The forty-three minute documentary offers a chronological selection of the highlights of the conversations with featured guests from Argentina, Chile, the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. What brought them together in this story is a love of the homeland that some were compelled to abandon – permanently or temporarily – while others, born abroad, relocated to.
A documentary film about the CHF’s department of Croatian emigrant heritage Wednesday’s at the CHF project by Ljerka Galic and Radoslav Pažameta was screened on the 2nd of April at the Matis Club. The one-hour tête-à-tête discussions expertly hosted at the Croatian Heritage Foundation headquarters from May of 2010 to November of 2012 by art historian Ljerka Galic featured sixteen Croatian emigrants and returnees from Argentina, Chile, the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. The forty-three minute documentary offers a chronological selection of the highlights of the conversations with the participants, accompanied by additional photography and musical score. The demanding task of adapting the recorded material, which had not been intended for screening but rather as archival material, was undertaken by cinematographer Radoslav Pažameta, a graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Academy of Dramatic Arts (ADU), himself a returnee from Bolivia.
The audience gathered for the screening, including husband and wife Butković and Damir Murković, were welcomed by the Croatian Heritage Foundation director. The film authors, Galic and Pažameta, then gave a presentation of the creation of this motion picture.
In the documentary the guests of the CHF’s Wednesday discussions – families and individuals – spoke of their emigrant and returnee life stories. Together on the big screen were innovators and writers (Šaravanja, Bašić), entrepreneurs (Murković, Pavković), journalists (Butković, Hubmayer), athletes (Stublić), artists (Karačić, Gottwald, Abović, Periša) and performers (Terrazas). What brought them together in this story is a love of the homeland that some were compelled to abandon – permanently or temporarily – while others, born abroad, relocated to.
The first in a series of discussions as part of the newly launched CHF’s Wednesday’s at the CHF project was staged in April of 2010. The first featured guests were returnees from Australia: father and son, writer and economist respectively, Drago and Goran Šaravanja. Along with his work as a writer Drago Šaravanja also achieved a successful business career in Australia. Ljerka Galic led the round table discussion, professionally and with great love, then and in all the following events. The following featured guest was engineer and poet Petar Frano Bašić, a returnee from South Africa, accompanied by his son and telecommunications experts Zoran. A native of Split, Petar Frano graduated engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and moved on to earn his master’s degree at the University of Cape Town, where he lived with his family before returning to live with his family in the Croatian coastal town of Trogir. He collaborated with the famed surgeon Barnard on the invention of a heart assist device still used across the USA to this day. Bašić founded a Croatian language school in Cape Town and has published three collections of poetry.
The first and only athlete to participate in the round table was Lisa Christina Nemec, née Stublić, born in Waterbury in the US state of Connecticut. Due to an unfortunate technical error the event she was the feature guest of was not recorded. She moved from the USA to Croatia, her father’s homeland, in 2010 to pursue a successful athletic career and become Croatia’s first female marathon runner.
The year was wrapped up by artists – Ankica Karačić successfully navigated the challenges of integration into a foreign, in her case German, society. She was born in Inđija, a small village in southern Vojvodina. Upon completing her education she worked as a fashion creator in Ilok and Vukovar and as an art teacher. In the 1990s, during the war for independence, she moved with her family to Iserlohn near Hagen, where she lives to this day. For over fifteen years she and husband Anto, an economist, have organised annual competitions for artwork by the children of Croatian emigrants from around the world. Also a guest of the round table was painter and jewellery designer Gaella Gottwald, the current director of the Croatian Association of Artists (HDLU), whose love and work brought her to Zagreb. Gaella was born in Montreal. Her mother, a Croatian, and father, an Indian, met in a museum in Canada. She and her cousin grew up with her grandmother in the town of Kutina before she moved with her parents to Washington. She completed the last two years of secondary school in Vienna before being accepted to Brown University. Her parents lived in Prague for a time and she, having fallen in love with the city, enrolled there for her third year studies at the Academy. After graduating she moved to New York where she was an intern at the Gagosian Gallery, before receiving a MoMa (Museum of Modern Art) scholarship, where she worked under the mentorship of curator Paola Antonelli. She owns a gallery on the island of Korčula.
