The event opened with a Croatian language mass at St Mary of Carmel church in Staro Velenje, celebrated by the priest Tomislav Markić. Joining the local Croatian community for the event was Croatian Heritage Foundation executive secretary Diana Mašala Perković.
The Croatian Culture Society of Velenje (http://hkd-velenje.si/hr/), a town in neighbouring Slovenia, staged a culture and entertainment event for its friends and members and celebrated St Lucy’s Day on the 15th of December. The event was held at the packed hall of the Ravne Recreation and Culture Centre in Šoštanj.
The association was established back in 2014 with the core mission of nurturing and encouraging culture, education, sports and arts activities among its membership, with activities organised in sections, and to organise celebrations, concerts, exhibitions and pilgrimages in the country and abroad.
The association is led by its current president Mario Briševac and secretary Ana Kuprešak. According to Briševac there are some two and a half thousand ethnic Croatians living in Velenje and the nearby settlements. They began to settle in the broader Velenje area back in the 1960s, most coming to work in one of the local mines. Many of the members of the association have roots in parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina in which mining was a major part of the local economy and moved here looking for a better standard of living.
Mario Briševac’s own parents moved to Slovenia from the Prijedor area in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mario was born in Velenje and has started his own family here. He is a father to two children and now works in the Gorenje company.
The St Lucy’s Day celebration opened with a Croatian language Roman Catholic mass at St Mary of Carmel church in Staro Velenje. Mass was celebrated by the priest Tomislav Markić, the director of the pastoral service for Croatians abroad.
Taking part in the event on behalf of the Croatian Heritage Foundation and its director Mijo Marić was our executive secretary Diana Mašala Perković. She spoke at the opening about the work and core mission of the CHF, a public institution founded back in 1951. She noted that the traditional work of the CHF has been declared to be of long-term interest to Croatia thanks largely to the great contributions made by the members of many Croatian associations, clubs, foundations and other organisations and individuals.
This gathering is proof positive that traditional values are important and that they need to be nurtured as such. St Lucy’s Day has deep roots in Croatian national customs and CHF executive secretary Mašala Perković wished the gathered many more to come as a commitment to the nurturing of the Croatian identity and to raising awareness among people in Slovenia of the Croatian contribution to the cultural wealth of the broader society. She wished everyone a Merry Christmas and all the best in the coming holidays.
Association president Briševac also welcomed everyone and presented a traditional name day gift to one of the present members named Lucija (Lucy). On hand to address the gathered was the priest Marko Zadravec, one of those most responsible for founding the organisation. Also on hand on behalf of the Croatian embassy in Slovenia was minister counsellor Ivan Mintas.
The association has also established a folklore section, and the members active in this section performed several dances and songs, wearing the folk costumes of the regions from which they drew their roots.
Guests of the event included Jozo Begić, president of the Istra Croatian Culture Society of Piran, a town in southern Slovenia, accompanied by several members of the association. The event also featured traditional Croatian Christmas dishes and treats prepared by the host organisation, great music and entertainment.
By: Diana Mašala Perković
Photography: Darko Plahtan & Mario Briševac