On November 30th the CHF and the Municipality of Pinkovac (Güttenbach) in Gradišće (Austria) played host to the 2nd meeting of the representatives of Best Villages; from Martinci and Petrovo Selo in Hungary, Tavankut in Vojvodina and Mjenovo in Austria. These are villages that have received the CHF’s annual Best Village award from 1996 to 2007.

Municipality of Pinkovac mayor Leo Radaković expressed his great satisfaction with the meeting and the participants agreed that they wish to see joint programmes and projects put into effect. It was agreed that the Croatian Ministry of Regional Development would be contacted to see if there are EU projects that would facilitate the implementation of rural projects from several countries. Plans were also outlined to set up a database of award winning villages and other Croatian culture associations in European countries in which Croatian minorities live.
On hand for the meeting were Member of Parliament Ivo Jelušić and CHF director Marin Knezović. Mr Jelušić noted that he expects the new strategy and legislation on Croatia’s relations with the Croatian communities abroad will contribute to all that the Best Villages have already invested dedicated efforts into. He added that he hoped that the newly established State Office for Croats Abroad and the Croatian Heritage Foundation would offer real support to the preservation of the Croatian identity.
CHF director Knezović noted, among other things, that the village – as a source of distinct identity – was present in every society, but noted its particular significance to minority communities.
Their distinct identity, a feature of the self-sufficiency of rural communities, has allowed even small communities to preserve their distinct culture and language. In both the literal and figurative sense villages – as havens of cultural identity and distinctiveness – remain essential to us. We should now understand the village in a new way – as a stage on which a balance is established between the external and the internal, between the worldly and that which is particular to us, Mr Knezović concluded.
The 3rd Klapa Festival was certainly the highlight of the lavish programme prepared by the hosts.
En route for Pinkovac the CHF delegation visited the Gradišće Croatia Institute of Sciences and toured Gradišće settlements, from north to south, led by their excellent guide, ZIGH president Zlatka Gieler.

Text by: Marija Hećimović; Photos by: Darko Plahtan