The head of the Split branch office of the CHF made the trip for the Phoenix event by way of California, with its large Croatian community and three Croatian associations. Los Angeles was the venue for the 8th annual Croatian Cultural Extravaganza folklore review. The visit to the Croatians of Arizona wrapped up with a visit to the town of Globe.
The head of the Split branch office of the CHF made the trip for the Phoenix event by way of California, where there was a lot to get done with the large Croatian community and three Croatian associations. Upon arrival, on St Valentine’s Day, a gathering was organised at the Croatian Cultural Center with Croatian movies, while the centre’s president Maya Bristow and vice president Frane Jerković were busy organising the upcoming exhibition of Armenian painter Martiros Marhak Hakopian, in the frame of their regular Art Without Borders programme which showcases the work of recognised artists and is supported by Janice Hahn, a member of America’s Congress.
Also in the works, in collaboration with the CHF Split branch office, is to expand the exhibition activities to the best artists of Croatian extraction in South America. That art opens every door and truly has no borders is evident from the fact that Maya Bristow has been accepted into the Asian Women Circle of Los Angeles, a group of women working as diplomats from southern Asian countries, as the only Croatian and as a woman not born in Asia. Thanks to her we were invited to their annual gathering hosted by the residence of the General Consulate of Indonesia on South Windsor Boulevard in Los Angeles.
We also met with Ziggy Mrkich regarding the participation of the CHF office in the next International Film Festival in Los Angeles. We learned about the work of Eva Pericich, head of the Zhena folklore ensemble, which nurtures Croatian folklore heritage. It was agreed that the Hajduk football (soccer) club’s junior side would do a tour organised by the West Coast Football Club in August, which opens the door to the A team, which has been invited to come by the LA Galaxy team.
The Croatian community has recently seen the elections of two new presidents. The Croatian American Club on San Pedro’s 9th street is now led by Vedran Barbić – his roots are on the island of Lastovo and we are sure to continue excellent cooperation with him as with his predecessor Joško Ivčević. The Croatian National Association also elected a new president, Frane Jerković, also currently serving as the vice president of the Croatian Cultural Centre. Jerković’s vice presidents are Dr Suzana Tkalcic and Emily Manstar.
The Dalmatian Club continues to stage its fish luncheons, which double as a gathering of business people. We wish the club’s president Rudy Svorinich a quick recovery after his operation.
At Bogdanovich park elementary school children were competing for a spot in the school basketball league, especially the youngest under the watchful eye of coach Suzana Brajevich Carresi.
The 8th annual Croatian Cultural Extravaganza folklore review was staged at the auditorium of the Ramon Cortinez School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles. The event was led by Katarina Dušević and Ferdo Brkić. The first to perform, on behalf of the hosts, were the Golden Girls of the neighbouring St Anne’s Church. We should certainly underline the great contribution made by Heidi Granic, who has nurtured folklore at St Anthony’s Church for thirty years now, over several generations of Croatians. At the Extravaganza from San Pedro were vocalists from the Izvor mixed choir and the Klapa Konoba men’s vocal band. There were also guests from other Californian towns such as the Veseli Hrvati of Sacramento, the Tanza ensemble from Sherman Oaks and Koraci of San Jose. Appearing from the state of Washington was the Vela Luka folklore ensemble of Anacortes, and the Bonaca vocal ensemble and Ruže Dalmatinke orchestra, both from Seattle. Appearing from Vancouver was the Cardinal Stepinac tamburitza orchestra – among all the excellent performances it was a special treat to hear Pittsburgh’s own tamburitza virtuoso Jerry Grcevich. Jerry was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the youngest ever performer, and has also been recognised as an artist nurturing artistic heritage.
Here we said our goodbyes to the Croatians of California, who are looking forward to the upcoming Oliver Dragojević and Nina Badrić concert in May, part of their tour of America.