In early 2011 Galic’s featured guest was dancer and tango instructor Gulliermo Miguel Terrazas Mueller, who was in Croatia for a two-month stint to teach tango. Known by his nickname Willy, he is the son of a Croatian mother from Buenos Aires and a Bolivian father. He has been involved in dance for thirty years and is also excellently versed in Croatian folklore. He leads Croatian amateur associations based in Buenos Aires: Zrinski, Marija Bistrica and Drina, and is the director and leader of the HR-TANGO dance ensemble, which brings together Croatian folklore, Argentinean folk dances and tango.
The renovated CHF auditorium, renamed the Matis Absolut Lounge, was the venue in March for featured guests Miss Croatia 1995 and Miss World runner up Anica Kovač (née Martinović) and businesswoman Dijana Pavković (née Lozančić). These two Croatian women from Berlin, both returnees, have successfully integrated into Croatian society. And while Anica has withdrawn from the fashion world to dedicate her efforts to her family, Dijana, also the mother of two, remains active as the director of Gastro Globus.
In February of 2012 the eighth CHF Wednesday round table played host to Slavica and Ivan Butković. In Australia Ivan Butković took part in launching a number of Croatian language magazines and served as the editor of the Hrvatski Vjesnik weekly from 1983 to 1992. He also served as president of the Croatian Club in Sydney in 1972 and was a delegate to the Croatian National Council in 1989. His wife Slavica joined him in Australia in 1963, and was active in the Croatian community. Their desire to return to the homeland won out and the Butković family, with their son Jasen, moved to Zagreb in the newly liberated Croatia. At the proposal of the Croatian Heritage Foundation Ivan Butković was decorated in 1996 with the Order of the Croatian Interlace for particular contributions to the development and reputation of the Republic of Croatia and the welfare of its citizens.
In April Galic played host to one of the founders and the current president of the Croatian community in Trst (Trieste). A native of Argentina, Gian Carlo Damir Murković grew up with his six brothers and sisters. Their parents Dr Nikola Murković and mother Dorotha Lampè, always looked to the welfare, upbringing and education of their children. The family emigrated first to Italy, then to South America, and returned to Italy in 1963 to settle in Trieste. Murković completed his education in Trieste and in 1972 gained employment in the city’s leading companies in the international commerce business. He served as editor and published the first monograph detailing the Croatian presence in Trst (Trieste), a project he collaborated on with twenty-seven leading Croatian, Slovenian and Italian historians and writers.
Also featured as a guest of Wednesday’s at the CHF was Stella Hubmayer. Stella was born in Buenos Aires in May of 1960 as the daughter of Croatians that had moved to Argentina back in 1947. She is the mother of seven and worked for many years as an elementary school teacher. Now Stella is one of three anchors for the Buenos Aires-based Croacias Totales radio show and a member of the Valovi women’s vocal ensemble. The featured guest in June was Tomo Periša, a versatile artist and social activist from Switzerland. In memory of this Zagreb visit Tomo Periša (1951) presented the audience with a collection of poems in Croatian and English titled Povratak (The Return), a multimedia presentation on CD-ROM. Periša was born in 1951 in the small Podravina region village of Kalinovac near Đurđevac, and considers his fifteen years in Switzerland, from 1986 to 2002, the best years of his life. He now lives with his family in the Croatian port city of Rijeka. Besides her appearance as a featured guest of Wednesday’s at the CHF in November of that year, Katarina Abović Oyarzun, a Chilean of Croatian extraction, also presented her Two Homelands / Dos Patrias exhibition. Katarina Abović was born in Santiago in 1988, where she graduated the visual arts at the Catholic University before moving on to earn her postgraduate degree in art pedagogy. She has exhibited in group showings in Antofagasta and Santiago, and from the beginning of the year was in Croatia on a University of Zagreb Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences scholarship to learn Croatian.
Over a three-year period the CHF series of meetings with emigrants and returnees presented the domestic public with prominent figures from the Croatian communities abroad. The hosts and featured guests have fond memories of these meeting – now that they are preserved on film they and all other interested persons will have an opportunity to relive these experiences.
Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photos: Darko Poldrugač