The Croatian Diaspora

Reconnecting to the Nostalgia of the Bygone Days in Croatia

By 26 September 2021

September 26, 2021 - Natalie Franćeska, the author of the children's book My Grandma is Like the Sea, draws upon the nostalgia of the bygone days in Croatia.

There is something powerful about reminiscing about the nostalgia of the bygone days. Research supports this, where experts have shown us that the modest dose of nostalgia has positive effects on people and their wellbeing. It can also help facilitate growth, self-discovery and serve as a source of future inspiration. Nostalgia may also very well be a way some have helped ease feelings of distress during Covid-19. Personally, I have been able to draw upon the nostalgia of bygone days in Croatia as a source of inspiration behind my children’s picture book My Grandma is Like the Sea; the illustrations having a strong influence from the Adriatic Sea.


Born in Australia with Croatian-born parents, I was fortunate enough to spend many childhood summers with my immediate family, including grandparents between Mali Ston, Korčula, and Dubrovnik. The recent loss of three of my grandparents really triggered me to reflect upon the bygone days spent with them. This, mixed with restricted facial interactions during Covid-19, led me to write a children’s book that instils the importance of respecting the wisdom of the elderly, whilst preserving the wonders of our children. My Grandma is Like the Sea follows a little girl and her grandmother who explore the sea and share unconditional love. The sea being a metaphor for the grandmother’s love and support.

My first summer spent with my paternal grandparents in Mali Ston was towards the end of the Homeland War. My grandparent’s house had been shelled, and there was much misery and grief in the surroundings. Despite this, my grandparents made us feel so loved, and taught us to treasure the simple things in life. Such as, the beauty of discovering blackcurrants wildly growing on the side of the street to make into fruit juice, or the value of a simple hello or embrace with those crossing our path whilst walking.

I have always really respected the way in which the young and old interact in Croatia. The magic of the youth and the enthusiasm to explore has always been met with a level of wisdom beyond their years. I believe that the close contact the youth have with the elderly generation has played a role in this – especially in smaller communities. For example, it is not rare to see a child engaging with the grandmother sitting on the greda/klupa (communal outdoor bench) at night. To paint the full picture though, it is also not rare to find the elderly generation possess a real zest for life and youthful energy despite their age. I surely remember many days spent with my maternal grandmother sitting by the beach, eating gelato and in stitches from laughter.


The importance of connecting with the world and others from a place of love, not fear was also a driving factor in the creation of My Grandma is Like the Sea. Given that the sea is a metaphor for the grandmother’s love and support, I wanted to ensure it was portrayed in a fun, warm, and inviting way for the children reading the book in order to maximise their connection. I was able to draw upon nostalgic memories in Croatia to achieve this. Some of my best memories spent in Croatia include jumping off the kaše in Mali Ston with family and friends, which was used in the past as a breakwater structure to protect moored boats and the enclosed harbour. As well as learning the ins and outs of oyster farming and fishing with my paternal grandfather in Mali Ston. Mali Ston is highly regarded for its oysters (Ostrea Edulis Oyster) and mussels, which has purposely been included in the illustrations, including other marine life home to the Adriatic Sea such as the Mediterranean Monk Seal.


Music is a beautiful medium that connects us all as humans. Sure, music can be listened to online or not live. But the days of attending music concerts in Croatia really remind me of the magic of being a part of something amazing together. These concerts not only connected people in real-time and in the physical but based on my experience included those from a variety of ages. Of course, this can be experienced anywhere in the world, but the memories I have of attending concerts in Croatia almost always involved both young and old. Again, such experiences have contributed to and inspired the way in which I have created a children’s book that explores the relationship with a grandmother and grandchild.

There’s something beautiful about reconnecting to the nostalgia of the bygone days in Croatia, especially during our joint experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hopefully you can reminisce or reflect upon your days spent there, in a way that brings you hope, strength, or inspiration.


The book My Grandma is Like the Sea is available via the below: