With Croatian Heritage Foundation director Mijo Marić at a working meeting at the Croatian embassy were CHF deputy director Željko Rupić and the secretary of the institution Diana Mašala Perković.

“I am delighted to have had this opportunity to meet with representatives of the Croatian community in Austria, including the Gradišće Croats,” said Croatian Heritage Foundation director Mijo Marić during the second day of his official visit to Vienna. Joining the director for the visit and a working meeting at the Croatian embassy were CHF deputy director Željko Rupić and the secretary of the institution Diana Mašala Perković.
“We discussed ways to improve cooperation with Croatia in the fields of education, culture, sports and publishing activity, all very important to the CHF,” Marić noted, adding that it was touching to see the level of affection emigrant Croatians have for their homeland.
“We need to make the best of this very high emotional charge,” he said, adding that he was delighted with the Gradišće Croat community’s capacity to preserve their language, culture and identity for the past five hundred years.
“They are living proof that a minority group, in spite of all adversity, can survive,” he confirmed, calling on contemporary Croatian migrants to Austria to look to them as an example. “If there is something you do not know, ask the Gradišće Croats,” he said. “In these two days in Vienna I have found out and learned much. Enriched by this experience I am returning to Zagreb where I will endeavour to build my work programme on what has been presented here,” Marić avowed.
The day before, on the 5th of October, the homeland delegation visited the Croatian Centre in Vienna for the Circle’s Vibes event, which showcased the Croatian Culture Association of Maribor and the Croatian community in Slovenia in general. Part of the event was the opening of the Mythical Forest exhibition featuring Croatian painter and Slovenian resident Irena Gayatri Horvat, a member of the Milena Lah visual arts section of the Maribor CCA. The event was opened by Croatian Heritage Foundation head Marić, who thanked the exhibition author for “Working through art to creatively make the world a more beautiful place and for promoting Croatia’s art and our spirit around the world.”
Painter and composer Gayatri Horvat delighted the gathered with her unique work. She noted that the “exhibition is comprised of some twenty large format paintings I created by first making impressions on handmade paper, before combining them by using one of the techniques of adhesion to the canvas, creating trees, birches in fact, which are sacred to me and create the images of shamans.”
Of particular interest for the gathered members of the Viennese, Gradišće and Carinthian Croatian communities was a discussion with Dr Šime Ivanjko, the Croatian honorary consul in Maribor, who spoke of the position and status of our people in neighbouring Slovenia and of their appeal to have their status as a minority community officially recognised.
“I am personally of the opinion that we have no chance in the near future of being [recognised as] a minority like the Hungarians and Italians – perhaps at some point in the future in the frame of some broader European movement,” he said, noting that there were some fifty thousand Croatians living in Slovenia, including those originally from Bosnia.
“The specific situation and tensions that exist between Croatia and Slovenia also have an impact on us,” he emphasised. He pointed to assimilation as the chief problem facing Slovenia’s Croatians, saying there was a need to create even closer bonds with Croatia as the country of origin. “I suggest that Croatian business people should make a greater effort to attract highly educated second and third generation Croatians in this country,” he said.
Ivanjko also spoke of the work of the Croatian Culture Association of Maribor, founded in 1990, and the Federation of Croatian Associations, established three years later to unite the work and efforts of eleven Croatian associations of diverse backgrounds in Slovenia. The discussion with Mr Ivanjko was led by Petar Tyran, the chief editor of the Gradišće-based Croatian News (Hrvatske novine). Maribor CCA president Marko Mandir, an opera singer that work’s in the city’s opera house, noted that networking among our people, wherever they are, is of particular importance to the preservation of the mother tongue and culture in the multilingual Slovenian milieu. The delegation from Slovenia thanked their hosts from the Gradišće (Burgenland) region for their hospitality and promised to be on hand for their biggest event, the Croatian Ball, to be held at the start of the coming year at Vienna’s Park Schönbrunn hotel.
A musical frame was provided for the event by Maribor CCA president Marko Mandir. He first recited and then sang compositions by painter and composer Gayatri Horvat celebrating Slovenia’s mountain Triglav, accompanied on piano by Simon Skelar. The secretary of the Croatian Centre in Vienna Gabrijela Novak-Karall was also on hand. She greeted everyone at the opening and closing of the event, and spoke of the organisation and core activities of the centre, calling it a gathering place of all Croatians.

By: Snježana Herek