The Dubrovnik branch office of the Croatian Heritage Foundation was the venue for the presentation of the third and latest book by Antica Bavčević, a resident of Paris and native of the island of Korčula.
The Dubrovnik branch office of the Croatian Heritage Foundation was the venue on the 3rd of October for the presentation of the third and latest book by Antica Bavčević, U zagrljaju prošlosti (Embraced by the Past).
That Račišće on the island of Korčula is home to mariners is well known, as is the fact that the women of Račišće are particularly strong-willed and independent, having spent much of their lives as the heads of their households. Antica Bavčević, née Botica, known to all of us as Branka, is a prime example. Although she has spent her life in Paris, she has always returned to her roots.
She related her emigrant tale to Dora Mikelić.
Branka Bavčević was born in Račišće, a hamlet on the northern side of Korčula with just a few hundred inhabitants. She spent her childhood in poverty, but in a home that was always full of love. Her restless spirit saw her in Dubrovnik by age fourteen, which at the time seemed to her a vast city. She worked there and attended a school of commerce, and seven years into her stay there she met the love of her life and future husband. The two soon thereafter moved to Split, where Branka passed additional exams for the profession of sales officer before finding employment as an accountant.
“It was the nineteen-sixties in Split. I was very keen on proving myself, to prove to my husband that I was capable, that I could work, to show society at large that I can communicate on an equal footing, that I am not just a housewife and mother. I have always insisted that women are psychologically more robust than men are,” Branka reminisced.
Branka and her husband had, as she herself says, a very nice and comfortable life in Split, but a set of circumstances saw them travel to France to visit her mother-in-law. As it happened Branka gave birth to their first child, a son, in Paris. The baby had health difficulties, which delayed their return to Split. After a time her husband, to his mother’s delight, found employment, and Branka remained in Paris as a result, where she has lived ever since. She later gave birth to their daughter, and, continuing to pursue her life philosophy, found a job at a paper factory, where she spent the rest of her working years to retirement. When she first found work she knew not a single word of French. That did not prevent her from exceeding her quota and earning the epithet of “best worker”, know to all by her singing. While working her shift, namely, Branka would sing songs of her native southern Croatian region of Dalmatia.
Her husband died at the age of forty-five from complications ensuing from appendicitis. Branka fell into a deep depression, taking antidepressants, which led to two serious traffic accidents. She decided, in spite of it all, to make something of her life.
“I concluded that God did not want to take me and that, clearly, I had to do something, and decided to write a book. The first book, Anitin račiški tanac (Anita’s Račišće Dance), is my autobiography. At the book promo in Račišće I was very nervous,” Branka observed, “Did I offend anyone? Did I write something wrong? The people of Račišće, however, lent their support, bringing plenty of cookies and cakes, and that was most important to me,” she concluded.
All the trepidations of childhood melted away after the first book, which was soon followed by her second novel, Franka je izašla van na kišu (Franka Went Out In The Rain). In this book Branka relates her life in a foreign land and busts the myth of an easy, rich and simple life outside the homeland. In Embraced by the Past, her third work, which she presented this year in July to an audience on Korčula, Branka offers her treatment of the life of young people from the perspective of a mature woman, placing emphasis on the important of tradition and heritage.
Thanks to the efforts of the Split branch office of the Croatian Heritage Foundation, Branka’s books have traversed the world. Her books have been translated into English and her debut work, the autobiography, will soon see a French translation.
By: Maja Mozara