At the Croatian Cultural Center Branka Bezić Filipović spoke of the Croatian community in Ecuador. The head of the Split branch office of the CHF was presented with the recognition of the US Congress at the Center for her work with the Croatian community of San Pedro.
Honolulu, the capital city of the youngest American state, Hawaii, has some 400 thousand inhabitants. Croatians moved there in search of work or came from Bosnia-Herzegovina over the past twenty years.
But one Croatian left his mark in this Pacific island city a long time ago. He was maritime captain John Dominis Gospodnetich from the island of Brač, who sailed the route from Boston to Honolulu in the period from 1820 to 1840. He married Mary Jones and they had a son named John Owen and settled in Honolulu. Dominis built a colonial style home in the centre of the town. It later became the residence of the governor of Hawaii and was named Washington Place in honour of American president George Washington.
John Dominis disappeared during a shipwreck and his son John Owen (1831 – 1891), was appointed governor much later and married Hawaiian princess Lydia and took on the title of Hawaiian prince. They lived in Washington Place until his death in 1891. His wife was crowned as the last Hawaiian queen “Lili’uokalani” not long after his death.
John Owen’s death prevented him from assuming the title of king, but he remains the last Hawaiian prince. Information on Gospdonetich and his wife is kept at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.
Peter Tomić, a hero of Pearl Harbour
Faraway Hawaii has another Croatian story. Peter Tomich was a World War II hero born in the village of Prolog near Vrgorac in 1893. He was originally named Petar Herceg and also bore the family nickname Tonić, which he later assumed as the surname Tomić. He arrived in America in 1913 and joined the army. After World War I he transferred to the navy and was chief watertender on the battleship Utah. The beginning of World War II saw him in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii when the USA was attacked by the Japanese in 1941. Tomich kept the stricken vessel afloat for those who survived the attack to get off board. He lost his life. The sunken battleship Utah is still in the waters of Pearl Harbour naval base, but in an area not open to visitors. The American navy was kind enough to allow the head of the Split branch office of the CHF to visit the historical site, accompanied by lieutenant Blake Vaughn, where a monument and plaque have been erected in memory of the fallen, including Peter Tomich.
The American navy honoured the memory of this brave Croatian in December of 1942 when the warship USS Tomich was launched at the shipyard in Houston. US president Franklin D. Roosevelt posthumously decorated Tomich with the US congressional medal of honour, which was for years kept at the naval academy in Tomich Hall. It was only on 18 May 2006 when the aircraft carrier Enterprise was anchored off the port city of Split that the medal was presented to Tomich’s relatives.
This is a very active part of the year for our people on the west coat of America. At the Croatian Hall in San Pedro Elizabeth Ivčević worked under the assiduous president Vedran Barbić as they prepared the monthly bulletin covering all of the events in the local community.
The Croatians of San Pedro
The Dalmatian American Club of San Pedro, led by Rudy Svorinich, hosts Friday evening events and is now working on its 90th anniversary celebrations in the coming year.
The most active is the Croatian Cultural Center of Greater Los Angeles led by its president Maya Bristow and vice presidents Mark Lorrin and Frane Jerković, who also serves as the president of the umbrella association of Croatian organisations in the area. There is no end of exhibitions featuring top painters at the Center, and they are particularly proud of this year’s celebrations of Croatian Statehood Day when members of the Los Angeles philharmonic performed the works of Croatian authors for the first time ever for guests from the consular corps.
At the Croatian Cultural Center Branka Bezić Filipović spoke of the Croatian community in Ecuador on the occasion of Guayaquil independence day, organised in the frame of a programme that seeks to connect the Croatian communities of the south and northern Pacific.
The head of the Split branch office of the CHF was presented with the recognition of the US Congress at the Center for her work with the Croatian community of San Pedro. The recognition was signed by Janice Hahn, a member of the US House of Representatives also responsible for the Croatian community in America.
San Pedro International Film Festival
The San Pedro International Film Festival saw its third reincarnation under director Ziggy Mrkich. The festival’s Red Carpet event ran three days in front of the art deco Warner Grand Theatre.
The Split branch office of the CHF took part in this year’s event with the documentary film Dalmatia – The Apple Of My Eye (Dalmacija u mom oku) by museum advisor Goran Borčić from Split, screened at the auditorium of the Croatian Cultural Center. Also participating in the programme was poet Gabriela Brajevich with her poem celebrating Croatia’s southern region of Dalmatia.
Also appearing at the festival were productions by a number of Croatian-American authors, including The Parting Shot by three-time Emmy winner, director and producer Bobby Grubić.
At the festival was New York-based rock musician Nenad Bach. He came to take part in a screening of the film Everything is Forever about his life and work. Bach moved to New York in 1984 to continue his brilliant career. He has worked with the likes of Bono, Brian Eno and Pavarotti.
Robert Nizich’s The First 75 Years is a film about the importance of the San Pedro Boys & Girls Club, as a safe place for youth whose programmes help keep kids off the streets and that has helped 7,500 members over its many years of existence.
The movie L.A. Waterfront was directed by Emmy winner Jack Baric. The film depicts the history, present and future of the harbour of Los Angeles. From Croatia there was Vanja Vascarac’s film Papaya Make Some Noise about the beach and parties at Zrće on the island of Pag.
The issue of the victims of rape from the most recent war is treated in the emotional film The Forgotten Omen of Bosnia by director Ivana Ivković, a native of Split now living in the USA. The films of many other authors were featured at the festival, which closed with the feature length surfer film The Endless Summer.
Besides the regular meetings that are always held in Southern California, the CHF branch head also spent the time gathering material for her book Hrvatski tragovi u svijetu (Traces of Croatia Around the World). This is very much an immigrant area, settled largely by Croatians from the southern Dalmatia region, and is at times very reminiscent of the old country, with Croatian names popping up everywhere, an affection for the Hajduk football (soccer) club and the Croatian language heard on the street.
Text by: Branka Bezić Filipović