Aleksandra Ščukanec's Narratives from a Forgotten Region

Author Ščukanec presents a sociolinguistic picture derived from an analysis of the language biographies of the study respondents, framed within the broader historical and geographic context.

On the 20th of March the Croatian Heritage Foundation and publisher Srednja Europa presented Aleksandra Ščukanec's Narratives from a Forgotten Region: The Language Biographies of the Transmigrants of Žumberak.
Croatian Heritage Foundation director Mijo Marić was on hand to welcome the gathered, joined by the books presenters—professors at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences: the author and assistant professor Aleksandra Ščukanec PhD, the book's reviewer Velimir Piškorec PhD, assistant professor Anita Skelin Horvat PhD and the book's editor Damir Agičić PhD.
Aleksandra Ščukanec's latest book is the fruit of field research conducted among emigrants originally from the Žumberak region and those who have returned to their native region. In the volume's five chapters and conclusion the author presents a sociolinguistic picture derived from an analysis of the language biographies of the study respondents, framed within the broader historical and geographic context. Thanks to excellent references and citations, Internet sources and the selected literature, the language biographies of the study subjects illustrate the situation in the Žumberak region in the past and present, revealing the emigrant experiences of the respondents. Transmigrants from the Žumberak region face problems similar in nature to those faced in other parts of Croatia people are moving out of, but their stories reveal the specific characteristics of the region through a number of aspects. The book's author Ščukanec is an assistant professor at the Department for German Language and Literature of the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and is active in the study of sociolinguistics.
Her first book, German-Croat Linguistic Contact in Burgenland, offers detailed insight into the issue of the impact of the German language on the Gradišće Croatian community in the Burgenland region from the perspective of systemic linguistics, sociolinguistics and language biography and won her the Matrix Croatica's 2012 Ljudevit Jonke Prize. The prize is named in honour of eminent linguist and translator Ljudevit Jonke (1907–1979) and is awarded to linguists for their contribution to promoting the Croatian language and literature abroad. This monograph was published by the Croatian Heritage Foundation in collaboration with the Gradišće Croat Institute of Sciences of Trajštof (Trausdorf). The book is based on the research and resulting dissertation that earned Ščukanec her doctorate in 2011.
The book's editor Damir Agičić, an eminent historian and comparative linguist, spoke of the Žumberak region and the prominent figures it has produced and of emigration from the region. The promotion was ably moderated by Vesna Kukavica, the head of our publishing department.
The people of Žumberak began moving abroad in the 1910s heading overseas, most of them to the USA and Canada. The second, larger wave of immigrants of the 1920s moved to various western European countries from the Atlantic to the Baltic, notes editor Agičić. John Badovinac, an economist and one of the most successful presidents of the Croatian Fraternal Union of North America, serving at the post from 1967 to 1978, had roots in the Žumberak region. Nowadays the people of the Žumberak region usually move abroad to German-speaking lands—Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The Žumberak region is divided by an administrative border between Zagreb County and Karlovac County. Nineteen years ago almost the whole of the Žumberak region, together with the Samobor hills, was declared a nature park. Žumberak lies in central Croatia at the meeting of the Dinaric Alps, the Pannonian flatlands and the Mediterranean (the Adriatic seaboard and hinterland). The population is comprised of Catholics observing both the eastern and western rites, i.e. Roman and Greek (Eastern Orthodox) Catholics.
The Žumberak region produced, as Ščukanec points out drawing on historiographic sources, numerous leading figures of secular and religious society, including Roman Catholic cardinals Alojzije Stepinac and Franjo Kuharić, and bishops Juraj Jezerinac and Josip Mrzljak. Journalists, founders and editors of the Glas Koncila Roman Catholic magazine Vladimir Pavlinić and Živko Kustić were active in the Žumberak region as parish priests. Philologist Anita Skelin Horvat pointed out that the great Croatian linguist and onomastics expert Petar Skok (1881–1956) was from this part of the country, as was Tadija Smičiklas (1843–1914) a historian from Reštovo Žumberačko, author of Poviest Hrvatske (The History of Croatia), the first critical synthesis of Croatian history. Chemists Janko and Marko hail from the Herak family of Žumberak, as does geologist, palaeontologist and academician Milan Herak, the physicist Janko and the chemical engineer Jure Herak. Nikola Badovinac, who served as mayor of Zagreb from 1885 to 1889, was from the Žumberak region village of Badovinci.
The book saw its premiere presentation in Zagreb in January of this year at the grand hall of the Matrix Croatica. This fascinating book by the young researcher Ščukanec was promoted along with other publications focused on the region on the occasion of the presentation of the jubilee issue of the Žumberački krijes yearbook.
The presentation at the CHF building closed with the author expressing her gratitude to the hosts, her fellow presenters and everyone responsible for seeing this book published and the reading by aged Žumberak region native Dragica of poetry celebrating the kerosene lamps of Žumberak, recalling the family gatherings at the table in the once flourishing villages, in times of poverty and hardship, but also of much greater happiness.

By: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photography: Snježana Radoš

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