon Suvak from Virginia is a distinguished Army officer serving our country in the Department of Defense as a Cyber Security Expert and has quite a background from Osijek to high school at prestigious Gonzaga High School in Washington, DC to college academics at the University of Wisconsin.

Next, Angela Stepancic, a proud Istrianka, has excelled as an educational activist and principal at two schools in Washington, DC and earned an undergrad degree and Master's from Georgetown University. Angela is driven to make a difference in education and her background as a child of a Croatian immigrant and a black woman from Illinois seems to have given her an abundance of empathy and a diverse understanding of human nature that has bestowed her an extraordinary array of leadership skills.

The next four honorees are all from the state of Minnesota. The first two both worked for US Congressman Rick Nolan as congressional staffers. Justin Perpich, a political activist, has emerged as a prominent labor leader from the Iron Range. Next, Joe Radinovich, former state legislator, made a spirited run at a congressional seat and has made his mark in politics and government already with a bright future in Northern Minnesota politics.

Alex Schmidt, from the Twin Cities but now living in Dubrovnik, is the creator of the Mindful Mermaid blog, and has a growing Croatian-based specialized travel business. Alex's blog is a nuanced Croatian travel guide with all her cultural commentaries of life as a Croatian American living in Croatia and she's embracing her visions of international travel and diplomacy that she first created when in college at Loyola of Chicago. Tiffany Senkow is a PhD scientist student excelling with biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. She has an expertise on "Dupuytrens disease" which is a deformity of the hand. Tiffany still finds time to continue her love for kolo dance in Minnesota and which she first started in Pittsburgh as a child.

Siblings Katarina Crnogorac and Petar Crnogorac, have both been selected and have demonstrated consistent and very creative leadership with Croatian folklore and dance groups in New York City. Back in 2012, Petar and Katarina formed Folklorni Ansambl Okret. Since 2016, Petar and Katarina have been teaching and choreographing for the Croatian Folklore group, Hrvatska Ruza, in Astoria New York. On January 11th, 2019 their group had the honor of performing on the basketball court at Madison Square Garden during halftime at the NY Knicks first ever Croatian Heritage Night in honor of Mario Hezonja. Katerina has been very successful in the textile design world and is working on her own artistic endeavor, studioNARONA, which is a platform for everything related to and inspired by the Croatian culture. Petar is busy career-wise within the hotel and hospitality world with an eye on Croatian tourism and is working to create an online repository of traditional Croatian folk music.

Several winners are from California. After university Ante Zoric started to work for his parents' family business, Ann & Mario Catering. Currently Anthony manages the company which has been successful for over 18 years in the film industry and has catered for so many Croatian Consulate events and many Croatian weddings. His passion for sports continues as he writes for Croatiansports.com and also collects Croatian sports memorabilia. Dragana Boras, a proud MBA graduate from St. Mary's College (CA) has developed a marketing expertise in the Northern California-Silicon Valley area and still finds time to be very active with Croatian groups. Dragana was a recent co-manager of the very successful 2018 ACAP Conference in San Jose.

Ariana Kosta, has spent twenty plus years as a tambura player and first with the American Zagreb Junior Tamburitzan group, to Zalena Polja and then to Zumbercani Orchestra. She has been active in the Croatian folklore and the Croatian Fraternal Union her whole life!

There a few more honorees from the New York City area including Diane Kolanovic-Solaja, a Croatian activist for a long time in the area. She is the proud owner of Dee Kay Events and an accomplished wedding and event planner. Diane was a key co-founder of the New York- Croatian-LA group (NYCLA group) and creator of the amazing "Croatian cruise" for professionals. Anna Nejmasic, another activist from the Big Apple area, has been singing since age six and continues today at Croatian special events and with the Catholic Manhattan Church Choir. She now excels within the world class hotel industry with the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City and is active with several Croatian American groups.

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Michelle Lucic, author at age fourteen

The Committee decided again with this program to honor two extraordinary activists who have yet to graduate from college, Andrew Ciraci and Michelle Lucic and who, at such a young age, have both demonstrated exceptional commitment to excellence in their academic careers and studies. First, Andrew Ciacci, is an honor student with extraordinary experience with the Model UN competition and with a congressional fellowship in Washington, DC and already is writing for the Claremont Journal of Law and policy and excelling at Claremont McKenna College in California. Andrew has his sights on law school next year and is a real Croatian national soccer team enthusiast. Next, Michelle Lucic is an amazing young woman from Cleveland Ohio who published a book on Bullying at age 14. She is a true Renaissance woman with success and passion for music, sports, academics and writing. Michelle is now studying in Germany on an academic scholarship and has big plans for the future and college soon. She has been active with St. Paul's Croatian Catholic Church in Cleveland.

The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCA) is a non profit 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to promoting the interest of the Croatian people and to enhance the relations between the United States and Croatia through educational advocacy, public policy and political projects and overall media relations. The NFCA is a national umbrella organization established in 1993 for the Croatian American community and the Croatian Fraternal Union (CFU), Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP), the Croatian National Association (CNA) and twelve other metropolitan groups are active member groups.

For further information, please contact NFCA President Steve Rukavina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

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