The Croatian Heritage Foundation hosted a concert at the national theatre building in Zagreb to mark seven decades of its work with the Croatian diaspora, our minority enclaves abroad, and with the Croatians of neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. With its many long-standing and new programmes and events, the CHF continues to promote our culture, and preserve our traditions, heritage and language among Croatian communities abroad.
The Seventy Years Together concert was staged on 18 June under the auspices of the national government and was broadcast live by state radio and television company HRT. Numerous society figures, officials and culture professionals from the country and our European neighbourhood were on hand for the event, including ministry representatives, officials with the State Office for Croats Abroad, the head of the pastoral directorate for Croats abroad of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia Tomislav Markić, members of the CHF board of directors Milan Kovač (chairman), Hrvoje Hitrec and Vjekoslav Jeleč, CHF deputy director Ivan Tepeš, former CHF directors Nikola Jelinčić and Ante Beljo, and CHF associates and staffers from our headquarters in Zagreb and branch offices in Pula, Dubrovnik and Vukovar.
Joining us from abroad was Croatian Fraternal Union national vice president Franjo Bertović, representing the oldest Croatian diaspora association in the United States of America, with which the CHF has enjoyed excellent collaboration since its inception. Our minority enclaves in the nearby European neighbourhood were represented by Franjo Pajrić, Istvan Koloszar and Maria Pilsits of the Gradišće Croatians in central Europe, Ivan Gugan from Hungary, Ghera Giureci Slobodan from Romania, and Antonella D’Antuono from the Molise enclave in Italy.
The gala programme kicked off with the national anthem, sung by opera singer Marija Vidović and accompanied by the HRT tamburitza orchestra. The event included the presentation of the Domovnica prize prize is awarded by the Večernji List daily newspaper to the Vidović by CHF director Mijo Marić and foreign desk editor Stipe Puđa.
The event was moderated by actor Goran Grgić.
In his welcome address CHF director Marić greeted Croatian President Zoran Milanović and other dignitaries on hand, including TV viewers watching the live broadcast. He noted that it was our love of this institution that drew us together during these—for public events—challenging times.
Marić said that the CHF has worked over the past seventy years to gather Croatians around the world. These seven decades have seen countless events and diverse content that have enriched the lives of the people they touched.
He noted that the CHF has enjoyed excellent collaboration with the Croatian Fraternal Union of America, the oldest such institution abroad, with Croatian Catholic Missions and parishes, and with our culture and arts associations around the world.
Marić noted that Croatian independence was a watershed moment in the life of the CHF, paving the way for fuller collaboration with Croatians abroad.
He also noted the role the CHF played in channelling the broad and tangible support Croatians abroad had provided during the Homeland War and the institution’s role in the fruitful integration of the diaspora and homeland.
By way of the CHF our diaspora sent significant humanitarian aid and personal assistance, Marić said, adding that the recent earthquakes in Croatia have once again demonstrated the vitality of this aid, now in the face of a natural disaster.
The CHF currently conducts some sixty programmes and events each year, connecting 45 countries around the world in which people of Croatian extraction live.
In closing Marić expressed his gratitude for the work of Croatians abroad, of the State Office for Croats Abroad, our national television and radio company and other media houses, the CHF’s associates, and his predecessors at the helm of the CHF and their teams. He invited young people of Croatian extraction from around the world to join the CHF’s schools and seminars on language, history, culture and folklore this summer, noting the love and care put into these efforts by the excellent participating artists and academics.
The event continued with the screening of The Homeland Abroad: Seventy Years of the CHF, a short documentary film by Zrinka Krešo, shot by Ivan Kovač and Dušan Vugrinec, edited by Hrvoje Mršić and produced by Doris Vučković. The film was broadcast on HRT channel 4 that evening.
The Lado folklore ensemble was also on hand to perform a Bunjevac Croat round dance to the delight of the audience.
Speakers at the event included state secretary Zvonko Milas, the head of the State Office for Croats Abroad in his capacity as representative of the Prime Minister, MP Zdravka Bušić representing our parliament speaker, and Dragan Čović, the first deputy speaker of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Also performing at the event were the Klapa Stine and the Klapa Sveti Mihovil a cappella ensemble of the interior ministry. The concert was followed by a lively and festive open-air reception on the square facing the national theatre house.
Croatian President Milanović captured the mood in his pithy statement. “This is a dream,” he said, adding that, “The Croatian nation is a dream that has been fulfilled; a dream that—like all dreams—could just as easily have not been achieved.”
He noted that the front curtain at the national theatre, which depicts the Gundulić’s Dream theme, gave the least space to Gundulić himself. “It was all the other’s there that turned the dream into a reality, slowly and with great effort, as it is with every great story. Just as it was with the Homeland War. It all depended on a few good people, a few people with the right stuff,” President Milanović said, adding that, “These people made the difference. And had people like that, and many others, failed to congeal around an idea and a plan at a moment in European history, it is an open question as to whether or not we would now have a Croatian nation in the modern sense of the word.”
He appealed to everyone to find common ground on critical issues, noting that one such issue today was, to a large extent, the matter of the status of the Croatian component of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“We now have a great opportunity to bring Croatia to its proper place among the leading countries in Europe,” the President said, adding that, while Croatia had never been a European power, he had great confidence that it had the makings of a modern European leader.
The concert wrapped up with a performance of Ivan Zajc’s aria U boj, u boj by soloists of the Croatian National Theatre Opera, greeted by the audience with deserved applause.
The CHF is celebrating its seventieth birthday in a year of anniversaries in Croatian culture. As a champion of the cultural heritage of our diaspora, the CHF nurtures its links with young people of Croatian roots abroad. Through its culture, folklore, education, publishing, information, ecological and sports activities, the CHF brings together the people and potential of active Croatian communities around the world, and will continue to do so as it plays its role in human mobility in the 21st century.
By: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek