After Iserlohn and Lovas the exhibition was hosted by the Union of Croatians in Romania, an association led by Member of Romanian Parliament Giureci-Slobodan Ghera
Croatia’s traditional culture is known of around the world for its diversity and distinct character. This is all the more so when it comes to the communities in Croatian minority enclaves. If one were to highlight a particular enclave that was especially noteworthy for its abundance of colour and the uniqueness of its culture and traditions we would not err when pointing to the Croatians of Karaševo (Carașova) in Romania.
This ancient community, which has its roots deep in the medieval period, possesses both this very appealing distinctness and has, in spite of the passage of time, preserved a living awareness of its origins and identity. Thus, every meeting with the Croatians of Carașova is particularly inspiring.
This community demonstrates its vitality through numerous events and happenings. One of these is an exhibition of works selected in the Duga (“Rainbow”) art and literary contest for children. This exhibition is the fruit of many years of engagement on the part of Ankica and Ante Karačić. These two natives of the eastern Croatian town of Ilok now living in the German city of Iserlohn have organised for the nineteenth time an international art and literary contest that has drawn the attention of young and creative people from Croatia and abroad. This year’s contest has seen 1,280 works submitted from seven countries. Works inspired by the rainbow were submitted by children from schools in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, from our ethnic enclaves in Romania, Serbia, Hungary and Austria, and those now living in Germany.
The spacious and modern premises of the Union of Croatians in Romania was the scene of the opening of the exhibition on the 12th of April. On hand for the event were Croatian ambassador to Romania Davor Vidoš, deputy Croatian Heritage Foundation director Ivan Tepeš, the mayor of Carașova municipality Petar Bogdan, the mayor of Lovas municipality in Croatia Tanja Cirba, and representatives of Romanian education authorities and institutions. Those on hand for the opening were taken by the ingenuity, diversity of techniques and at times exceptional maturity of the exhibited works. The hosts were particularly delighted that several of the prizes awarded were received by children from the Carașova region. They were presented commendations at this event.
Ankica Karačić, herself an artist, staged an art workshop for the Carașova children that further demonstrated the high level of creativity among the pupils in this community.
The Croatian enclave in Romania enjoys exemplary status recognition. It has its own education and culture infrastructure, but this has by no means shielded it from new and demanding challenges. Traditional culture—so alive and, apparently, indestructible only some twenty years ago—is quickly losing ground to rapid modernisation and the influence of the ethnic majority. Songs, round dances, music, folk costumes and a centuries-long architectural heritage are disappearing, literally overnight. This has seen an initiative, now in the construction phase, to build a museum in this region dedicated to the centuries-old heritage of the Carașova Croats. This relatively small community will, however, be hard put to it to hold on to its rich traditions without the support of experts and institutions in Croatia.
The Romanian Banat and especially the area around the city of Ričica (Reşiţa) was hard hit by the economic disruption that followed in the wake of the societal transition of 1989. For centuries the region prospered from mining and the production and processing of metals. These industries all came to a grinding halt in the 1990s. This rapid decline saw thousands of jobs disappear, with no new workplaces created. As a result, the local population, irrespective of its ethnicity, is moving to more developed European countries, Austria and Germany in particular, at a rapid pace. Already small and fragile communities like the Croatian enclave are particularly sensitive to these processes. The people of the Carașova region, as a result of the moving abroad of the younger, more fertile population, is aging and seeing fewer births, which threatens the viability of Croatian language schooling, in particular the bilingual Croatian/Romanian secondary school in Carașova.
This by no means puts the Carașova area out of the bounds of developmental opportunities. The city stands at the entrance to the national park of the Karaš (Caraș) River Gorge and Mount Semenic. It is also home to Comarnic, the longest cave in Europe, archaeological sites, the remains of the old town of Carașova, countless creeks, waterfalls, and woods. The great tourism potential, along with a revived agricultural base, fruit growing in particular, could be the basis for the region’s future. The Union of Croatians association has foreseen accommodation capacities in Carașova and Jabalče (Iabalcea) at their various premises and culture centres. This makes the area of interest to all visitors, especially those from Croatia.
Our visit to the Carașova region was marked by sombre and rainy weather. In spite of the overcast skies we did see a rainbow—not only on the artwork produced by the children, but also rising above the future of the Carașova Croats.
By: Marin Knezović