The celebration in Phoenix
The Croatian-American Club of Phoenix, Arizona celebrated its 60th anniversary at its own premises. The event was opened by club president Dražen Baričević, and the club members saw to it that there was food and refreshments for all. The Milas family deserves a lot of credit for it all. Dr Luka Milas worked as a physician at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas for thirty-seven years, before moving to Phoenix with his wife Ljerka and their daughter.
Club president Baričević welcomed the gathered and was followed by former club president Karlo Zovko who spoke briefly of the club’s history. He told of how back in 1954 several Croatians led by Mike Remeš broke of from a Slavic society to found the Croatian Club with the aim of gathering Croatians and nurturing Croatian culture and folk customs. At the time Phoenix was home to a population of about 150 thousand, and Remeš felt that the Croatian community of Phoenix would disappear and fall apart in the sea of nations if there was no association around which they could gather. They organised parties and picnics, which attracted Karlo Zovko to join its membership in 1980.
The club participates in the city’s annual Hello Phoenix culture festival, gathering all ethnic groups. The club sells Croatian sweets, publications and souvenirs to raise money for the club, whose tamburitza ensemble and folklore group have always been a treat for festivalgoers. During the Homeland War the full attention of the club was focused on efforts to help Croatia win its independence. There were many refugees following the war, and the club adapted to their needs, and to efforts to secure premises for the club. The club premises were finally purchased in 2005.
Following the presentation on the club’s history, club president Baričević presented forty-year membership plaques to three club veterans: Ivan Teklić, Pavo Miličević and Vlado Košćak.
Josip Buljević, the Croatian general consul in Los Angeles, also covering Arizona, congratulated the club on its anniversary, as did Branka Bezić Filipović on behalf of the Croatian Heritage Foundation. She also read a letter from Mayor of Zadar Božidar Kalmeta to club president Baričević, who hails from the Zadar area. On hand from San Pedro was poet Gabriela Brajević, a member of the Croatian Emigrant Lyricism association. She penned a poem to the Croatians of Arizona for the occasion to the delight of the gathered. The gathered were blessed in an inspiring prayer from Don Mate Bižaca, who recently gave the Christian first holy communion for Croatians in the city. Taking their first communion were Mark Meade, William Verić, Gabrijela Verić, Andrea Zrnić and Renato Visković.
The festival at the Croatian-American Club ran late into the night to the songs of Rudolf Mijačević, who made the trip from St. Louis for the occasion. We hope that the new roots that have been grown here, as Gabriela Brajevich put it, will keep the Croatians in their club to continue nurturing their traditions in socialising and songs or through soccer in the NK Croatia club. The Croatian General Consulate in Los Angeles sees to their needs, and consul Petra Radojević was also on hand to offer assistance to any that might require it.
Off to the town of Globe
To understand the beginnings of the story of Croatians in Arizona one needs to visit the town of Globe. A drive of a little under two hours on the Superstition Freeway through the desert brings us to the small town of Miami, where the first mountains and mines appear. The area is rich in copper and malachite, and belonged to the Apache Indians. From Miami it is not far to Globe, which the Indians called the Besh Baa Gowah, which means “place of metal”. Globe now has some 7,500 inhabitants and was founded in 1875 as a mining camp. The Croatians discovered Globe in the early 20th century. They left their mark in street names such as Adriatic and Kotor, which up to World War I was a Dalmatian town. The Holy Angels Catholic Church was erected in 1918 and one of the windows in the church was sponsored by the local Croatian community. A part of the cemetery was set aside for Croatians. Most of the people buried here were born around the 1880s and most died young. There are few women and the surnames are from the Herzegovina region and the Imotski area, with a few from the Dalmatian littoral. As there are only a few Croatian families now living in Globe, the members of the Croatian-American Club of Phoenix help them with the upkeep of the graves. When they find the time the members of the Baričević, Milas and other families make sure that they are not overgrown in grass and their names forgotten. Who knows, perhaps here we might find someone’s long lost son, father or grandfather, whose family never learned of their fate, which is not rare in the history of emigration from Dalmatia.
Text by: Branka Bezić Filipović